Mitesh Agarwal, Sales VP Global Key & Lead Accounts at Oracle
Committed to continuity. Providing a reliable presence come what may
“It’s not the most intellectual of species that survives, it’s not the strongest that survives either. The one that survives is the one that’s best able to adapt to a changing environment.” I don’t think there is any better way to explain the change that we are seeing in today’s environment than with Charles Darwin. The businesses most prepared for the way ahead are those ready and equipped for change.
The last few weeks have seen unparalleled and unforeseeable events that have changed our lives here in India and world-wide – the full impact of which we are yet to grasp. We’ve seen a fundamental corporate shift from very physical and face-to-face to digitally empowered, remote-working business relationships, with this technology is and has to play a key role right now - but how might this also influence the way we use technology tomorrow?
With this in mind, I talked with Mr Amol Pai, CTO of the country’s largest bank – State Bank of India. I was keen to hear first-hand how a bank – with business-critical year-end commitments – has approached this unique situation.
Business as unusual
When the current scenario started in early March, the end of the financial year was fast approaching. The first things Amol focused on at SBI were ensuring the BA (Banker's Acceptance) was running fine and that closing the books by 31 March happened smoothly. This was possible with effective BCP (Business Continuity Planning), where SBI had primary and secondary business sites as well as a separate infrastructure for a tertiary site. The security and the safety of SBI’s team were the topmost priorities in this context.
On top of this, SBI had to meet the challenge of servicing customers with minimal contact and the need to enable management teams to work from anywhere as necessary. Banking is classified as an essential service and so the service provision needed to continue as far as possible, and do so while upholding a level of trust for customers. This meant deploying relevant remote-working architecture for every set of users to be able to achieve what they needed to. Each person in the many SBI branches around India responded phenomenally to this challenge, supported by technology. Amol and his team are continuing to investigate remote-working technologies in order to keep SBI moving forwards.
As an SBI customer myself, I had seen first-hand how seamlessly the automated systems run. Chatting with Amol about this usage of technology architecture, it’s clear that cloud – even public cloud – was quickly emerging as a key component of the technology roadmap of large organisations and banks as the new abnormal becomes the new normal.
SBI, like most banks, has captive centres where people work to ensure work gets done. Physical line of sight has always been a primary consideration. But, in the last 20 days, we’ve seen that people can work remotely and still be productive. I think this situation is demonstrating the value of cloud as a viable means to enable effective and secure remote access.
From physical to digital
Understandably, digitalisation is front and centre of many conversations now. But how might current events shape the future of customer interactions with banks? Amol confirms that SBI is already assessing new customer journeys and remote ‘transaction flows’.
Account origination is one process that is likely to become completely digital, especially with Robotic Process Automation (RPA). There may be an even bolder approach – a customer doesn’t necessarily need an account to fulfil their financial need, but a means of transacting. Banks should focus on supporting this need rather than always reverting to account opening as a means for solving every financial requirement a customer has.
Banks are already rethinking the core of their business, fundamentally questioning their traditional processes and investigating remote capabilities. Does a physical asset need to be exchanged? Do we need contact with that customer? Can the customer complete the journey himself?
The future of consumer banking will likely focus on greater flexibility to customers’ financial needs. This doesn’t mean that banking will change beyond all recognition – cash won’t disappear entirely, for example, but we will see some electronic form taking over. It is fascinating to see how these challenging times are opening people’s eyes to how technology can enable new processes and modes of delivery.
I’m looking forward to exploring more ideas and thoughts on this subject from other fantastic leaders in the coming weeks in The Way Ahead fireside chat series.