BFA# 021 | Spreadsheet Fraud Leaders

You're more than a numbers babysitter, you're a strategic visionary

What's happening Fraud Fighters?

I’ve been finding a lot of my inspiration lately from conversations I’ve been having throughout the week. They make me think back to these little moments in my journey and what lasting impact they’ve had.

Maybe one day I’ll share what sparked this rant and trip down memory lane.

We’ve all had a Spreadsheet leader. I was one. But realized I was more than a number babysitter.

Let's investigate further.

Read Time: ~4.21 Minutes

The Spreadsheet Manager

Every journey starts with a single step. Mine started within the comfortable confines of spreadsheets filled with numbers and metrics, as a fresh-faced Fraud Manager eager to make my mark.

My values at the time were simple, almost textbook.

I was focused on how many cases my team completed, how much fraud we managed to block, and our average handling time for each case. After all, these were the measurable and quantifiable indicators of success that seemed to be the industry standard.

With each case that passed through my hands, each fraud incident we successfully countered, I found my perspective broadening. The conventional metrics I had initially clung to started to feel inadequate, too surface-level to show the depth and complexity of our mission.

The spreadsheet that was once my constant companion started to look different. Instead of merely tracking cases completed and fraud blocked, I found myself analyzing patterns and identifying trends. I found excitement in the patterns we uncovered, the innovative solutions we recommended, and the improvements we championed in our fraud strategy.

The lens through which I viewed my work was evolving, shifting from a microscope to a wide-angle lens.

The transformation was not overnight. It was a gradual evolution, marked by trials, errors, insights, and revelations. But I could feel it – I was no longer just an operationally-focused Fraud Manager who gauged success by Fraud Fighter "activity."

I was becoming something more - strategic - measuring the "business impact" of our actions.

This wasn't just a change in metric. It was a complete mindset shift.

Spreadsheets, Oh Spreadsheets

They were the go-to tool for many fraud managers starting their journey. They offered simplicity and accessibility, making them the trusted sidekick for organizing and analyzing data.

But let's not forget the allure of those activity-based metrics. They kept us focused on output. It seemed like the holy grail of measuring productivity and effectiveness.

You boss comes to you and asks what’s fraud look like. You panic and you go back to your default. But why?

  1. It’s Simple - Traditional metrics like cases completed, fraud blocked, and average handling time are straightforward and easy to understand. Stakeholders without a deep understanding of fraud management can easily grasp these concepts. They provide a clear, simple way to demonstrate progress and effectiveness in fraud management.

  2. It’s Legacy - Many organizations have longstanding structures and processes in place. These structures might require related data for reporting or other operational needs. Deviating from these established practices can be seen as a disruption or could require significant changes in systems and processes.

  3. It’s Quantifiable - Cases completed, fraud blocked, and average handling time are easily quantifiable and measurable metrics. They provide concrete numbers that can be tracked over time, compared to past performance, or used to set future targets. Business impact, on the other hand, can be more abstract and harder to quantify, making it more challenging to track and report.

  4. It’s Immediate - Traditional metrics offer a quick snapshot of the current operational efficiency of the fraud team. They can be used to identify immediate problems, such as a sudden increase in fraud cases or a slow-down in handling time. While business impact metrics provide a deeper understanding of the overall impact on the organization, they might not provide the immediacy required to manage day-to-day operations.

  5. It’s Pressure - Leaders may be under pressure from stakeholders to demonstrate short-term results or progress. Traditional metrics can often show a more immediate impact, as they tend to focus on direct outputs like the number of cases handled or blocked. In contrast, business impact metrics often represent longer-term strategic outcomes, which might not align with a need for immediate results.

You might feel the pressure or find it’s the easiest way to start bossing a team. But you run a higher risk of

  • Narrow focus on legacy metrics

  • Reactive fraud management

  • Poor strategic alignment

  • Lack of team growth

  • Inability to innovate

Your team is more than just a number.

Manager to Leader

My journey as a Fraud Manager began much like any other, with my eyes firmly fixated on the numbers: cases completed, fraud blocked, average handling time. These were the pillars of my success, or so I thought. However, as I immersed myself deeper in the field, I began to realize that this was just the tip of the iceberg.

I started to see the role of a Fraud Manager differently.

I wasn’t just a caretaker of activity-based metrics, but as a strategic visionary tasked with far greater responsibilities.

It meant stepping away from simply being an operations-focused leader to embodying the role of a strategic guide.

By focusing solely on activity-based metrics, you risk missing the bigger picture. Yes, completing cases and blocking fraud are important pieces of your job, but they're only parts of a much larger puzzle. You'll need to look beyond these and delve into the underlying causes of fraud, unveiling patterns and recommending solutions that address the problem at its root, not just its symptoms.

The transition from gauging "activity" to measuring "business impact" will be your guide. It will pave your way from being a manager to becoming a leader—a leader who impacts, who strategizes, and who shapes the future of fraud management.

Not sure where to begin to break free from the spreadsheets? Let me break it down simply

Step 1: Understand the big picture of your org's goals, strategies, and KPIs.

Step 2: Expand your scope to include full risk of fraud on your organization.

Step 3: Dive into your fraud data to uncover underlying patterns and trends.

Step 4: Establish new metrics that align with your strategic goals.

Step 5: Encourage a strategic mindset in your team.

Step 6: Communicate your strategic vision to other stakeholders in the org.

Step 7: Implement strategic initiatives based on your plan.

Step 8: Regularly review and refine your progress towards your strategic goals.

Now it’s your turn to take action.

See you again next Friday in your inbox.

​Brian

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