All banking interactions need to be high-quality, low error: Darryl West
MUMBAI, Feb 15, 2013 (Mint - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
London-based Lloyds Banking Group Plc, the UK's largest mortgage lender, is one of the key customers of India's $70-billion software exports sector. In an interview on the sidelines of the Nasscom Leadership Summit in Mumbai, the banking group's chief information officer Darryl West spoke about the importance of partnerships with companies such as Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. and Wipro Ltd and key investment areas. Edited excerpts:
The UK banking sector has undergone a lot of changes in recent years, especially with the evolution of online banks such as Simple.com. How is Lloyds keeping up with these changes
We've made significant investments in online banking in the last five-six years. We've built a brand new financial platform. We have a very active online banking service. We've got 9 million online customers. What we're finding is that the digital channel typically is a simple channel for people to look up their balance, etc. So what we've been trying to do is enrich the channel, to build some products into these channels to allow people to analyse their finances, help people in money management, allow people to categorize their spend into their bank account and then they can analyse where they've been spending their money.
So we've built this console into the digital channel, basically making it more of a value add. We've also introduced a mobile app which is called a Homefinder. It's a native app on a smartphone and helps you find property valuations in an area. So, we're providing more useful functionalities rather than have some simple transaction system.
What other emerging technologies do you see changing the face of the banking services sector
Big data is something that is really getting very interesting. We've always made significant investments in data warehouses and we're looking to extend a simple customer view from a basic selection of products to the other part of interaction with customers. So, really interacting with customers, what challenges they face, more of an understanding of the behaviour of the customer and also integrating social networking like Twitter and Facebook, to integrate the unstructured data to a more holistic view for the customer. New technologies are starting to become more mainstream, some better view of the patterns of behaviour, and that's a big area for us.
As a long-term consumer of Indian IT services, how has your experience been so far
When I embarked upon the Indian partnerships, I started a programme back in 2007. At that time I took the view that we were going to have a significant development programme over a number of years and I need to find world-class skills and our partners had access to world-class talent. The code and test phase was where we estimated we would not try and compete with India in that space. We develop a bit of it ourselves, but primarily we've outsourced that part and that was back in 2007.
In the last five years, we've had a very good period and any partnership takes time to build the links. But on the whole, we've been very satisfied with the outcome. The business challenges we've had as a bank over the last two-three years has been partly eliminated thanks to the massive integration programme we've had here. We've relied heavily on our Indian partners to help us. What I'm looking at more from Indian partners is the need to evolve more from a reliable economic commodity provider to something where you're learning the new technologies. Our challenge to all our Indian partners (TCS, Wipro, HCL Technologies Ltd and Cognizant) would be to understand the big trends and build a large supply of qualified new people to cope with these new technologies. There's a shortage of them everywhere and I'm sure it's just as bad in India as it is in the UK, US and Europe.
What are your key priorities for technology spending in the near term
Our investments are focused on a number of areas. Customer experience is really important for us. So we're really focused on improving level of service, all the interactions we have in our banks need to be high-quality and low error. Investments in digital and mobile, investments we have in big data and analytics and also business process automation, which mean lesser errors and lesser complaints.
How do Indian IT service providers compare with their multi-national counterparts
I think the MNCs are very credible as well. People like IBM and Accenture make significant investments in India. So, I view them in a very comparable manner. There's no real differentiation to me because the Indian folks in Accenture and IBM are coming from a similar background. The MNCs have the advantage of having a good on-shore team and good presence and can have a better cultural affinity with the local markets. I find the Indian companies I work with now over the last four-five years, they've learned more about what's happening in my world and they must have learnt my business a lot better than they did it at the beginning and it's a much more mature relationship.
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