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How ICICI Bank is using digital initiatives to change classic banking processes

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From social media to software bots, ICICI Bank is experimenting with a number of emerging technologies to transform classic banking processes. Madhivanan Balakrishnan, Chief Technology and Data Officer, ICICI Bank, shares how his bank is accelerating on the digital highway

As a bank, we have always used technology as a part of our core proposition. We are always known as a bank that uses technology to bring about greater convenience whether it is in our ATMs or net banking. We do not look at banking in a traditional way, but blend technology as much as possible to deliver end services. Presently, we are exploring and driving initiatives which can help existing processes to be much better.

We are trying to see how digital initiatives can change classic banking processes like mortgage processing or credit card issuance, thereby making the process much faster, efficient and a very positive experience for customers. We are also working towards products that are primarily digital in nature such as mobile banking, wallets and biometric driven.

We have various initiatives on the retail side that are targeted for customers. One that comes instantly to mind is Pockets, which is an app that can be used either by customers or non-customers. This is like a digital bank wherein one can open an account with us in a few seconds by giving a few details. We open a virtual wallet for the customer first and then he can use it to transact on all e-commerce site and for banking transactions. He can also do new age services. We have over 5 million downloads for this application. Around 75% of users of this product are new to the bank. They have used this product to start a relationship with the bank.

Our flagship retail application is iMobile, which is an industry kind of application. It has close to 200 features. Pretty much everything that you can do offline other than collect cash can be done on this. In terms of usage, we benchmark ourselves with both domestic and global banks. The number of times that people log in the app exceeds both the domestic averages and averages in Asia.

One recent initiative is Smartkeys. It enables one to do a simple banking transaction from any other application without launching the banking application. If a customer wants to send some money using Whatsapp, he/she can convert the keyboard into an application and can do the transaction. It is a very unique feature and we do not know of any other bank doing this.

One has to download iMobile, and certain data is asked while registering. Through this app, we make sure that the customer is the person using the phone and doing the transaction. One can then pull in its key into any other app and do a transaction without exiting the app. We are also leveraging Host Card Emulation technology which dematerializes the card. Hence, one no longer needs it. One just needs to wave the app in front of a terminal and the transaction gets done.

In operations we almost have 1,000 odd processes run by a huge base of people. Out of these (as on today), we have converted 200 of these processes and converted them through software robotics. It cuts across multiple internal and external systems. It has dramatically improved productivity eliminating repetitiveness from the job. We hope to move 500 processes by the end of this financial year. We would not want to limit it to operations but go across divisions. There are initiatives targeted at people who work from home especially women employees or new mothers.

How digitization is taking care of employee concerns
We have applications which take care of the concerns and at the same time gives dramatic flexibility to the employee. It is a combination of factors like accessing our network on a wider area network (WAN) using video and facial recognition. It is a process of multiplicity of different applications from network to software ability to access. Our Intranet applications are made available to them through a thin network. We are using virtualization in a big way so they do not have to store anything at their place. Most of our people who are on field can approve processes online and access it.

We also run a safety application for women called iTravelsafe. It allows women employees to enter the location at the time of leaving, the destination, purpose of travel which enables us to track them. Whatever can be used by our customers can be used by employees. We were the pioneers in opening an account through a tablet more than three years ago. Most of our accounts are opened using a tablet. It is a good example of technology used by the employees but for the customer. Our aspiration is that almost every salesperson uses tablet to facilitate his work.

We also have certain applications specifically targeted for rural segments. Thus, the entire RIBG is focuses on it. There is another application which drives liability accounts which is called iCapture. It reflects the account origination process. That is a secondary kind of an application.

The entire processes of reducing processes from customer standpoint is getting a much faster response. Today there is a physical process of going and originating a home loan which includes 4-5 steps including someone coming and picking up the documents. For the customer it would remain the same, but internally it is digitized to a great extent. These are examples of digital transformations driven by digitization. It cuts through the entire outcome process.

We have a concept called Express Home Loans which customers can use to get approval within eight hours. The standard industry turn-around time is of 3-7 days. Ability to check credentials, capability to pay gets much faster with digitization. If the information is accurate, the sanction can be done within one working day. We also have SMS based solutions for customers who do not have access to the Internet.

Accounting ROI in the digitization game
We look at ROI for digitization from three perspectives. Firstly, the customer experience in terms of dramatically reduced time taken for transaction and the ability to get things right the first time which hopefully can result in increased business.  Secondly, it should reduce the physical engagement both from the customer and our perspective which directly results into reduction in cost. This is infrastructure which is created once, and bigger the scale, the better is the ROI.

Thirdly, it must be able to open a completely new segment of customers for the bank. Pockets is a good example where 70% are non-ICICI based customers and a good chunk of them are millennials. Thus, I am able to get a very unique set of people that I might not get through physical channels. UPI is also something that we believe in strongly. We are able to touch 1 lakh UBI handles. As a platform, it will get in a big chunk of customers irrespective of whichever bank account they hold.

If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]


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