Inside Talk

Inside Talk I: Emirates NBD’s Digital Transformation Journey

In conversation with Sampath Srinivasan, Senior Vice President, Strategic Projects, Emirates NBD

ENBD has always been at the forefront for digital innovations in banking; what is in store on the digital front for 2017? Our journey in digital innovation will continue at an accelerated pace. We will be collaborating with the community and tapping the fintech ecosystem to radically transform and create new business opportunities and enhance customer experience.

Our strategy is built on 3 key pillars of Culture, Co-creation, and Community in alignment with UAE’s vision to be one of the most innovative countries in the world.

The main focus of our digital journey will be to meet the expectations of millennials with a multitude of online offerings and enable them to perform almost all transactions online without the need to visit brick-and-mortar branches.  We will also look to automate our back office processes to improve our operational efficiency. The goal will be to achieve quick TAT and increase the percentage of Straight Through Processing.  We will be implementing Robotics technology across several use cases to achieve accuracy, integrity and efficient processing.

We have recently launched our digital bank to address the banking needs of the growing millennial population, which prefers digital channels over brick and mortar branches.  We will be continuously introducing new functionalities in this platform to shape it as a major lifestyle application with minimum banking transactions.  The new digital bank will empower customers to take charge of their finances with the best possible customer experience.

In your opinion, which are the top three technologies that will have a major impact on the banking business models in 2017?

Banks are facing a very uncertain economic environment, and to counter this climate they will have to look at technology as an enabler for innovation. As part of our innovation work-stream we constantly invest in R&D and also study the market on new trends and areas where technology adoption is increasing. Out of various disruptors emerging in the market, following are the ones that are most relevant to our digital strategy and also in line with the trend picking up in the region.

Open API’s will convert banks as a platform for service delivery, and they will be able to partner with third party providers to create contextual offerings for their customer base. We will also see an increase in conversational banking on channels of customer’s choice, such as chatbots on social platforms powered by AI. This will of course be built on the shoulders of data driven insights and will form an important part of delivering a true Omni channel experience from the banks’ perspective.

We anticipate both blockchain and IoT to become mainstream, though it would need a couple of years before it truly matures and benefits are seen.

Security will no longer be a compliance measure, and will be pervasive across the organization. Behavior based bio-metrics will become an integral pillar of the banks’ security strategy and identity management in this aspect. We are also envisioning frictionless experiences to become more prevalent. For example, touchless methods such as NFC will see widespread adoption for physical access to payments use cases.

For some of these technologies we have already identified use cases; and they’re being implemented in the form of either proof-of-concepts or a sample service in production. Our vision is to be more open and allow our partners, government entities, and corporates to utilize our services and also offer some of our services to their end customers.

Could you tell us more about the Emirates NBD-ICICI Bank-EdgeVerve partnership on the blockchain pilot network? What impact are you seeing post launching the pilot and how do you see this partnership shaping up in the future?

Emirates NBD is always known as a first mover to adapt new technologies.  We realized that blockchain is one such technology, which is growing very rapidly and many global financial institutions are investing millions of dollars in researching to implement it. Emirates NBD started exploring blockchain to understand the architecture of this technology and applicable use cases for a financial institution. In order to develop and have a deep understanding of this technology, we invited several vendors to present their solutions and the functionalities. When EdgeVerve presented their solution and explained the use cases, we were able to relate our requirements to these use cases and wanted to examine it further with a sample transaction.  Then ICICI bank expressed similar interest in one of our meetings; consequently, we initiated discussions between both the business and technology teams of ICICI.  We had setup a very aggressive timeline to complete the POC.   Since both the banks were using the same core platform, we quickly formed a team to setup the infrastructure, and install the blockchain application at both banks. And within six weeks we could complete a POC transaction on remittance and open account use case. Now, after launching the pilot and seeing the transaction flow, both the banks are eager to implement this in production and start to execute transactions in real-time. In the initial phase value transfer will continue through traditional channels.

Your bank has also setup an Emirates NBD Future Lab. Tell us more about the objectives behind setting up this lab and which areas are you focusing on with this lab?

Emirates NBD Future Lab is part of our Innovation journey to showcase new technologies.  We have established this in partnership with our vendors.

Future Lab showcases future based scenarios using virtual reality and other partner solutions projecting the futuristic use of technology.

The objective of this lab is to drive our innovation strategy as explained above and to support our digital aspirations by tapping the potential of our own employees, and the external ecosystem.

Emirates NBD Future Lab will be a continuing space to exhibit futuristic and new technologies from our partner ecosystem. Our plan is to create more than one lab and provide multiple opportunities for several vendors to exhibit their inventions.

Tell us about the top three initiatives that were immensely successful for Emirates NBD in 2016

Emirates NBD Future Lab was a great success and we will be replicating this model into few more branches.

Emirates NBD Pay, which is an idea for contactless payments has been another major success and with UAE being a tech savvy country, we are seeing quick adoption of this application by our customers.

The blockchain pilot, which has generated lot of interest not only within the bank, but also with several government entities and other non-financial institutions was a great success story.

And we are in dialogue with several departments with varied use cases to be implemented and processed through blockchain.

Inside Talk II: Reimagining Banking with Modern Technology

In conversation with Abhijit Singh, Head of Business Technology Group, ICICI Bank

Tell us about the top three initiatives that were immensely successful for ICICI in 2016.ICICI Bank has always been a pioneer in bringing technology-enabled products & services to customers. We continue to focus on leveraging the three key transformational trends in technology i.e. mobile first, digitization of payments and digitizing the core.

ICICI Bank was the first bank to launch an all-in-one payment collection app for merchants called Eazypay which is a first-of-its kind mobile application that enables merchants, retailers and professionals to accept instant cashless payments on mobile phones from their customers through multiple digital modes. Eazypay offers customers the improved convenience of paying by using their mobile phones through unified payment interface (UPI), any credit/debit card and internet banking, and ‘Pockets’, the digital wallet of ICICI Bank.

Beyond the above path breaking initiatives, the most remarkable innovations in the mobile space that we have invested in this year are iMobile Smartkeys and Chatbot.

Smartkeys is an industry first innovative new feature of iMobile that lets customers do mobile banking transactions using their smartphone’s keyboard whereas Chatbots are computer programs that can have automated text conversations with users using artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing.  This is an industry first feature and goes in step with the Bank’s digital innovator mantra.

As an issuer, ICICI Bank wanted to move at a rapid pace towards cashless transaction. The Bank has always been aggressive in launching innovative products and channels on a regular basis and encourages the customers to adapt and use these channels for payments by giving them, offers and benefits. In 2016, ICICI bank paved way for Contactless payment technologies by becoming the first bank in the world to launch mVISA. We have also introduced contactless card payments using NFC technology in the form of Tap and Pay and became first financial institution in the country to leverage the Host Card Emulation (HCE) technology to bring forth Touch and Pay contactless payment solution.

In line with the key technology trends, ICICI Bank was also the first in the country and among few, globally, to deploy ‘Software Robotics’ that emulates human actions to automate and perform repetitive, high volume and time consuming business tasks cutting across multiple applications.

ICICI Bank has deployed these software robots in 200+ business process functions across the organization including retail banking operations, agri-business, trade & forex, treasury and human resources management among others. Software robots have reduced the response time to customers by up to 60 percent and increased accuracy to 100 percent thereby sharply improving the bank’s productivity and efficiency.

ICICI Bank has always been a pioneer in leveraging modern technology to reimagine banking. What   is in store on the digital front for 2017?

Digital continues to swiftly impact every aspect of banking. ICICI Bank has been evolving by adopting a 360° Digitization approach to manage the disruption in financial industry. This initiative not only focuses on the customers but also within the organization so as to be digital ready.

Digital disruption and demonetization has transformed the mode of banking in India, and with influx of Fintech ecosystem, 2017 will witness sharp increase in digital adoption.

ICICI bank will continue to focus on its bimodal architecture by building systems with robust backend and intuitive, user friendly front end. In line with the Mobile First strategy, we intend to build intelligent AI based apps which will have the potential to transform the nature of work and structure of the workplace.

Beyond the pilot carried out in October, we are working on building an enterprise ready blockchain solution that we will open up to our corporate customers for Open Account Trade and Remittance. We will continue to leverage enhanced analytics capabilities that will offer them the ability to learn about its customer base and make personalized offers. Beyond creating innovative digital solutions for customers, the field of analytics will help banks in client identification and Anti Money Laundering (AML) measures, in order to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing risks.

Additionally, we are working on finding the right mix of service, deployment, and operating models to address security and compliance concerns and embark our cloud journey for increased cost saving, high availability of business applications, focused approach on critical activities and streamlining infrastructure operations.

In your opinion, which are the top three technologies that will have a major impact on the business models for Indian banks in 2017?

Customers today are fundamentally different from what they were a decade ago and are harder to acquire, retain and delight because of the adoption of digital technologies across the industry. Today, customers look for anytime, anywhere services from their banking partners. With the evolution of digital platforms and rapid change in demand of customers, banks are looking for opportunities to improve their performance and provide delightful customer experience and engage more efficiently.

Leading banks across the globe are realizing the need to stay connected with the evolving technologies and leverage them for developing and preserving business channels. Banks in India are dynamic and are looking out for opportunities to utilize technological advancement.

Digital will become mainstream wherein advancement in areas of Cloud Computing, Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain will be on spotlight for enhancing customer engagement, improving internal processes and adding value propositions for its customers by developing newer channels to engage.

Could you tell us more about the Emirates NBD-ICICI Bank-EdgeVerve partnership on the blockchain pilot network? What impact are you seeing post launching the pilot and how do you see this partnership shaping up in the future?

After successful pilot in Oct. 2016, we are building an enterprise ready blockchain solution with Infosys that we will open up to our corporate customers for Open Account Trade and Remittance which will significantly cut down costs and time period for conducting business internationally through our banking partners. We are also exploring a micropayments and peer-to-peer payment product that offers instant settlement to merchants and requires minimal operational costs. We are also working on onboarding new partners to enhance the blockchain network.

Looking at the trends in the crypto-currency and blockchain sector we realize that there is value that can be derived from this technology. Automating backend office operations, auditing, secure document sharing and transfer of assets across borders are good use cases for blockchain technology.

Regulatory bodies and financial institutions need to come onboard with benefits of blockchain. Regulatory bodies should be willing to explore and partner on blockchain networks as they offer visibility and transparency to them. Banks need to move on from or tweak existing technical infrastructure to accept blockchain solutions. Further, for blockchain to take off, the network needs to expand and entire ecosystem (both financial and non-financial entities like reality, auto, customs, taxation, logistics, etc.) should be part of blockchain network.

ICICI Bank has been the first bank in the country and among few, globally, to roll-out ‘Software Robotics’ in over 200 business processes. Tell us about the vision behind this initiative and what are your bank’s future plans?

Robotic software allows configuration of a “software robot” to capture all the steps involved in an application process and simulate the same steps as robotic processes within applications, thereby reducing human intervention. We have envisioned to use Robotics Process Automation (RPA) technology as a productivity lever, in areas where people are performing high-volume repetitive tasks to improve the accuracy, cycle time and productivity, resulting in cost saving and manpower reduction.

While we continue to identify and automate business processes, we will be looking at building enhanced technology controls around this automation by-

  1. Setting a process for enhanced due diligence in identification of processes that are being automated, driven by the complexity and criticality of the process and the estimated business benefits
  2. Building security controls and audit trails to eliminate and manage any process discrepancies. Also have centralized dashboards for monitoring and controlling the automated processes
  3. Integration of Robotics Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies to deliver maximum value to business
  4. Use of robotics for automated testing and defect management in critical applications

We will also be looking at building the core systems capability in order to eliminate some of the redundant automation done using RPA technologies.