Gone are the days when customers are waiting in long lines to get access to their accounts or resolve issues. The wave of innovative financial tech products has changed the industry for the better with mobility being at the core of customer interaction with their banks. In addition to mobile banking, chatbots for real-time customer service and the integration of machine learning and AI to combat fraud has forced banking institutions to look at their businesses and find ways to serve their customers better.
With extensive CIO and executive experience at companies like Schneider and Ernst and Young, Frédéric Chanfrau is an EVP and CIO of Commerical Bank and Central Functions at Citizens Bank. We got a chance to sit down with Frédéric Chanfrau on an episode of IT Visionaries to discuss more how he’s leading Citizens Bank through the massive financial tech disruptions that the industry is currently experiencing.
What Does IT Look like a Bank?
The role of technology is to bring the proper tools to the business and grow to his objectives. In the banking world, innovation plays an important role and at Citizens Bank, Frédéric shares that IT at a bank is no different than any other business trying to hit their objectives. In fact, IT in the banking industry have to always look at ways to innovate given the ways fintech products are changing the way customers are interacting with banks.
“Being a bank, mainly what you’re selling are services which are relying on technology to be delivered. You do that in several ways, the most important way is making sure that whatever you’re investing in is going into the right buckets, and you bring the right technology at the right time. Innovation is absolutely critical for us because that’s how we fuel the growth of the bank. Every bank is more or less offering the same services, and if you want to differentiate yourself, you need to bring something new to the table.”
Implementing Innovation within a larger organization
Citizens Bank houses a ton of large departments within, and although innovation is at the core of the bank does, it’s not always easiest to make change happen to keep up with other competitors happen. Frédéric says that a partner is crucial to make innovation happen especially within Citizens where having a good relationship with the business side of the bank.
“We usually partner with the business side. For example, we did a hack-a-thon and the way we did that, we sat down with the head of digital for the consumer bank and the head of treasury services. We defined the issue we were trying to resolve. Based on what we decided, that would be the theme of the hack-a-thon, and so we want to make sure we work very closely and strengthen our partnership with the business side. We want to work with them again and serve them to help find the right solution. They are part of the jury, they evaluate the answers, and we decide what we consider is the best action.”
IT transformation in Digital Banking
Citizens Bank recently launched a digital bank for online savings and CDs, and we asked Frédéric what role did his team play in this new product to better serve its customers. He said that IT is the delivery arm for the organization and has to be at the core of pushing innovation to stay competitive.
“We came to the conclusion that we needed to bring more deposits into the bank and I think the digital bank next to Citizens Bank was the right way of doing it. Freeing us from the existing bank landscape of a mainframe backend and an outdated frontend was vital. IT’s role was to execute the digital bank in a short period of time so we had to partner with an outside source and we made sure the digital bank was implemented as fast as possible.”
How to Be a Good CIO
With the experience Frédéric possesses working in executive roles across high-level organizations, we asked him to share with us what makes a good CIO and how someone who may be new to the position could improve. He shared with us a couple of points mainly around the business aspect and the need to understanding that as a CIO.
“If you want to be a good CIO, the first thing is you need to be sitting at the business table and understand what the strategy is and where you want to grow. Do you want to bring more deposits? Do you want to bring in more fees? What are the areas of the bank where we are under-serving our customers? That’s critical to defining the strategic roadmap, so you need to align your IT strategy with the business strategy.
“The second point is bringing the right technology to the table. There are a lot of things happening in the market right now, so we watch what our competitors and what start-ups are doing. Every good idea we think can contribute to our strategic objective, we bring that to the table and are discussing if the idea is worth pursuing, is it serving our objective or engaging a partner or startup?
“Finally, I think it’s critical that you create the right relationship with the business. The time where the CIO is sitting on the top of his ivory tower, defining what he wanted to do, without necessarily being aligned with the business, is long over. You really need to understand the company. You need to be part of the business actually, making sure you are looking at what’s happening in the market and have an understanding of what your competitors are doing. Think outside of the boundaries of your company because innovations are not necessarily gonna come from within your organization. Instead of trying to catch up internally, sometimes it’s better and more productive to find the right partners and create a relationship and a partnership with them instead of reinventing the wheel yourself.”