Deepak Sharma, President & Chief Digital Officer, Kotak Mahindra Bank

Banking and financial institutions have 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. Deepak Sharma, president and chief digital officer, Kotak Mahindra Bank, talks about the various digital tools being adopted by the bank and their benefits in current times…

How has ICT transformed the BFSI sector in recent times?

ICT is at the core of digital transformation. Among the many initiatives launched by Kotak Mahindra Bank, including a number of firsts, the launch of 811, a full-service digital banking ecosystem that can be opened in under five minutes anywhere and at any time, was a game changer in the Indian banking industry. 811 helped Kotak Mahindra Bank double its customer base in just 18 months. While this platform was launched in 2017 just after demonetisation, it continues to attract a large number of customers. Today, most financial products are digital and are delivered across a multitude of channels such as mobile apps, websites, WhatsApp, chatbots and voice bots. Banking-as-a-service through API (application program interface) and open banking is also getting seamlessly integrated across the ecosystem leading to faster innovation, deeper collaboration and development of new solutions.

How is Kotak Mahindra Bank dealing with the Covid-19 crisis?

At Kotak, staying ahead of the curve on the digital front has helped us better prepare for the current situation. Apart from the fast adoption of existing technologies, both for customers and employees, we are looking to accelerate the implementation of new digital initiatives.

While we support work from home (WfH) for our employees and our partner network through VPN, virtual desktop infrastructure, video and collaboration tools, this transition is a journey and has some intermittent challenges. We are gradually getting accustomed to this as the new normal. We are revisiting our digital priorities to ensure that all businesses can run smoothly remotely, supporting our customers during this crisis, and bringing in efficiencies and productivity in the current situation.

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

  • Kotak’s mobile banking app and net banking service are the key channels through which we deliver a range of banking services to our customers. With over 175 features, our mobile banking app continues to be one of the highest rated iOS and Android apps. These solutions enable our customers to bank from the comfort of their homes during this challenging time.
  • Our Keya Chatbot and WhatsApp banking are seeing faster adoption and becoming mainstream digital channels.
  • Robotic process automation is being leveraged to automate various processes to bring in operational efficiencies.

What are your views on the uptake of emerging technologies like AI, IoT and blockchain in the BFSI space? Are you using any of these or plan to use them in the future? 

We keep assessing the maturity of various technologies and their relevance in the BFSI industry on an ongoing basis. Today, we have started leveraging AI in the areas of chatbots, automation, frauds, personalisation, and image and speech recognition. AI is embedded across most areas of banking and we expect a much wider adoption in future. We have seen limited adoption of blockchain for international remittances such as Ripple. However, going forward, we will see more use cases around invoice discounting and trade finance. IoT and 3D printing is yet to find relevant use cases in BFSI.

What are the challenges in deploying digital solutions?

The typical challenges faced pertain to:

  • Legacy infrastructure with less flexibility
  • Speed of development to match customer expectations
  • Scaling up of the existing infrastructure to handle the ever-increasing quantum of digital transactions
  • The availability of appropriate talent to build digital solutions.

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

  • Application modernisation: API and microservice, Kubernetes and containers to support cloud readiness
  • Higher adoption of cloud: Hybrid and multi-cloud environment
  • Higher focus on security-risk-and fraud-related solutions
  • Hyper-automation focused on new business models, operations, processes and services
  • AI everywhere: Voice interface, extreme personalisation (N=1), credit, collection, frauds
  • Ecosystem play: Banks will create and participate across the ecosystem
  • End-to-end digital banking experience with digital infrastructure including video KYC, digital locker, e-Sign and account aggregator.