ARTICLE TABLE OF CONTENTS
This is about what a middle office is.
- What a middle office is
- Why a middle office is important
- What the people do who work there
- Lots more
So if you want to know the essentials of middle offices, then this article if for you.
Let’s jump right in!
Middle Office 101
The financial world is full of unintelligible terms and offbeat metaphors.
But when it comes to the term middle office, there’s a simple albeit layered explanation.
If you want to know what middle office means, read on for a thorough discussion on what a middle office is.
You’ll also learn what the people who work there do.
Plus, explore why the middle office is so crucial to the operation of your business.
Let’s get started.
What is a Middle Office?
It’s what you came here to find out: what is a middle office?
One answer is that it’s the office that lies between the front and the back in an organization.
Typically, this would be in a financial institution.
In the financial industry, the middle office tends to center on risk management.
However, companies in the hospitality and even sports industries can also have middle offices.
In any setting, middle offices handle a range of tasks, including operational, risk management, human resources, information technology, and other responsibilities.
Of course, in any industry, the middle office meaning is both literal and figurative.
Middle Office: Literal Definition
The middle office can be a physical barrier and a conductor between the front and back office.
The middle office is usually behind closed doors, while the front office is where clients come and mingle.
The middle office handles functions that the customer doesn’t see, even though the tasks are essential to delivering the desired product or service.
Paperwork might need to pass through a middle office worker’s desk before reaching higher-ups for decision making.
Or, a front office worker might literally need to grant clients permission to enter the middle office and consult with those professionals.
Serving as a channel for information, the middle office is responsible for processing, approving, and calculating its product’s financial details.
Middle Office: Figurative Definition
In a more figurative definition, the middle office can refer to specific functions and decision-making processes that happen somewhere in the middle between client and CEO.
Generally, the middle office is where much of the risk occurs within a financial institution. It’s where workers make mid-level decisions and administer services.
While the front office duties cover examining customer needs and selling services or products, the middle office handles implementation.
A front office staff member might have a customer fill out an application.
The middle office determines whether to grant the request, which can involve running scenarios and calculating risks.
Even in the illustrative example, it’s easy to see how the middle office fits with the other aspects of an “office” structure.
What Organizations Have Middle Offices?
Financial services institutions have middle offices, but this can include a range of companies.
Organizations like investment banks, hedge funds, and other financial services companies tend to have middle offices.
But in a more offbeat example, a hotel can also involve a middle office.
And depending on the nature of the company and its service, a middle office could handle legal aspects of the service or product in any industry.
What Are the Other Parts of the Office?
You might be wondering what the other parts are since there’s a middle office.
The short answer is that there are front, middle, and back offices in financial services (and other) organizations.
Albeit essential, the middle office is only one part of the corporate success equation.
Front Office Staff
The front office is the customer-facing part of the company.
Here, you’ll find customer service staff like sales agents or tellers. Depending on the organization, the front office can also include administrative staff like secretaries and assistants.
These are the people your consumers see first when they walk through your doors.
It’s the front office staff that tends to handle client-facing tasks.
Therefore, they’ll get to know the customers and form a rapport.
In a financial institution, front office elements are just as crucial as the other areas.
In fact, front-facing roles are often the ones that earn the bulk of an organization’s income.
The jobs in this sector span everything from direct sales to marketing efforts to secretarial duties.
Oddly enough, these positions also tend to be the lowest paid within the company, despite their importance.
Exceptions exist, of course, especially in hedge fund organizations and similar high-profit environments.
Interacting with customers is one of the most valuable ways to boost profits, so these roles are heavily emphasized in day-to-day business.
The Back Office Workers
For most people, the back office is where the boring stuff happens. Back-office functions cover things like recordkeeping, regulatory compliance, and accounting.
Information Technology functions can also fall under the back office.
Just like the other areas of an office, the back office is essential for daily operations.
It might not be glamorous, but it needs to run correctly to ensure the middle and front offices’ accurate function.
At the same time, the back-office staff tends to interact with each other, not the customers.
For that reason, most of the jobs in this area are operations focused.
However, back office workers can be outsourced, especially if a company wants to keep its costs down.
So, while the functions are essential, having a full staff literally sitting in the back office isn’t a necessity.
Plus, many back-office functions also occur in the middle office.
This overlap can make things confusing, but it also proves that the three “offices” are more interdependent than you may realize.
How Front-Middle-Back Offices Work Together
People working in the front also need the people in the middle to reach those in the back.
After all, each area of the office has a level of expertise the others depend on.
The types of offices are a system, but they’re also a lot like an ecosystem.
With both physical and metaphorical boundaries, each area must perform its own work and rely on interactions with neighboring offices to fulfill its duties.
At the same time, the middle office depends on the other office areas to survive—and get the information it needs to perform.
Understand Front Office vs. Middle Office vs. Back Office
As you apply for jobs or are researching the infrastructure of an organization, especially in financial services, you might run into the terms all together: front office, middle office, and back office.
Each section of the company would not be able to survive without the support of the other two.
Learn each office classification’s critical tasks and goals, and how they each interact with each other: complete guide to front office vs. middle office vs. back office.
Why Middle Office is Important
When you run a company—especially a financial institution—you’ll want to recognize why the middle office is important to daily operations.
The simplest way to explain the importance of a middle office is that it’s where most of the risk (and therefore risk management) happens.
However, middle office functions also include information processing and information technology responsibilities.
The Middle Office Handles Risk Management
If the front office handles the customer-facing parts of creating a deal, the middle office is responsible for ensuring the transaction winds up complete.
Essentially, the middle office handles processing related to whatever packages the front office workers are selling.
The processing step involves calculating risk, investigating financial elements, and running scenarios with the help of technology.
Middle Offices Process Information
While the front office brings in consumer information, the middle office is responsible for processing it.
Without the middle office, customer-facing roles wouldn’t have the information, or the authority, to process deals or confirm transactions.
Plus, middle office workers have accounting and financial knowledge that front-office sales assistants or marketing associates may not have.
A middle office worker might use proprietary software systems, calculate profit and loss, and manage databases.
They may also use their instincts to determine whether a client is a good candidate for a certain financial product.
A Middle Office Handles Information Technology
Information Technology (IT) is an essential part of nearly any organization. When you’re handling consumer and company data, utilizing software and keeping things secure is vital.
IT experts in a middle office might design software, create strategies for navigating software systems, confirm the operation of payment systems and processes, and more.
What Do Workers Do in the Middle Office?
Understanding what workers actually do in the middle office is another vital part of understanding the concept as a whole.
You know that front office workers interact directly with consumers. And back-office workers handle operations like accounting, compliance, and record maintenance.
But what is middle office work?
Middle office duties and responsibilities can span everything from processing payments to developing software and analyzing business trends.
Middle office functions can span a variety of duties, especially in non-financial organizations.
For example, a hotel technically has front, middle, and back-office functions.
The middle office might involve processing payments and maintaining reservation systems.
While the guests don’t see these activities happening, they’re crucial for a successful business model.
How is the Middle Office Organized?
Middle office organization depends mainly on the industry.
But there are also commonalities regardless of the niche or company type.
What responsibilities a middle office handles depend on the number of employees, the organization’s niche, and the type of work they do.
However, you can expect that there is a hierarchy in the middle office—just like any other department.
The middle office often needs to report to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of an organization. After all, middle office work centers on profit and loss.
A middle office will also need its own policies and procedures, which may vary widely from the surrounding offices’ processes.
Various job types exist in the middle office, which can mean more division of the office into smaller teams.
What Jobs Are in the Middle Office?
What a middle office job means varies depending on the industry.
In general, financial institutions have middle offices. But other organizations, like the previously mentioned hotel or a sports team, can also have various office types.
So, the answer to “what are middle office services?” can vary widely.
Most of the time, middle office workers don’t need customer service experience or skills.
Computer skills, analytic abilities, and a mind for data processing and analysis are all essential.
In general, middle office workers tend to have higher-level expertise than a salesperson or secretary.
In fact, most middle office workers have a bachelor’s degree, at a minimum, with many possessing an MBA or higher.
Technology is a common degree field for middle office workers, though a degree in finance or a related topic may also suit these roles.
Common job titles fall into the categories of:
- Human Resources
- Information Technology
- Risk Management
Some of these job types also overlap into the back office, depending on the organization.
Examples of jobs in the middle office are:
- Financial Controller: a designated manager of the middle office who focuses on the numbers
- Middle Office Advisor/Consultant: a staff member who handles closing market data, P&L reporting, and other financial tasks
- Middle Office Analyst: an employee who reviews and reconciles finances and provides reports
- Middle Office Associate: a worker who concentrates on a smooth flow of information between the front and middle offices
- Human Resources Manager: a supervisory role in which a team member oversees human resources issues regarding employees
Many organizations also enlist legal experts at the middle office level.
So, you may find lawyers or attorneys in a middle office—especially in a financial institution.
What’s an Example of a Middle Office?
It can be tough to understand the concept of a middle office without a concrete example of one.
To help make sense of what a middle office does and how it operates, consider these examples.
Financial Institution Middle Office Example
A financial institution is the most common example of middle office functions.
In a bank or hedge fund, the front office is the literal reception area where members interact with tellers or financial services workers.
For example, in a bank, front office workers might solicit an application for a loan from a consumer.
Then, the middle office processes the application.
This could include pulling the applicant’s credit, running an analysis in a financial risk program, or consulting the back office for information on current rates.
The middle office would provide a decision to the front office on whether the applicant qualifies for the requested services or products.
Finally, the back office would document the transaction, as applicable, and maintain proper documentation for the organization’s records.
Car Dealership Middle Office Example
A car dealership offers another perspective on middle office work.
Imagine walking into a car dealership to purchase a new vehicle.
Workers in the front office negotiate the deal with you.
A salesperson will show you car options, fill out a credit application, and present your financial options.
In the background, the middle office runs the numbers, checks your credit, and determines how much of a risk you are.
Once the front office worker (salesperson) obtains your final signature on the contract, the middle office documents and processes the deal.
The back office reconciles the deal, confirming all the details and documenting your new car loan.
FAQs on Middle Offices
Because it can seem like an arbitrary concept, depending on the industry and organization, you likely have questions about middle offices.
Here are some FAQs on the subject that can help shed light.
Is Every Middle Office the Same?
The truth is that while all middle offices tend to handle the same operations, each company does things differently.
Factors like company size, product/service offered, and regulatory rules all influence how a middle office is staffed.
These factors also affect how day-to-day operations run.
How Can I Get a Middle Office Job?
Generally, you need at least a bachelor’s degree to gain employment in a middle office role. In the financial industry, a background in accounting or finance is essential, as well.
Typically, a middle office worker starts out elsewhere in the company, such as in a front office role.
Working your way up the ladder, so to speak, ensures that you learn your organization’s ins and outs and its proprietary processes.
Depending on the organization, you might work backward from a back or middle office job to a front office role.
It all depends on the structure of the organization and the level of expertise necessary in each position.
How Much Do Middle Office Workers Make?
Like any other job, how much you make as a middle office worker depends on your expertise and formal education level.
Middle office job salaries range widely, especially when comparing roles like Middle Office Associates versus a managerial position.
Even in Middle Office Analyst jobs, Salary.com highlights discrepancies between the top-earning and lowest-earning roles.
The median salary in the US is around $81,000 for a Middle Office Analyst.
However, the bottom 10 percent earn around $67,000 while the top earners make $97,000.
According to Glassdoor, Middle Office Associates with J.P. Morgan or Deutsche Bank make around $79,000 per year.
What’s the bottom line here?
Depending on your company, work history, degree status, and other factors, you could make more or less than these figures.
Are All Middle Office Jobs Actually in an Office?
With many middle office roles using an outsource model, plenty of jobs are turning into telecommuting roles.
From remote jobs for US-based workers to outsourcing entire divisions to other countries where labor costs are lower, plenty of middle office careers are off-site.
Netting one of these roles may involve years of experience in the relevant industry, however.
Front Office & Middle Office & Back Office in Detail
Besides the middle office is the front and back office. Do you know what each one does?
If you want to understand in-depth each office type and get it explained with examples, then take a look at the following articles: