Insightive.TV: Tell us a little about what makes you a good fit for your new role?
Kirsty: I am always amused when people say to me – ‘are you sure that’s going to work?’ I think that our senior leadership team understands the change the industry is demanding and what our customers want – and they want to get there. I’m a sort of advocate, if that makes sense, pushing us to do more, and move at a more nimble pace.
Insightive.TV: What is the scope for digitisation at HSBC?
Kirsty: We have got some processes which are great, end-to-end, and there is an ambition to move forward to fully digital in the right areas. My team say I behave worse than most Generation Z people in my intolerance for old-fashioned processes.
But you have to provide the service that the customer wants. I recently did a forty page mortgage document online, and I had to electronically initial every corner, and it sort of drove me nuts. You end up thinking – if someone had printed this and I signed it, it would be quicker. So we need appropriate digitisation, but where it makes sense.
Insightive.TV: How uniform has your digitisation process been?
Kirsty: We are in transition and there are different ends of the spectrum. For example, if you are in Hong Kong, and you want to open an account, you’ll want to go into a branch, which is an extremely popular option with many in the local population. You’ll do everything with your Relationship Manager, on a tablet, in the branch, which combines both getting to know your customer up-front with a digital, modern process.
We have Apple Pay live, and we have Android Pay live. So, in any of our key markets, if you want to make your payment with your mobile phone, in essence, there is no bank process to invoke. We are well linked into those services, and you can just make your transaction.
If you want to make a change of address in one of our smaller countries, that will still mean filling in a form, and someone will be rescanning that on the back end. But as much as we can, we are looking to digitise as many of our processes as we can, in line with what our customers need from us.
Insightive.TV: What have been the biggest challenges you have faced in digitising?
Kirsty: We offer about 100 different services across all four businesses, whether that’s issuing cards, account openings, making a payment, processing a corporate action and/or servicing an account. As HSBC has grown through acquisition over many years, we have a huge number of applications to serve those processes.
A key priority for me is to get the right investments in technologies and processes, to get the very best solutions out to our customers, and to get them out as fast as possible.
One thing that is already being done is a single payment system. This will mean whatever channel you come in on – mobile, chat, online, telephone – from a technology standpoint, the same payment widget will be serving you. This will create an excellent service and allow the money we invest to be extrapolated across all jurisdictions.
So we are trying to drive new global standards across all of our businesses, in terms of how we serve our customers.
Insightive.TV: Are legal challenges to digital contracts a particular concern?
Kirsty: If you get it right, the triangulation you end up doing between verifying someone’s mobile number, their unique voice or finger print, with another piece of data like their address, is actually far more solid than someone’s signature. The law says you must have a true and proper approach to verifying your identity. So, having three or more key pieces of data that you do this with is actually far more secure than just one.
Insightive.TV: How much does digitisation play into your calculations about operational efficiencies?
Kirsty: I actually think that if you get the customer journey and the customer experience right, you will have less touch points and create a more effective process. And guess what, it just happens to be cheaper. So the big focus I push with my team is a focus on the customer experience, and making that as slick and effective as possible. And then what you will get is a naturally decreased operating cost.
But digitisation is massive. If you take paper out of the process, it’s hundreds of millions in costs saved. I would love us to completely eliminate checks and passbooks, which are highly inefficient processes for the industry.
As you digitise those processes, we’ll have tonnes of efficiencies, we will have better straight through processing. We put out a five-year plan for 2020 to reduce our carbon footprint. And a big part of this was to take our paper output and reduce it by 50%. We are pretty much on track to complete that, and to do more than that. So it’s a key sustainability focus for HSBC.
We are also using robotics and are starting on a cognitive journey now. But there are cognitive things I have done in banking in other places that just aren’t that hard, and that we will start to do pretty quickly now.
For example, with natural language processing, lots of people email their RM to say I would like to make a payment here. Well, now a machine can read that and say – you want to make a payment, so get on and make the payment, or get it in a queue to be verified to do so – rather than a person having to read the email.
There is so much that we can do with cognitive techniques, and I think that we really are at the beginning of the journey, versus where we will be in three, four or five years’ time.
Insightive.TV: Do you work with partners to build and maintain these systems?
Kirsty: Great partnerships are the way forward. We have some with our key suppliers, and are looking at others through incubator type environments.
We have set up labs that allow us to look at some tools and technologies, but you need to do it systematically. So we are making a number of changes, literally over the next couple of months, to make this a more industrial process for Operations, you could say, rather than looking at many things individually.
Insightive.TV: What do you see as the future for HSBC?
Kirsty: One of the reasons I joined the bank is that I think it is very hard to get over all of the regulatory barriers and the complexity of doing business in the current banking environment, with a global footprint, at any kind of pace.
Therefore, for me, it’s more exciting to apply a new kind of thinking and collaborate with the ‘fintech’s’ of the world in a good ecosystem, in order to get a bank like ours into a better position. And then, frankly, I think it will be quite hard for anyone to compete.
The largest challenge starts with fragmented infrastructure. The second is really to get our customer population onto the channel they would like to be on. So there is more we could do on mobile penetration rates, and on internet penetration rates. And the third is to work with our business partners on the end-to-end process for our customers.
The difference for me is that I’m not doing this in a start-up environment. I’m doing it in one of the most established banks in the world.
Insightive.TV: What is the biggest barrier to further digitisation?
Kirsty: There are some jurisdictions that require us to take things in a format that in non-digitised. So I would say that’s a barrier. I also think there’s a barrier in the customer’s appetite for the pace of change, in terms of how many new things we can launch on them at any one time. But I think that’s about it.
I’m not a big believer in barriers, I think all of these things are eminently doable. There is nothing in what we are trying to do that is all that difficult.
I want our customers to be able to interact with us anytime, anywhere, and get their processes done as efficiently and accurately as possible.
For example, looking at a time five, ten years from now, we aren’t going to know what the next version of chat is, but we’ve got to be able to keep up with new communications tools as they come on-stream, and make sure we’re using them to interact as effectively as possible with our customers.
Kirsty Roth joined HSBC as the Global Head of Operations in May. She worked as COO for the Finance, Operations and IT Division of Credit Suisse for the last five years, and has a long history in financial services, banking and management consultancy.
Headquartered in London, HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations and serves customers worldwide from around 4,400 offices in 71 countries and territories in Europe, Asia-Pacific, North and Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa.
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