Sony A, Senior General Manager and Chief Information Officer, South Indian Bank Limited

The banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) sector is at the forefront of digital transformation. The proliferation of digital and mobile banking, rising customer demand for hyper-personalised services, rapid technological advancements and strict data compliance requirements have driven this shift. Industry leaders share their views on the key technological trends, digital initiatives, emergence of digital currencies and future outlook…

What is the current state of digital transformation in the Indian BFSI sector? What are the key trends shaping this transformation?

Accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the digital transformation wave has definitely taken the Indian BFSI sector by storm. Transactions are becoming digital at a rapid pace. Fintech has become an essential part of the technology banking segment, playing an integral role in the industry’s digital transformation, challenging traditional modes of banking. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have been employed extensively in customer service, credit underwriting and fraud detection.

What are the use cases of new-age technologies such as AI/ML, blockchain and cloud in BFSI? What factors are driving the adoption of these solutions?

AI/ML has found applications in personalised banking, fraud detection and underwriting, while blockchain enables cross-border payments and a transparent supply chain finance system. Cloud computing enables infrastructure scalability and ro­bust disaster recovery capabilities. Adop­ting new-age technologies at the right time gives institutions a competitive edge, allo­wing them to enhance the customer journey. With increasing customer expectatio­ns, it is inevitable that these new-age technologies will gain wider adoption.

What are the digital banking and tech initiatives taken by you? How has it benefitted your business and customers?

The following are some of the major digital endeavours undertaken by South Indian Bank (SIB):

  • Introduced the SIB OneCard Credit Card, in partnership with FPL Tech­nologies, to enable existing and new-to-bank customers with good credit standing to instantly apply for and use credit cards through a hassle-free process. This has increased the bank’s credit card lending portfolio, eliminating the manual application process. With the issu­ance of around 250,000 cards and clocking a volume of around Rs 10 billion, OneCard has generated great value addition to the bank.
  • Launched a digital documentation platform, in partnership with Legality, which resolved one of the bank’s biggest post-pandemic challenges: the inability of customers to sign critical loan documents. The platform enables a completely digital document signing experience for the customer.
  • SIB launched the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) online web portal, which is a fully digital lending solution based on the GST returns filed by MSMEs, in combination with bureau score and socioeconomic scoring parameters, to issue both GST bu­siness loans and small business loans. The platform boasts end-to-end online processing and can generate indicative term sheets within just 10 minutes. It employs simple assessment norms on the basis of GST returns. Within a mere six-month period, the platform has contributed a total of Rs 2.5 billion to the bank’s loan book.

“Adopting new-age technologies at the right time gives institutions a competitive edge, allowing them to enhance the customer journey.” Sony A.

What are the cybersecurity trends in the sector? How do you ensure data security amid rapid digitalisation?

Digitalisation and cybersecurity are two faces of the same coin. The BFSI sector has adopted a zero-trust approach while handling cybersecurity, along with AI/ML-powered threat detection and cloud-powered security. At SIB, we consider customer data protection and cybersecurity to be part and parcel of the technology journey. We have implemented a dedicated data loss prevention solution to monitor and block sensitive data loss. We also have a well-established infrastructure to handle cybersecurity threats, including solutions such as security information and event management, database activity monitoring, new generation firewall, privileged identity management and fraud risk management.

How is eRupee expected to transform India’s financial sector? What other technology trends will emerge in the future?

The interoperability feature of the recently introduced central bank digital currency, eRupee, is sure to accelerate its acceptance. Various government initiatives have already employed eRupee as a means to disburse incentives.