Part 2 of Tech Talk with Akash Chopra, General Manager, ICICI Bank Ltd

Tech Talk

Akash Chopra, General Manager, ICICI Bank Ltd, in an interview to CFO Dialogues talks about implication and impact of technology on Treasury and Trade finance domain.

For Part 1, please click here

Q : What is your assessment of the Mega Trends in Digital Transformation, the Future of Banking, the Future of Workplace?

Akash Chopra: We have come a long way in the last few years in terms of transition from a pre-dominantly brick and mortar economy to a click and mortar economy. A few examples will illustrate this point the best in terms of digital transformation that is happening today.

Take something as simple as Television viewing. We used to watch TV programmes in the living room at the time they were telecast through cable TV. Over The Top (OTT) and Video on Demand (VOD) today are the future of media consumption. OTT has turned content producers as the king while the platforms that are used to deliver the same have multiplied. Linear viewing of the TV era has been replaced by on-demand viewing on platforms like YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Viu and Hotstar. Another example is the asset light model versus the asset aggregator model. The most glaring example of businesses that didn’t exist 5 years ago would be the asset light businesses like AirBnb, Oyo, Ola and Uber. Who would have ever thought that the value and the market cap of these companies, which do not own a single hotel room or a single cab will be more valuable than the largest hotel chain or largest auto manufacturer?

The biggest transformation is happening broadly in the area of data sciences and data analyses. With volumes of data growing at a rate of 40% per year, it’s no wonder that people who can analyse and process all this information are in high demand.

You would have heard the proclaimed wisdom that “Data is the new Oil”. We’ve seen this phrase being used numerous times, from the cover of prominent publications to speeches by Fortune 500 CEOs and world leaders. This signifies how data is and will be at the forefront of all our activities going forward.

Millions of customers of the Bank create and generate millions and billions of transaction data every day. The Bank mines this data as well as the underlying system logs to understand their behaviour and recommends the next best product and service that they should use – 

  •  Offer pre-approved and pre-qualified products to customers that they can buy almost instantly: Insta PL (where one can get the personal loan disbursed to one’s account in 3 seconds), Insta OD (for CA customers).
  • Trigger the relationship managers (or their CRM) for the possible services and issue-resolutions that a select set of their customers may need on that particular day. This helps increase employee productivity.

Example: Given their transaction behaviours, we create ideal long-term balances for customers, and say, as their actual balances deviate from the normal (go up or down), we would advise them on investment options or look for possible service issues.

The algorithms running at the backend use machine-learning and AI to even look for possible fraudulent accounts or people, so that a shortlist can then be monitored for early-warning signals.

Q: How has ICICI Bank embraced Digital Transformation internally? How has been the journey so far? What have been the quantifiable achievements? How does it impact the treasury division and other divisions/SBUs?

Akash Chopra: I need to get one caveat out of the way and that is to say that I will be using technological developments and digital disruption interchangeably. When discussions arise around a Digital Transformation journey, the focus is generally on the technology bit. After all, in theory, it is technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, automation and additive manufacturing that drive the efficiencies and speed, which companies aim for.

But Digital Transformation is not all about the technology. Digital Transformation shifts the mindset of how organisations create value for their end-customers. None of that would be possible without, for example, educating and empowering employees along the way or getting customers aware of the ease with which their operations can be improved upon. Leaders in our organisations constantly communicate what actual Digital Transformation is – how it will affect the organisation, how it will make life easy for the customers, what kind of skill sets need to be added by the workforce and how the organisation will make it easier to do all of these things.

When considering the true value of Digital Transformation, we should not think merely in terms of efficiencies and cost-savings that are born from the technologies but about the true value of a transformation: freeing up your internal talent so they can focus on high-value, high-impact work that helps the company transform.

ICICI Bank has taken several steps during the years in expediting processes using technology. The Bank is largely paperless and most of the processes are digital. For instance, the Bank has internal Chatbots such as i-Resolve, which help quick resolution of queries for the Branch Banking staff. Increasingly, Chatbots are being used by multiple teams in the Bank to resolve employee queries on various matters, including in complex areas such as Treasury. These measures help a long way in improving employee productivity, as well as in a number of cases, better resolution of customer queries.

The Bank has also rolled out Software Robotics in a number of areas. At present, over 950 software robots are performing more than 1.0 million transactions every working day and these ‘software robots’ have been deployed across functions in HR, IT, retail banking, agri-business, treasury, trade and forex.

The Bank has also used technology in empowering its sales force when meeting clients. For instance, in Treasury area, a Dealers Toolkit system accessible over mobile phone, allows the sales team to be kept updated on happenings in market (including indicative rates), pendencies and forward contract expiries of clients, etc. Thus, when they are in the field meeting their clients, they are able to service their clients better.

The Bank has also embraced technology solutions in a number of other areas, which touch all the employees. For instance, the cafetarias are completely digital, with no cash accepted as payment. Meeting room bookings as well as visitor registration have gone digital as well.

The Bank constantly looks at ways in which digital technologies can be leveraged and implements solutions where relevant in an agile manner.


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