Banking

Reengineering The Digital Payments Transition — With Engineers

Conversations about digital transformation often start with new experiences that those evolutions make possible — or the new technologies essential to underpin them.

Few of them start with what engineers actually think.

According to Raghavendra (Raghu) Bhat, ANZ Banking Group’s head of Technology, Digital Channels, engineers are the glue that reinforce the transition from concept to reality, from marketing whiteboard to market debut.

The engineer’s “role is to bring all those factors together,” he said, as his own firm navigates the brave new world of changing consumer preferences and regulatory oversight.

The upfront focus on engineering as a discipline, Bhat said, is part of the digital transformation that Australia’s ANZ Bank has pursued over the last year.

The financial institution (FI) has embraced a squads-and-tribes approach to igniting innovation, where ideas big and small are digested by teams, and initiatives are the province of an interdisciplinary self-governing approach.

Allowing people close to the problem (or the opportunity to be developed), who bring subject matter expertise with them, results in better products and shortens development and time-to-market lead times, Bhat explained. Engineers empowered with access to the infrastructure and the ability to create, automate and deploy toolkits to assist in new product development bridges the gap between planning and deploying functionality.

Engineering is one of the foundational pillars that supports those activities, fosters growth and supports a culture of learning and innovation, he said, and one that will underwrite his own firm’s evolution. Engineers serve to give ANZ’s tribes and squads the ability to make better decisions — a supporting role that acts as a springboard to digital transformation success.

At ANZ, the focus rests on eliminating friction from every interaction a customer (internal or external) has with the firm. Bhat noted that ANZ continues to push into its current iteration within the framework of regulation and risk discipline, with squads working toward clear missions at each of the more granular levels. Along the way, engineers help view that mission in the context of “iconic customer experiences.” The squads focus on engaging and listening to customers’ needs and wants, such as whether they prefer to use Fitbit Pay, Apple Pay or Android Pay, for example.

The engineers, then, must lend their expertise as to what must get done to support that preferred app and how end users can access it. The name of the game, Webster said, is to give consumers the right access to the right tools and allow them to be involved in the decision-making process.

Resistance to change is always a challenge to overcome, Bhat said. With any real push to embrace new ways of doing things, the most important variable and strength lies with the employees themselves.

For ANZ, the onus is finding and mapping the people best suited for the right squads and tribes. Each individual, then, has expressed interest in the job they’ve taken on, and the mission then becomes their own. As such, hiring and attracting great engineering talent is a challenge in a competitive market — more so to financial institutions.

One lure: According to Bhat, there is an increasing degree of recognition that engineers are and will be an integral part of shaping a firm’s success, which is not a common mindset within the industry. That progressive mindset starts at the top, at the CEO and board level, as has been detailed here in the past.

As always, the process must be flexible, based in part on continuous learning and moving beyond the way things have “always been done,” Bhat emphasized.

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