Benito Piuzzi is quite frank when it comes to his fifteen years in operations, his expertise in driving operational transformation for Fortune 100 companies, and his capacity for thought leadership in that space to deliver clear and definable advantages for the bottom line.
“If you don’t understand operations, you’re either solving the wrong problem, or making existing problems worse,” says Piuzzi, the chief operating officer of Lakeview’s residential lending group and a member of the invite-only Forbes Business Council.
If that seems too blunt, consider the source.
The native Chilean studied in the US after securing scholarships to cover the opportunity. To study in Italy, he got an ambassador on the phone to help him work through visa issues. And had he not gone to Italy, Piuzzi wouldn’t have met his wife who was in teaching English in France at the time.
All that to say: Piuzzi will find the answer to the problem. He’s been doing it since before he even knew what career he wanted to pursue, and his capacity to implement transformational operational excellence is as much obsession as it is skill set.
Piuzzi is a former McKinsey & Company operations wiz whose thought leadership brought him to Lakeview Loan Servicing in 2021 to focus on large-scale operational opportunities.
“It’s about the big questions and the use of data,” Piuzzi says. “It’s understanding the pieces to know if and how you are winning. Do we have metrics? Do we have targets? What is our strategy? What is the vision? What is our cadence of critical conversation? How often is the front line talking?”
There are more questions, and Piuzzi has sought to answer every single one since stepping into the COO seat in July 2022. Despite facing a challenging economic moment across the industry, Piuzzi says that establishing and leveraging metrics is the first step to driving operational optimization.
The executive remembers both the complexity and the discipline he encountered at his former employer McKinsey, while helping Fortune 100 companies turnaround their operations. “They were relentless in helping push shareholder value and operational performance,” he says. “That’s the philosophy I brought to Lakeview.”
Piuzzi’s cross-industry capacity allows him to drive that value regardless of industry. It all comes back to that critical North Star.
“It’s all about identifying that North Star, understanding who is doing what to achieve it, what methodology we’re using to get there, and in what amount of time,” Piuzzi says. “Once you’re able to answer those critical questions and you have the right people with the right knowledge, you find that it works across just about any industry.”
Since coming to Lakeview, Piuzzi has leveraged data to better understand opportunities to drive the business forward, whether it is contract negotiations, setting up dashboard and targets by department, or streamlining meetings cadence and workflow optimization. In just over a year, his team has been able to deliver improvements across all major metrics including efficiencies, quality, cost, productivity, and customer experience. Regardless of the improvements made, he’s positive there is more room to grow going into next year.
“Focusing on creating clear visibility of business performance is the first step to prioritize work and solve the right problem with the right sense of urgency,” the COO explains. “These days, data is more important than ever, as we, and many businesses go through digital transformations, not having the right process using the right data will only magnify operational waste.”
Piuzzi says that it’s imperative to give stakeholders ownership over their part of the transformation. That’s achieved by including them early in the process and creating clear expectations for the change he’s looking to drive. Despite his passion for delivering operational excellence, the COO is not a micromanager unless he has to be.
“When it comes to my own team, I want to empower them,” Piuzzi says. “I want to remove obstacles for them, I’ll help them manage their time if they need it, and I will do everything I can to make sure they can work without noise.”
It hasn’t been easy, but Piuzzi is finding success despite the economic challenges across the board. Maybe it’s because the basics become an even more important part of finding ways to succeed.
Regardless, Piuzzi has always been looking for ways to succeed better. It’s what drives him, it’s what has defined his career, and it’s what will keep operational excellence pushing Lakeview always nearer its North Star.