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Customer takes centre stage in digital strategy of Kotak Mahindra Bank; CDO Deepak Sharma explains how

Keya, India’s first voice bot in the banking sector, handles more than a million interactions every month and successfully recognises the intent behind 70 per cent of all calls. Deepak Sharma, Chief Digital Officer, Kotak Mahindra Bank says that the voice bot will also be extended to Google Assistant and Alexa to help customers solve all their banking queries seamlessly

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At Kotak Mahindra Bank, digital to a certain extent is not an IT initiative, it is an integral part of the overall strategy, where technology is used to enable business initiatives. “We have a holistic view of technology, transformation, new business models and rapid innovation which collectively adds value to the bank,” says Deepak Sharma, Chief Digital Officer, Kotak Mahindra Bank.

Sharma looks at transformation from the lens of what impacts the core businesses. He connects customer journeys and their life stages and places the customer at the centre of Kotak’s entire digital approach. “The penetration of mobile and the internet gives us large opportunities. Today more than 70 per cent of our customers are active on digital banking. Despite this, we also found that a lot of customers continue to call-up our customer contact centre to seek banking assistance. Hence, we launched WhatsApp Banking, to make banking simpler and more convenient,” he says. More than 30 services are now live on WhatsApp. Kotak Mahindra Bank is among the select partners who have started banking services on WhatsApp. In the first phase, the bank’s WhatsApp channel directed customers seeking information on certain service requests. Progressively, the bank will enable small value transactions like bill pay, recharge, fund transfers, etc., on WhatsApp.

The bank has introduced voice bot Keya, to humanise customer interactions with IVR. The customer can directly speak to Keya and get their queries resolved, instead of pushing multiple buttons on the IVR. The voice bot is a skill-based tool powered by artificial intelligence and will continue to improve and enhance its services the more it speaks and interacts with customers. Today, Keya handles more than a million interactions a month, of which it successfully recognises the intent behind more than 70 per cent of all calls.

To enable faster loans processing and credit automation, the bank runs an instant loan platform, which provides instant personal loans and home loan approval in 24 hours. The instant loans platform not only speeds-up approvals, it also helps customers in their home buying process.

One of the bank’s most successful digital projects was 811, India’s first downloadable digital banking ecosystem. 811 has enabled the bank to increase its share of wallet. “Within the 811 journey, the bank has also enabled real-time credit card approvals and instant processing of a credit card for new customers,” states Sharma.

In order to eliminate paper from branches and automate processes to make them real-time and seamless, the bank has launched Project Velocity. Customers can place a service request, the bank will capture the request real-time in the system and immediately authenticate the customer using Aadhaar. “The objective is to introduce paperless banking and zero-touch operations. More than 50 per cent of our service requests have moved to Project Velocity since the idea was to speed up processes,” adds Sharma.

To advocate the idea of a banking app that also supports the lifestyle requirements of customers, the bank has introduced shopping, travel and entertainment as categories in its mobile banking app.

Sharma further informs that once they understand customer trends and their new journeys then it is about retaining and improving certain experiences rather than altogether recreating something new. “We also went live with the blockchain platform, for commercial transactions. We joined the Ripple blockchain platform to enable cross border remittances. We are live in the UK-India and Israel-India corridors and are scaling this up to other countries,” he explains. Blockchain is helping the bank provide its customers with real-time cross-border transactions in a safe and secure manner.
“These are multi-year journeys, as the technology matures, so will the value to the firm and customers, and we continue to be committed to all these initiatives.” Sharma states.

The bank recently announced the launch of its Open Banking platform (https://api.kotak.com) – a significant step towards creating a collaborative ecosystem for enterprises, fintechs and app developers. Within a short period of the portal’s launch for fintechs and other startups, it has gone live with more than 30 partners in the lending and payments segment, and over 40 developers are presently going through the integration process. This collaboration will help the bank accelerate the pace of innovation and develop improved customer-centric solutions.

In collaboration with the Government of Telangana, Kotak Mahindra Bank is the exclusive banking partner for Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS) service through the MeeSeva platform. This collaboration enables customers to access AEPS cash withdrawal services at more than 4,000 MeeSeva outlets across 31 districts in the state of Telangana. This partnership facilitates financial inclusion and digital literacy.

Sharma explains, “AEPS services help in providing the last mile banking connectivity in places where we may not have a branch. Currently, we handle more two million transactions on the AEPS network.”

The bank has also made significant investments on a data warehouse and data lake. “The Interact platform captures real-time data based on propensity, customer behaviour, transaction, time, location and throws up customised and meaningful offers to customers. Our analytics team runs the center of excellence for the bank,” he concludes.


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