Rethink client journey from the customer’s lens before triggering its digital transformation, says EY partner

Transformation Leader, Gaurav Mehra, mentioned that this approach should be the basis for implementing new technologies that will enable the orchestration of an elevated client experience.

EY Partner & Head of Transformation – Financial Services Gaurav Mehra has worked for several leading multinational corporations, banks, and financial institutions such as RBS, ABN AMRO Bank, and GE Money. He has more than 23 years of experience across various roles in the financial services sector and consulting spanning multiple countries.

He has managed large projects that are focused on operations and digital transformation, strategic cost optimisation, customer experience, target operating model, design thinking, systems implementation, workforce transformation, risk management, predictive analytics, shared services design/transformation, and business strategy.

Gaurav also has deep experience in both retail and commercial banking, wealth, payments, and insurance, carrying with him a diverse international experience. He has consulted multiple global banks on the setup and transformation of their captive offshore operations.

Working primarily in the financial services sector, he observes many financial institutions still holding on to legacy technology when it comes to their core applications, which he believes “limits their ability to adapt to the new age technologies that have the potential to completely transform the client experience.”

As part of the esteemed judges in this year’s Hong Kong Business Technology Excellence Awards, he shared that companies will need to showcase a few different aspects of their solutions, such as serving an unaddressed business need, adding real business value, impressive outcomes, and sustainability.

What areas within a company are in most need of digital transformation and innovation?

I work primarily with the financial services sector, and interestingly, many banks and insurers in Hong Kong are still holding on to legacy technology when it comes to their core applications (like core banking). This further limits their ability to adapt to the new age technologies that have the potential to completely transform the client experience. Even support functions like finance and HR are lagging in the use of advanced enterprise-wide systems augmented by deep analytical and visualisation capabilities. I’m often still surprised by the amount of ‘paper’ used by banks and insurers in Hong Kong across most client journeys, from onboarding to servicing. These areas are in deep need of end-to-end digital transformation.

What tech developments and emerging technologies are your clients currently working on or planning to embark on?

In Hong Kong, we are seeing a massive shift in the way banks and insurers deliver their products and services to their customers. One theme that cuts across is the transition toward “paperless” operations, and this, combined with an array of client-centric digital interfaces, has the potential to transform client journeys across the spectrum of FS products and services.

The transition to the cloud, especially in areas like finance, reporting, financial crime, contact centres, HR, etc., is further accelerating the adoption of technologies like intelligent automation (AI, Machine Learning), digital ledgers, dynamic visualisation, and predictive analytics enhanced by big data. Another key trend is the increased use of low code/no code process automation solutions augmented by intelligent decision engines that are redefining the operations and risk landscape of organisations.

What advice would you give to local startups and companies as to what technologies they should be investing in as they ramp up their business performance?

Implementing ‘tech for the sake of tech’ is not the right answer. What I mean is that just blindly implementing new-age technologies and hoping it will put you ahead of your competition is foolhardy. Before you venture into a digital transformation or decide to implement a new tech solution, you must map out your client's journey in its entirety. 

“How do your customers want to interact with you?”, “What does their buying and consumption behaviour look like?”, “How do they perceive value whilst doing this?" These are some pertinent questions that need to be answered for any business/start-up to be able to design effective client journeys and corresponding internal processes to facilitate its fulfilment. This approach should become the basis for selecting and implementing the most relevant technologies that can enable the orchestration of the intended client experience.

How has the technology landscape evolved in the post-pandemic world?

The pandemic has shaken up the FS sector, which despite the last decade of digitisation has still not come out of its ‘brick and mortar’ construct. Banks and insurers continue to grapple with forming a view on what the future model entails for traditional formats like branches, agent/RM-based distribution channels etc. For example, in Hong Kong, the sheer number of branches that banks have is an indicator of this embedded inertia. The pandemic has, however, challenged these fundamentals, and the newfound digital push that we are witnessing within banks and insurers is phenomenal. Going ‘paperless’ and the shift towards STP (straight-through processing) are redefining the way customers are now experiencing financial services. This has been fueled by the adoption of technologies like intelligent BPM solutions, decision automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, etc. The Metaverse is also expected to completely disrupt the way customers interact with and consume FS products and services over time.

These technologies are eliminating manual effort/handoffs, automating data entry, decision points, and document ingestion, simplifying customer interfaces, reducing the need for human reviews, and embedding digital controls. This doesn’t mean that physical formats like branches will disappear. Rather, they will evolve to become immersive experience centres that allow customers to learn, simulate, plan and take control of their financial goals aligned to their life stages, whilst not having to stand in queues waiting to perform simple transactions.

As a judge in the HKB Technology Excellence Awards, what do you think will set the winners apart from other contenders?

I would like to start by saying that I’m deeply honoured to have been invited by the Hong Kong Business Magazine and Awards team to be part of the judging panel, and I’m looking forward to seeing the nominations.

The nominees will need to showcase a few different aspects of their solution to propel their chances of winning. Firstly, the solution needs to be novel and unique in the way that it serves an unaddressed business/customer need or solves a problem. Just having used some new-age technology is not enough. Secondly, no innovation is worth its salt unless it adds real value to the business or its customers. Hence, a clear articulation of the value created by the outcomes of the new technology implementation (supported by numbers, KPIs, and metrics) would be another key factor. Lastly, we will also evaluate the sustainability of the solution, its performance in the live environment, and its ability to operate seamlessly within the existing tech ecosystem of the business.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions and thoughts shared by Gaurav are solely his own, and do not reflect his company’s views on any of the issues discussed in this interview.

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