Do you ever get the sense that financial services firms think they occupy the center of the universe?

I do. But in a good way.

Banks seem to confront similar challenges earlier and of greater magnitude compared to other industries. Consider the profitability management challenge of simultaneously cutting costs and boosting revenue.

In response to these opposing demands, “numerous banks find themselves stuck between these two dichotomies,” notes Nick Jackson, a partner with financial services consulting firm Capco, in an Oct. 11 blog post on the firm’s site. “They’ve reduced costs as much as they can without negatively affecting their business as well as implemented multi-year transformation programs that will eventually yield savings but yet they still need to find ways to improve the bottom line now.”

Jackson explains that this scenario has motivated banks to seek out “aggressive transformation projects that provide sophisticated short-term cost-cutting measures without a large upfront expense.”

Banks are hardly alone. As Jonathan Byrnes has noted on this site, more CFOs are operating as “chief profitability officers,” and if they are not, they should be. Byrnes’ research indicates that virtually every company, in virtually all industries, is 30-40 percent unprofitable by any measure.

Some of the approaches banks use to strengthen profitability without large upfront expenses may be worth emulating in other industries. Jackson reports that some banks ask their consulting firms to loan them the money required to plan and execute a cost-cutting project in exchange for entering into a long-term contract with the consulting firm (which recovers the cost of the project over several years and, presumably, based on the efficiencies the project actually delivers).

Given the growing need for companies to simultaneously reduce costs and increase revenue (preferably at a lower cost per sale), finance executives appear to have a unique opportunity to inject a profitability mindset into more areas of the enterprise.

Consider the opportunities that exist well outside of the finance function – and within the areas of employee wellness and occupational safety and health.

The International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans has been promoting the concept of “value-based healthcare (VBHC),” which focuses on costs, quality and outcomes. The purpose of VBHC is to encourage employees to pursue healthy, or healthier, lifestyles that help produce a healthier workforce (which naturally results in lower organizational healthcare costs).

Well, guess what? Companies that analyze the financial impacts of their wellness programs have found $1 to $3 decreases in their overall healthcare costs for every dollar spent, according to research by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

“Without question, employers are beginning to understand the direct connection that wellness initiatives can have on both employee health and healthcare plan cost savings,” reports the foundation’s CEO, Michael Wilson. “While the primary goal is reducing health costs, we’re also seeing other advantages from wellness initiatives, such as higher employee morale, increased productivity and reduced disability.”

Despite these potential benefits, however, the foundation’s research indicates that only 19 percent of survey participants currently analyze the financial data of their wellness programs.

Late last year, the Geneva-based International Social Security Association analyzed the costs and benefits of investments in occupational safety and health made by global companies. The research measured a number of prevention cost inputs – including equipment, training and preventative healthcare – and prevention benefits, such as cost savings generated through preventing business disruptions and business inefficiencies as well as added value generated by a more sustained focus on quality and a better corporate reputation. The research concludes that for every dollar (or EUR, or any other currency) companies invest in specific prevention activities, they gain 2.2 dollars in benefits.

This type of employee health and safety thinking indicates that financial services companies have not cornered the market on profitability management efforts. Although banks remain an inspiring source of ideas, finance functions are in a unique position to help other areas of the company to invest in more innovative cost-reduction efforts.