We want to get even faster at innovating, says Srinath Kanisapakkam, head of analytics & platforms at TSB Bank.
Like most global organisations, TSB had to hit the ground running during the coronavirus pandemic as it tackled the problem of serving millions of customers who, overnight, had to change their daily habits, their lives and the way they manage their money.
Although TSB’s model is based on the power of partnerships, this came to the fore during its response to Covid-19 through collaborations with tech companies, including IBM, Adobe and BT, helping it to deliver crucial changes at speed for customers.
Srinath Kanisapakkam, head of analytics and platforms at TSB, has a focus on developing data-driven applications to drive the best customer experience and protect customers banking digitally or online at TSB.
Here he talks to The Fintech Times about the challenges of the pandemic and TSB’s future innovation plans to be more creative, agile and innovative.
Q: How did TSB respond to the coronavirus crisis and cope with such rapid changes?
The pandemic showed us just how quickly we could make changes when we needed to. I joined the bank during the pandemic, at a time when the industry had to react to a new environment almost overnight – and to ensure support was maintained for our customers.
During the period of lockdown we had to find solutions that allowed customers to access vital banking services in a way that suited them, whether that was coming into branch or accessing services online.
And our close partnerships with leading tech providers – such as Adobe and IBM really came into play.
What specific programmes or system changes did you introduce to maintain service levels and provide support?
Working with Adobe we managed to quickly turn the majority of our previously offline forms into online, digitally accessible forms. The vast majority (over 25) of forms, became available to customers online. This was a huge step forward for customers who were able to carry out actions online that would previously have required them to visit a branch.
Meanwhile, our partnership with IBM saw the delivery of TSB Smart Agent – an automated chatbot – to internet banking within just five days. This tool has proved vital during the pandemic and has now been rolled out into the TSB mobile banking app. We’ve now helped over 900,000 customers through well over a million conversations. Both initiatives demonstrate the importance of partnerships and being able to implement swift changes when customer behaviour and the landscape changes overnight. They also had the benefit of reducing the pressure on our telephony centre and reducing the number of visits that customers had to make to branches at a time when this was difficult.
We also introduced video banking so that colleagues can serve customers over video, which helped a number of our mortgage customers who wanted to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday. Customers could do this all from the comfort of their home. The biggest factor was accelerating the bank’s shift to digital delivery. We saw a huge surge in the number of customers downloading the mobile app and moving onto digital banking to remain connected during this period.
In terms of technology, we needed to make sure it does what it said on the tin and provide the functionality and features that customers are looking for while making it easy to use.
Overall, the pandemic had led us naturally to look at how we can best deliver for customers and meet their needs, and to understand the benefit of partnerships to fast-track innovation as and when it’s needed.
What changes did you see and what were the digital implications?
Over 90 per cent of our servicing transactions for moving money, such as making a payment, and around 70 per cent of our basic banking sales – like opening new accounts, savings, mortgages etc – are currently digital. As I mentioned before, we also saw a huge uptick in mobile app downloads as people shifted to digital banking – often for the first time.
But as we come out of lockdown, it’s important that we continue to support customers that are taking up digitisation, but also provide the best of our physical presence with just under 300 branches. As more products become digitised and many more administrative processes are automated, it frees up our colleagues to support customers with more complex needs. And most importantly, we will continue to offer customers a choice of the channel that they use whether that’s online, over video, through the app or in a branch.
How did you manage the shift towards working from home?
We have a great partnership with Microsoft and using Teams has ensured that we can still work collaboratively across the organisation. It has enabled a workforce of around 6,000 to still deliver for our customers, despite the majority of us working from home. It is a platform that serves colleague interaction and the customer well. Of course, I would prefer to meet people and have a coffee in person but using Teams has made collaboration much more detailed, whether I’ve been working with colleagues in Bristol or Edinburgh, with my work spread across different time-zones and continents. Technology has really enabled us and has been a great advantage.
What offers have you introduced to boost choice and diversity across your platform?
Customer engagement is important in my opinion and needs to be responsive. We’re now able to interact with our customers more than ever before on what matters to them through our customer experience platform.
Additionally, our partnership programme aims to deliver money confidence to our customers, boosting choice for customers, and helping them manage their money better. This year alone we have added the bill-managing service ApTap to our customer offer, as well as the investment platform, Wealthify. ApTap is a great example of how we can use technology to provide enhanced services for customers. It uses open banking to look at your spending on energy and broadband and then suggests alternatives. If you choose a different provider, it will make the swap for you. On average we found that customers could save £150 annually and it would take around five minutes to search for options and make the switch.
There will be more to come through our strategy that focuses on close collaboration with FinTechs because we want to help our customers with what we call ‘money confidence’ – feeling they’re more in control of their money – by delivering creative offers through tech.
You mention your ‘modern banking platform’ – what benefits does this provide over legacy systems?
We have the advantage of not having a legacy system with all the limitations that brings. Instead, we have made a conscious decision to work with leading partners like IBM, AWS, Microsoft and others to deliver the technology, and the expertise, that we need. Having a fully microservices-based architecture gives us the ability to make changes at speed. We are rapidly developing the digital estate, the data estate and asking how does it partner with the rest of the ecosystem? This is not just cloud, it’s a customer engagement platform on the cloud. That’s where the game is.
Can you share some highlights from your partnership programme?
Our partnership programme is really two-fold – to work closely with the likes of IBM and Adobe to ensure our systems and digital offer for our customers are underpinned by the world’s leading technology companies. And also, with close collaboration with FinTechs to deliver an innovative programme that customers can rely on to boost their money confidence. The partnerships that I mentioned earlier – ApTap and Wealthify – have been great examples of how we can work with others to make customers’ money go further.
We’re also signatories to the FinTech Pledge and have always recognised the importance of working closely with organisations. It’s where the future of banking lies – to diversify your digital platform to ensure customers get a pick of the best products and services in one place and keep looking for the best offers.
What were the most pressing issues of 2020 for high street banks and how did TSB use its digital platform to cope with demand and these rapid changes?
The number one issue for us was maintaining our services in a rapidly changing environment where we needed to maintain connectivity and service with our customers, all while running the operation remotely.
Rapidly rolling out the coronavirus recovery loans for businesses, such as BBLS and CBILS, was a challenge and we relied on our agile banking platform to react to this changing environment. We had to react at pace to be able to make the best of all of those services at the same level and I think we coped really well in being able to deliver the quickfire changes needed during the pandemic and beyond.
What does the future hold for TSB in terms of its digital focus and future innovation?
Right now, we continue to develop technology and have a clear understanding of platforms that are available to us. At TSB, we will continue to advance our partnership programme to develop traditional models with an innovative digital angle. There are concepts we’ve been working on that we want to develop to be quicker and faster and these will be data-led and data-driven. People talk about machine learning and artificial intelligence and our focus is how we use them for the benefit of our customers.
It’s about driving the pace while remaining focused. Remote working has worked well and, interestingly, it is almost like being a start-up bank with the pace that things now move. It is fascinating that what would have previously taken months is now taking weeks or days. As happened during the pandemic, we are always ready to bring the strategy forward to deliver when needed for customers.