Axis Bank: Digital initiatives entwined with the customer’s life

It is not enough to just let the customer transact with a bank as a bank. The role of a bank should be to act more of an extension of a customer’s lifestyle, says Amit Sethi, CIO, Axis Bank

We have an amazing initiative going on which is called ‘Happy Holidays’. It is a holiday package that a customer gets online while doing banking. This includes insurance, multi-currency card etc. The idea is to keep on being part of our customer’s life. We do not want customers to think of banking as anything separate but as a part of their life.

We have also recently launched IoT related solutions. For instance, in our collaboration with GoQii, we have incorporated a smart chip in our bands, in which the customer does not need to carry a card. One can take that watch and go to a POS terminal and make a payment of upto Rs 2,000. The great part about it is that we help people become healthier. If one set a goal of around 10,000 steps everyday and achieves it, we give them reward points. We have innovative ways of using banking to be a part of customer’s lifestyle. Health is one of that. We are the first bank to launch an app on the AppleWatch. We have self-enabled kiosks and branches. Customers can transact using the smart assistant. We call it, ‘Speed Banking’.

When it comes to internal staff, everything is digitally enabled for all employees. All of them have a mobile app which they can use for instant account opening, issuing the loan etc. All HR related processes are completely mobile enabled like issuing leaves, travel requests etc. One can track performances, fill-up performance data on the app as well. All our branches are connected in a digital fashion. Every feature and function that they need to do is available on the mobile app.

If there is a connected infrastructure at the back-end like we do, one can then leverage it for omni-channel experience. For example, if a customer calls the call centre to request a cheque book, one can find the status of its delivery on the mobile app, the Internet or by giving a call. The entire transaction is an omni-channel experience. Every channel will show the same status and one can carry forward the transaction there. Among all different channels that a customer can avail, we are seeing a massive growth in the mobile usage. Mobile banking as a channel is doubling every year in terms of growth.

The augmented reality feature in our mobile banking designed after the Pokemon Go game has been a runaway success. One click bill payment is also very popular. We have one of the fastest account opening process. We have a digitally enabled paperless account opening process. One of the most popular one is getting a loan Sanctioned, approved, credited and disbursed within seconds. Customers do not need to go to a branch to do this. Even for lockers one can go on app and find out which branch has lockers, choose it and make a payment for it.

Another value adding project has been Pratham, which is to re-invent the business process to cut down the number of steps. There are 800 to 900 processes of the bank. The whole idea is to improve it and make it efficient by upto 90-95%. Earlier, the process which would take days or one day can now be done in minutes or one hour. It was improvement across the board. The idea was to make things paperless, digitize and automate and use technology features like robotics.
We also evaluating block chain and where it can be leveraged. We think that a good use-case for us to use block-chain will be in Forex and trade finance.

Design Thinking as a seed for innovative solutions
We adopt a hybrid model while designing our solutions. Design is something we control very closely in-house, although we leverage lot of partners. The last company we worked with was a start-up. We focus on design and user-experience. In one of our initiatives known as ‘Thought Factory’, we were already working with start-ups, and we thought that we needed to have a formal mechanism of engaging with the whole start-up community. Accordingly, we came up with the idea of setting up an innovation lab, wherein we experiment with new technologies. We are also helping startups by giving them this accelerator platform. They can sit in the premise in Bangalore and we give them guidance and help them grow their products in three months. Post that, they can make a pitch for investment. We have also tied-up with Amazon for shared hosting space. Start-ups who do not have a working space can sit there. They can also speak to an Amazon architecture partner. As a bank more and more investments are happening on the digital front.

We are extremely strong on social media as well. We are on one of the highest ranks in social engagement channel. The objective is to use it as a mechanism to connect with people and for running our Hackathon. We will also be putting services like Chatbots, AI enabled tools on social media in future.

Design thinking has always been a focus area for us. We have a Design Thinking CoE internally. My whole team is fully trained in it. The next phase of Design Thinking is Zero Distance Learning. We built it last year. The idea is to engage with customers and figure out what they would like us to do. There are 2-3 mechanisms through which we speak with customers. We speak with them when they visit the branch and also in a controlled group. Lot of our new digital initiatives come out of that. Most ideas come out of Design Thinking. At the end of the day we are there to solve customer’s problem and these initiatives revolve around that.

–  As told to Abhishek Rawal and Jasmine Desai

Axis BankCIOdesign thinkingdigitalDigital banking
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