Technology continues to define and redefine the modern world and industry sectors have to invest to not only keep up with the rapidly evolving marketplace, but to stay ahead of the curve.
This is certainly the driving force behind an ambitious company-wide digital transformation of the Czech Republic-based MONETA Money Bank. Spearheading this digital transformation in terms of information technologies is Vladimir Klein, Chief Information Officer (CIO).
Having worked for a number of technology-based service delivery organisations throughout an extensive career, Klein has vast experience and understanding of how technology is truly disrupting the way the financial industry works with and exceeds its customer expectations.
“The very role of the CIO is changing dramatically,” he says. “It’s moved away from focusing on cost-effective solutions and executing historical processes to become far more aligned and integral to the business.
“It’s about understanding, end to end, what customers’ needs are and executing that more collaboratively with the business. The traditional borders between black box IT and business do not exist anymore.”
No transformational journey, especially one defined by technology, can ever truly end. It has to continuously evolve with the alongside technologies and customers. MONETA has set a target for 40% of its all core products to be distributed online or digitally through a number of channels by 2020.
A transformation of this size and scope is not without its challenges, and for an organisation that has been operating for two decades the biggest challenge is complex architecture.
“If you don’t have proper architecture in place then you cannot develop at any real pace,” says Klein. “The same with automation: you cannot automate without agile architecture and so we decided to develop and digitise in parallel.”
In both developing the IT infrastructure and adopting an agile way of working simultaneously, Klein feels this has proven key in maintaining operational clarity.
“You have to have more of an entrepreneurial way of thinking and have an agile mindset towards developing software or solutions,” he says. “With the proper IT strategy behind us it becomes far easier to understand where to move, how to move and how to get people on board for changes. On our transformation journey we decided to focus on 5 areas – Agile way of working, Cloud, Automation, application replacements and Data”
With a digital transformation, one could be forgiven for focusing entirely on the technologies and the solutions driving the digitisation – but a tool is just a tool unless it’s in the hands of the right person. MONETA invests heavily in its development strategy to ensure that its people can help execute and deliver the best possible service to the end customer, whilst ensuring those same people are empowered and buy into this transformational journey.
This proves crucial in the changing of cultural mindsets as the company shifts towards an agile, innovative way of working and this is where Klein can not only call on his own experience in the industry but also external partners to understand how to implement change to enable greater efficiency.
“We’ve started rolling out agile workshops and brought in external coaches and partners to share knowledge and best practice,” he says. “We have looked at how other companies have done it and we share that with our people in order for everyone to truly understand their role in pushing the company forward.”
Klein admits that this in itself is a challenge as this new approach to working, one that will see each person define their own work and their own place in MONETA´s journey, can be met with some resistance and fear. This is where workshops and a strong sense of internal communication play a central role. Klein also empowers staff to make their own decisions.
“Naturally for some people it's very difficult because historically speaking, management will make the final decision. I say: ‘you decide but try and think like a manager’,” he says. “This is where we combine communications, learning and workshops, and give them external support in order to seamlessly move forward together as a business.”
A major part of MONETA’s transformation is moving towards cloud services which will drive a more agile way of working and in turn create a significantly more flexible business. To this end, MONETA is migrating significant amount of its legacy infrastructure over to a data centre. As part of this migration, Klein will oversee the integration of tens of physical applications to a cloud-based platform.
As Klein notes, MONETA is a bank and not a developer and so the company relies on a key strategic technology partner to assist and support the company throughout this transition. MONETA has called upon the services of AWS for infrastructure cloud, for automation products of RedHat and other open source tools like for example Jenkins or JUnit. As part of the Integration layer replacement, MONETA decided to cooperate with Mitra, a party which has many experiences in WSO2 integration platform.
“In replacing our entire legacy integration platform, we selected Mitra quite simply because we did not have the right level of competence to do it in house,” says Klein. “They brought us competence and they provided us with crucial support and implementation work. Going back to the complexity of this migration, we have over 4500 interfaces across all applications which had to be integrated.
“In my experience of similar transformations at previous companies it’s taken more than one year to make some real headway. With the support of Mitra, we’re doing it in few months.”
Ultimately, MONETA’s transformation is driven by the customer, and as technology has evolved over the last two decades so too has the customer. Through the advent of mobile payments, customers are more demanding than ever before and for an organisation like MONETA it is crucial to stay ahead of that demand in order to continue to deliver and exceed expectations.
To this end, the company developed an award-winning mobile banking application Smart Banka and is significantly revamping its online banking solutions. All of these developments are defined by one clear goal: to enable the most efficient and seamless banking experience for customers.
“Many customers today just want to do everything for themselves through tablets and mobile phones. They simply do not want to spend time by coming into a branch or contacting a call centre. It is crucial that we are able to handle their requests also fully online,” says Klein. “That’s what our mobile app Smart Banka has been able to answer. Through it we can offer the customer exactly what they need anytime and from anywhere, but most importantly they can access it intuitively with no complications. Right now, we are looking to bring our web banking service to that same level.”
Klein highlights the agile way of working again as key to being ready for this demand. This transformation has destroyed the historical barriers between IT and the wider business and brought about a more collaborative business, one that is better prepared to match this evolving landscape.
The company has implemented daily stand-up meetings and sprints for all agile squads and moved away from a historical focus on long term delivery in order to make incremental steps on smaller things today and therefore be ready for tomorrow.
Key to this is instant customers feedback. “Customers can leave feedback in our Smart Banka app which we take directly to the backlog proposals and discussions with our teams and this is then taken into implementation,” says Klein. “The key points from the customer are directly implemented faster than ever before.
“We even conduct research through our brokers. We do this by giving them a laptop or a tablet and they themselves give us feedback if they like it or don't like it so they can sell our product. It’s all about understanding the end-to-end customer experience.”
Klein entered MONETA back in December 2017 but even less than 12 months into this journey he can already point to significant success, be it through the mobile application, new customer portal or the migration own data centre to the hosted data centre and integration of AWS cloud into bank environment. Organizational changes were successfully executed in April this year to fit better to business value streams and cloud. Looking towards the future, Klein identifies ambitions to advance agile way of working to all IT Development staff and migrate next applications into AWS cloud with possibility to close a second data centre. Next his focus remains very much on legacy application replacements as migration of card system to the partner cloud and migration and implementation of new web banking.
“It’s about making our online banking solutions clearer for our customers, as well as opening it up and expanding it to our wider customer portfolio,” he says.
“Banking is complex and there are certain elements surrounding interest rates and the different types of customer. What we want to be able to do is remove some of that complexity and make banking with MONETA simpler, easy and clearer for every single one of our customers.”