R. Venkattesh, President & Head Operations, Technology & Human Resources, DCB Bank

The banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) industry has been at the forefront of adopting next-generation technologies to optimise operations and enhance business efficiency. The outbreak of Covid-19 has further made the adoption of digital solutions a necessity for banks, to ensure business continuity and cater to their customers. R. Venkattesh, President & Head Operations, Technology & Human Resources, DCB Bank talks about the various digital tools being adopted by DCB Bank in current times…

How has ICT transformed the BFSI sector in recent times?

The sector has consistently been working on making better and more structured IT plans, and businesses are working to ensure their customers experience a seamless journey. The risks of virtual networking, cybersecurity and remote data sharing pose additional IT security threats. Moreover, we are tightly governed by compliance, due diligence and adherence to regulations. In all these areas, the most fundamental challenge is communication.

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on the use of digital technologies in the BFSI space? How is your company dealing with the crisis?

The Covid-19 pandemic situation is extraordinary and unique. It has taught us many things, one of which is adapting to a new normal. When it comes to operations, we have been resilient in serving customers by adopting the best safety measures and ensuring the utmost comfort of the workforce. Because many people from the bank are on the front line as well, we could not shut down branches, except when government rules required the banks to follow the orders of the authorities dealing with the pandemic-induced lockdowns.

What are some of the key digital solutions you currently use to improve operational efficiency and enhance customer experience?

On the operational side, the leadership has undertaken some realignment for reformed digital acceleration. Greater visibility, influence and communication by the senior management  have been driven through collaboration tools. Electronic daily sales report (E-DSR) usage has increased, as most of the business takes place through remote means of communication. The system is adding a lot of value to the process of acquiring new customers and keeping tabs on employee productivity.

Cloud technology is now a means for quick deployment; for instance, the video KYC process. The technology team has had to re-evaluate BCP execution, uptime and performance monitoring at data centres. Another key application was developed to manage social distancing between employees – the number of employees occupying desks at any given time, staff capacity and much more.

We encouraged our customers to go digital to reduce the footfall in the branches. We relaunched the DCB mobile banking app during the lockdown period with updated features such as card blocking, self-registrations, fund transfers to DCB and non-DCB bank accounts, and many more options. This took into account the needs of customers in particular as the lockdown restricted customers’ visits to the branches. The new version added more services digitally through simple steps. This helped us increase the Play Store rating of the application to 4.8. We also significantly improved the UI and user experience (UX) of the application.

We have several digital initiatives. For example, the DCB Zippi Online Fixed Deposit is a one-of-its-kind facility that allows anyone in India, even a non-DCB bank customer, to open a DCB fixed deposit account online in a 100 per cent contactless manner. The account can actually be set up in half an hour end to end, under ideal conditions. Another initiative is DCB Remit. This facility allows anyone in India to transfer money online to over 20 countries, from any resident bank account in India. This product is paperless and offers an online remittance facility with zero fees. DCB Bank has eliminated the need to go to a bank branch for this.

What are your views regarding the uptake of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and blockchain in the BFSI space? Do you currently use any of these technologies or plan to use them in the future?

We have seen how consumer behaviour has changed during this pandemic, and the implications for continuity of that behaviour. Customers will henceforth want to be serviced anywhere and at any time. It is important to understand that technologies such as IoT, AI, 5G and blockchain do not work independently. They have to work together for enhanced customer usage. Cybersecurity will derive tremendous benefits from AI, biometrics and blockchain in the future, while 5G will bring in much-needed benefits for IoT. The new-age customer will be a combination of a human being and his/her smart device. Devices will talk to back-end systems and will need to be programmed with blockchain so that they work independently and serve customers. Imagine your refrigerator ordering ingredients based on inventory and your electric appliances paying bills on the due date.

These days, customers prefer contactless or interface-less immersive experiences, and this is where blockchain and AI will have better adoption. Blockchain will also help reduce costs and operation inefficiencies. Post-5G adoption, we will see more use cases of IoT such as smart homes, smart cars and wearables. Two crucial technologies that will be utilised are AR and VR. We can build a virtual experience of a complete branch where customers will have invisible interfaces to interact with banking channels.

To create a seamless customer journey, DCB Bank is building an ESB. The ESB will house the bank’s four core systems – the core banking application, which is the finance application; retail lending solution; business correspondence (BC) software; and the treasury system. The ESB will have flexible architecture, enabling communication between multiple applications and easy integration with other systems. The whole connected banking concept will gain momentum in the days to come.

What are the challenges in deploying digital solutions?

Challenges such as skilling of people, legacy architecture and integration are part and parcel of the digital journey. DCB Bank is ready for these challenges. As a bank, we are building skilled employees, enhancing and automating processes to optimise operations, and adopting the right technologies. Customer expectations are high and ever-changing. They expect services 24×7. We are aware of this dynamic and use big data to understand and serve customers better. The bank uses API and open banking collaboration with fintech companies through the DCB Bank Innovation Carnival programme for the tech edge necessary to bring new products to our customers.

What are the key technology trends that will shape the BFSI sector in the next few years?

We have seen how consumer behaviour has changed during this pandemic and the implications for continuity of that behaviour. Customers will henceforth want to be serviced anywhere and at any time. The virtual customer will drive business. Those who can blend personalised services into their digital products will have the winning mantra, and how our employees and supervisors perceive this will make a world of a difference to customers. Going paperless and digital, and achieving a seamless marriage of technology with business are the way forward. That said, our internal customers will also need to adapt to virtual technology.