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Banking Sector envelopes Digitalization for Automated Intelligent Workflows

Most banks have been on various stages of their digital transformation journey, which in most cases was limited to a customer facing digital layer. The new challenges upon financial institutions has accentuated the need for a more holistic approach. Digitization will start with evolving the customer experience—creating more cohesive and personal digital journeys by combining and integrating every aspect into a single platform and tooling. Moving beyond the customer interface, digitization includes middle- and back-office operations, and support functions where processes are transformed and automated into intelligent workflows. Asserts Prativa Mohapatra, Vice President Sales, IBM, India and South Asia in conversation with Poulami Chakraborty BW SmartCities. Excerpts:

How do you observe the banking sector reeling, under the COVID 19 crisis?

The pandemic has disrupted people’s lives, businesses, economies, countries and financial institutions are no different. Nevertheless, as essential service providers to India’s economy, the banking sector, despite challenges, moved quickly to safeguard their employees, transformed their operations to mobilize their call centers and enable employees to work from home, and serve their customers in new ways - while ensuring security, business continuity, and changing volumes. 

We are seeing banks pivoting their focus on 4 areas:

Innovation for enhanced Customer Experience– as banks experienced a spike in new loans, moratorium requests, re-assess risk, they’ve had to address this through new products, low cost digital onboarding through video KYC etc - since speed is of essence here. In fact, we have created a BOT for banks to address FAQs on moratorium.

Cost Optimization – as the volume of financial transactions have dropped, banks have had to optimize their cost by streamlining their processes, and uncover new savings and efficiencies.

Employee Productivity – enabling their workforce with tools and technologies to work remotely. This has been more challenging for public sector banks, than the private sector. 

Operational Resilience – to ensure operations are streamlined, secure, automated and ready to scale. Overall, there is a paradigm shift towards extreme digitalization beyond customer interface, middle-and back office operations and transforming processes to intelligent workflows. 

Technologies, like Cloud and AI have, and will continue to play a strategic role in helping the financial sector tide through these challenging times and emerge stronger.


What scope has Digital Banking scored for itself during the current phase and what opportunities does it foresee for this segment post the Covid 19 pandemic?

The post-COVID-19 environment will be very different. While the exact scale of impact is yet to be determined, one thing that is certain – the economic growth will be impacted for an extended period of time. We will see the BFSI sector banking on technology to reconfigure their business and operating models for an environment that will witness a rise in non-performing loans and defaults, low interest rates, credit tightening, and capital constraints.


Most banks have been on various stages of their digital transformation journey, which in most cases was limited to a customer facing digital layer. The new challenges upon financial institutions has accentuated the need for a more holistic approach. Digitization will start with evolving the customer experience—creating more cohesive and personal digital journeys by combining and integrating every aspect into a single platform and tooling. Moving beyond the customer interface, digitization includes middle- and back-office operations, and support functions where processes are transformed and automated into intelligent workflows. Delivering on this goal requires powerful exponential technologies like cloud, automation, API platforms, blockchain, and AI, as well as an agile approach to delivery, design thinking and organizational integration. Digitization is developed on an open hybrid cloud platform that enables financial institutions to securely build, run and manage apps and workloads in a consistent way, across any cloud.

Its’ a perfect opportunity for banks to start their journey to become a Cognitive Enterprise – establish a platform that leverages the differentiation in its processes, institutional knowledge of its people and exclusivity of its data to create competitive advantages and new business models. 

To summarize, digital is the future and cognitive enterprise is the framework which will help banks to successfully maneuver the current and post COVID environment.


How is IBM catering its solutions for banking sector? 

IBM has played a significant role in these trying times, working with our clients to ensure the delivery of essential services – from milk supplies (Mother Dairy, Amul) to telco connectivity (VIL + Airtel) to seamless online banking transactions (SBI) – we are supporting all of this remotely and in collaboration with clients as they work from home as well.  


We are helping leading banks in the country, readying them for the next generation of banking, core banking digital transformation, customer experience and compliance, security and risk. This includes application modernization, enabling their IT infrastructure be more resilient - powered by IBM Cloud; leveraging the power of their data, AI and advanced analytics to extract insights for competitive advantage and ensure a safe security posture and compliance.  For example, as a strategic technology partner, we are working with SBI on their digital transformation journey, including the creation and maintenance of their secure mobile platform, YONO (You Only Need One), that is transforming how more than 18 million people in India bank, invest, shop, order food and more.


What threats are targeted to this sector specific to the banking industry? Is IBM rolling out solutions in this lines? Please elaborate.

As outlined earlier, the four key challenges that we believe the sector will grapple with will be centered around driving innovation for enhanced customer experience, cost optimization, employee productivity in a new work environment and operation resilience. Technology will play a key role in driving these transformations. 

Specifically to COVID 19, we have curated a bouquet of solutions, across technologies including Cloud, AI, Data, Security to address the seven most prevalent needs of CXO today and to help them emerge stronger. 

  1. Accelerate agility and efficiency with IBM Cloud for mobility, virtualization, collaboration and support
  2. Enhance IT resiliency and business continuity to protect enterprise and customer data and reduce pandemic-related downtime.
  3. Empower their workforce to stay engaged and productive as they learn new ways of working
  4. Adopt new models of engagement with customers using AI
  5. Protect against new cybersecurity risks
  6. Reduce operational costs with new tools and insights
  7. Manage Covid 19 risks for safety of employees


Technology has been widely invented and utilized for a banking sector on a day to day basis? Please elaborate to us how incredibly tech facilitated banking sector is? How is IBM working in these lines to roll out latest tech solutions for the coming times?

The rise of digital banking due to the proliferation of smartphones and access to the internet, payment innovations like UPI and the profound impact of the pandemic has significantly transformed the banking landscape and led to the rise of tech adoption in this sector. In addition, the rise of API economy – is enabling banks to collaborate with multiple partners to offer seamless customer experience, innovate and offer better services to their customers. IBM is working with various banks to deploy latest tech solutions from Cloud to AI. 

For example, one of the largest private sector bank in India, is collaborating with IBM to transform their corporate banking using API technologies. IBM has also set-up an IT subsidiary for Bank of Baroda to transform customer experiences using new age technologies. One of the projects executed by IT COE (Center of Excellence) is setting up Baroda Kisan Agri Digital Platform – a one-stop shop for all agricultural requirements. HDFC Ergo General Insurance Company is leveraging IBM Garage, a unique methodology that uses data-driven insights to develop end-to-end strategies and solutions for business transformation to co-create new Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based solutions. 

Banks have a tremendous amount of unutilized data, stored in silos and IBM through its next-generation AI and Data platform, has the capability to collect data from various sources within the bank and provide recommendations and insights about their customers, regulatory and compliance reporting and other areas. IBM is the global leader in data management and AI technologies ( highest number of patents globally) and we are building the Next-generation AI/Data platform, on IBM Cloud, for leading banks in the country to help them redefine value and build resiliency in their business models, while optimizing cost.