Interview

The Paypers exclusive interview with Natasha Kyprianides, Hellenic Bank

Monday 23 April 2018 09:20 CET | Editor: Melisande Mual | Interview

Natasha Kyprianides, Head of Omnichannel & Customer Experience at Hellenic Bank, unveils the bank`s digital vision and innovation strategies

Banks across Europe are in a race to innovate in order to keep pace with the evolving market needs and customer demands. What role does innovation play at Hellenic Bank?

Innovation means different things to different people, and it takes a whole other dimension when interlinked with banking, since innovation means taking risks. And banks do not want to take
risks. Innovation is the catalyst for business growth and it is essential for success. However, being innovative means being open to new ideas and technology, while making a commitment to adapt to industry changes.

Innovation is not necessarily about reinventing the wheel, it comes from experimentation, and if you ruthlessly punish failure, youre much less likely to foster innovation. Small, incremental changes are just as powerful.

At Hellenic Bank, we reflect on the innovation challenge from every perspective and constantly draw innovation paradigms. This means fundamental changes to the structure and operating model, shifting mindsets, changing staff culture and ways of operating while using technology to leapfrog problems and meet our strategic objectives.

Hellenic Bank is at the forefront of banking innovation in the Mediterranean region. Can you mention the most interesting initiatives related to digital implementation, services, programmes, connecting with the fintech ecosystem, innovative apps?

We kicked off our transformation programme 3 years ago with a strategy to take the bank in an omnichannel direction, with a mobile-first approach. The first wave of deliverables was a ground-breaking and award-winning mobile banking app placing great emphasis on the user experience in just 6 months. We followed up on that by building an innovation lab with an outlook towards co-creation and collaboration, with a focus on strategic partnerships to build the real products for the market - and not just PoCs.

We are early-adopters of Open Banking, having launched our API developers’ portal with PSD2-compliant open APIs over a year ago. Another great achievement was building the governance framework and launching the live environment of our open banking project as well as the Marketplace (proprietary app store) into our business’ web banking channel.

Most recently, we launched our revamped public website to act as the foundation of the digital bank built on our omnichannel digital banking platform. Given that design and customer engagement are a business priority, we have launched the first increment of our business web banking channel to resemble a social network and we continue to deliver a unified web banking experience aligned with this approach.

Could you elaborate on the bank`s partnerships and outsourcing strategies as part of its overarching digitalization goals and accelerated transformation?

Larger banks can act as a one-stop shop for all financial services. It’s likely they’ll have the funds, staff, expertise, and transformation strategies to be able to pull off big digital transformations themselves.

Smaller banks must rely on their agility to be competitive against their larger - but slower-moving - rivals when it comes to implementing digital measures and rolling out new products. Partnership allows banks to share risks across the new venture – often in places where their capacity is unproven – as well as achieving higher cost efficiencies. Of course, the key is always excellent execution and doing things right – but strategic partnerships are offering the way to achieve this. And there are many advantages to partnering, such as:

  • much more agile development process

  • the ability to start right away (happened in our case)

  • the possibility to draw from a more skilled, better-incentivized market (than we might have attracted with any local hiring initiative)

  • faster time to market

  • possibility to allow in-house staff to focus on what they do best.

Digital and fintech partners are often those that are most up to date, having the edge and the drive for success. Also, outsourcing doesn’t mean you can never hire to create an in-house capability. It just means you can start sooner; then, you can work out some aspects of your new functionality, and bring it back in house if it looks like something you want to have for the longer term.

For Hellenic Bank, the primary change has been the need to acknowledge that some of the best ideas can come from outside. Open banking has allowed us to rethink what a bank should look like. That means we can also reimagine how it should work.

How is innovation happening in terms of digital customer experience: what it should be like at the branch, how can this be integrated with digital channels, what is the advantage of the centralised service delivered by a contact centre and how can they all be orchestrated to deliver a service using an omnichannel operating model?

It is important to think of the customer always being at the centre of everything that we do as the future of banking.

For the customer, silos create a contradiction where each channel seems like a whole other organisation. This inconsistent experience includes a difference in the tone of voice; duplication of messaging or having to start the conversation again every time it shifts to a fresh channel.

The groundwork required is a full and total immersion in customer behaviour, frustrations, experiences and feedback to fully understand their needs and what unique value you can bring to them.

Physical and digital channels should be integrated on scalable platforms from an architecture perspective where data should underpin the technology. By capturing location, demographic and social data you can suggest a personalised customer experience. The end goal should be to drive insight from all of your data and seamlessly orchestrate, automate and feed it into your channels.

In 2017, Hellenic Bank has taken an important step towards Open Banking by rolling out a platform of financial APIs. Who is already on board and what are the API banking use cases and also the lessons you have learned so far while working on & with APIs?

Our first use case is focused on enabling corporate customers to do their banking directly through their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. Similarly, ERP vendors can ‘plug in’ their products to the API platform and drive more customers into Hellenic Bank, and potentially agree on a revenue sharing model. This methodology eliminates the traditional B2B need to exchange files or build customised private APIs for each customer. We have applied even in open banking, the build once and deploy to all customers approach.

In a nutshell, API Banking via the ERP use case enables the following:

  • Seamless integration with the bank’s underlying technology by transmitting payments in real time from within an ERP

  • Transaction rendering auto-reconciliation on the end of the customer over a synchronous API call

  • Hassle-free banking and reconciliations, with no need to manually export/import electronic bank statements or payment confirmations

  • Operational efficiency and financial planning with real-time balance inquiries.

In sum, integration with an ERP provides a perfect fit with the customer’s current business processes.

At the same time, the bank is building an ecosystem of the most popular ERP solutions and is investing in motivating these partners to integrate with the APIs. Since October 2017, we have already integrated live vendors and customers that have activated this service and are performing transactions. As a commercial opportunity, we are ahead of the curve and have been quite successful in monetizing this channel. We are also exploring applications from competitor local banks wishing to publish their account aggregation apps.

It’s important to maintain focus on specific use cases and have a clear strategy. The Marketplace in Open Banking should not just be about the delivery of more tools and banking products. It’s more transformational than that and should be integrated into the wider vision of lifestyle banking.

Looking ahead, what do you see as the biggest game changers in the banking industry?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Open Banking are at the top of the list as the biggest game changers. Hellenic Bank is focused on enhancing the customer experience through every channel to provide customers with full 360-degree view of all their financial data, while maximising the penetration and ease the transition to digital channels and optimising all the interactions with the bank. Overall, Hellenic Bank is investing in a fundamental shift from the traditional model and this includes the branch experience.

About Natasha Kyprianides

Natasha Kyprianides is accountable for digital banking business across all segments and responsible for open banking, innovation, mobile apps and web banking, the ATMs network, branch experience as well as the customer contact centre. She is also an internationally recognised digital expert, keynote speaker and FinTech thought leader with more than 18 years of experience within the banking industry. Natasha is the Founder of FinTech Masterminds, an advisory board member at European Women Payments Network, advisory committee member at Connect Media, an EMEA advisor at MEDICI and a mentor at Swiftscale.

About Hellenic Bank

Hellenic Bank is a financial institutions in Cyprus providing its retail and corporate customers, the shipping community, and international businesses with a full spectrum of banking products and services. Hellenic Bank is a customer centric bank and an innovative forerunner in banking technology, winning several global awards in digital banking.


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Keywords: Natasha Kyprianides, Hellenic Bank, interview, Open Banking, digital banking, omnichannel, banking innovation, fintech, Cyprus
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