Chief Strategy & Digital Officer
It was the promise of an exciting culture that drew Cunningham to BSF in 2018. “The opportunity captivated me,” he explains. “BSF captures the voice of the customer, looks across all of our different customer journeys, and tries to find ways of removing friction.” Responsible for five divisions within the bank - group strategy, change management, group marketing, corporate communication, and group digital - Cunningham calls BSF’s employee value proposition “captivating” and a natural incubator of entrepreneurial vitality.
An experienced leader in the EMEA banking sector as both an executive and mentor, he speaks with authority about the company’s superior cultural offering, “In my 25-plus years of work, I’ve never been made to feel so welcomed, so appreciated, or so integral to an organisation; it's like my home away from home.” His previous roles include multiple positions at Barclays, EVP of Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, and CEO at BankCLEARLY.
When it comes to digital transformation, Cunningham believes that technology is only one piece of a larger puzzle. Likening it to an iceberg, he states that the majority (80%) is actually dependent on culture and talent. It is by focusing on this that BSF has realised its potential. “Having real differentiation in [technology] is very difficult; most banks just look at what competitors are doing and copy them.” However, BSF is determined to go one step beyond by actively listening to customers and implementing the changes that they actually need. BSF’s approach to developing products and services is much more akin to the agility seen in startups than legacy bank brands, yet this cultivated unconventionality is exactly why it prioritises the customer experience (CX) above all else. This is also where the bank’s storied reputation within its national community becomes invaluable, “we're part of the fabric of the Kingdom’s society, which we've achieved by staying close to our customers. BSF is known as the ‘relationship bank’ because we’re more inclusive: we’ve stopped thinking like a big bank and now everyone has a voice,” he explains.
Cunningham is also an advocate for local thinking and understanding customer demographics well enough to know that “just lifting something up from one country and dropping in the other” won’t work. Different markets have different needs, and BSF, whether considering new product launches or technologies in which to invest, always has the end-user in the mind. “Mobile technology could fundamentally create a shift in not only the products, services and features that we have, but also our business and operating model,” states Cunningham. “Those benefits could be in terms of improved risk management for the institution, a better employee and customer experience, or better economics.”
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You can only be successful and impactful on innovation when it’s linked to the mission and strategy of your organisation.