Aidan Millar, Chief Data Officer at DNB, discusses the bank’s transition to digital services and the importance of driving change as a trusted data cu...
DNB is Norway’s leading financial services provider – not just in regards to size, but also with its progressive digital transformation program; with over 2.1mn retail customers and 221,000 corporate customers. DNB reduced the number of branch offices in Norway from 116 to 57 in 2017, driven by changes in customer preferences. The success of the channel shift is remarkable. In a Finalta benchmark analysis of the international banking sector, DNB was ranked number one in the world based on the efficiency of its branch network.
Digitalisation has brought explosive growth in data, bringing new challenges and opportunities to the business. For DNB the imperative is, and will always be, to stay relevant to customers in their daily digital lives. “Our customers are talking to us every second of the day on digital channels, and we have to have the ability to listen and respond effectively to their needs,” says Aidan Millar, Chief Data Officer at DNB. This is the challenge of digitalisation that he believes is too often overlooked. “Everyone talks about going digital, but if you’re not capitalising on data streams that are generated through your digital channels, then you’re going digital without listening. My role is to leverage digital interaction data to reconnect and stay relevant to our customers on digital channels.”
Millar is deeply passionate about handling data in a legally compliant and ethical way. “We’ve got to be seen as the trusted data custodian that capitalises on data driven insights to deliver value for our customers, and we’ve got to do this in an ethical and compliant way.” This commitment is a defining element in establishing the customer centricity that Millar aims to drive through data driven insights. “It starts with people and organisational culture. Culture eats strategy for breakfast, so you have to fuel your enterprise data strategy with a passion for data,” says Millar. The DNB transformation to a data driven organisation is underpinned by a focus on the ethical and compliant use of data. “Regulations are often seen as a burden and should be reframed as best practice, but why wouldn’t you want to be compliant with best practice?” says Millar. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is about protecting customer data and data rights, who would disagree with that as a principle, he asks.The emerging Basel Committee regulations on data (BCBS239) are also important, he says, setting out where data comes from and its efficacy in risk reporting processes. “The ethical use of data will be a strategic differentiator for banks of the future. Companies that haven’t used their data in an ethical way will lose trust, and one bad customer experience can mean that trust is lost forever.”
The data itself is managed within DNB’s multi cloud solution, whereby both Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure have been leveraged as the bank migrates onto scalable and adaptable cloud platforms. “From a data perspective the cloud platforms provide highly secure, massively scalable and agile delivery solutions,” says Millar. The cornerstone of DNB enterprise data and analytics platform, Millar says, has been the establishment of DNB’s advanced cloud based data science laboratory which provides the analytics capability and the technical scalability required to process the massive volumes of data in near real time. Amazon AWS comes in as DNB’s primary big data appliance, but Millar is quick to add that DNB takes a holistic approach to its vendor partnerships, representing a break from the approach the sector has taken in the past: “Traditionally, most big banks went with one data vendor, but that didn’t enable them to leverage the niche capabilities of multiple partners.” DNB has taken a different route, bringing in the flexible, best of breed solutions: R-Studio, Jupyter Notebook, Spark and Neo4j, among others, for their data science capabilities; Syncsort (Trillium) for data quality; Collibra for its crowdsourcing business orientated data governance toolset; and Celebrus, the real-time Customer Data Platform from D4t4 Solutions Plc for leading edge tagless digital channel capture; as well as Infosys as the strategic data partner, leveraging their capabilities and accelerators related to data engineering, data governance and analytics. When it comes to managing this array of vendors, Millar believes that DNB’s approach promotes reciprocity. “I see our technology solution vendors as trusted solution partners,” he says. “We work closely together to foster these trusted partnerships where we co-create and deliver value together.”
All of this advanced technology, and the work involved in implementing it, ultimately builds customer-centricity through innovative solutions such as a Data Marketplace, which helps drive data driven actionable insights. One area that has benefitted from such insights is the continued development of DNB’s online and mobile digital services. “We’re looking at digital channel interaction data to asses customer journeys on our digital channels using a leading-edge digital capture solution, provided by Celebrus”, Millar explains. “We can assess whether our digital channels are aligned to customer preferences and continuously improve the digital experience.” The platforms can also be optimised to deliver highly tailored digital offerings to meet anticipated customer needs and wants, he says. “Our analytics capabilities are focused on meeting delivering the right product, at the right price, through the right channel, at the right time,” says Millar.
In addition to developing new and innovative digital products, DNB is continuously enhancing core business operations. Its internal efficiency program DigiDrift is delivering results – DNB has employed robots in as many as 35 processes so far - the company’s chat-bot Aino can talk to 3,000 customers at the same time and there is more to come. DNB is embracing technologies and expects changes to accelerate in the years to come. The Bank has entered into a partnership with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), sponsoring three professorships focused on machine learning, Natural Language Processing (NLP) and augmented Robotic Process Automation (RPA). “We want to take our RPA to the next level where we can digitise paper documents into a systematic process that understands the full context of the document and can process it as if it were a human being,” he continues. Millar stresses that no part of this endeavour is aimed at replacing staff, but is instead about applying people to tasks that require higher value human insights. Making the benefits of digital transformation clear to employees and allaying concerns of what it could mean for their roles has been vital to the success of the journey so far.
Through the application of data and advanced technologies to optimise both internal efficiency and the customer experience, DNB is well on its way to maximising the value of the bank’s digital transformation. The focus on reconnecting with customers, not only to deliver added value but also to generate impactful insights to steer strategy effectively, is bolstered by Millar’s unerring dedication to maintaining DNB’s reputation as a trusted data custodian. As the bank’s customers continue to transition to its digital offerings, it is certainly positioned to continue with its powerful and successful data driven digital transformation journey while reinforcing its admirable corporate values of a trusted service provider.