CDO interview: Macquarie Banking Group’s digital leader on delivering customer trust

Chief digital officer shares how digital transformation is about instilling a new way of working and customer connection at the banking and financial services group

Luis Uguina
Luis Uguina

Defining digital using customer pain points

When it comes to what’s actually driving new digital features, products and services, Uguina says the focus is on removing friction points customers experience when engaging with a bank. To do this, Macquarie has upped investment into machine learning, predictive analytics and has a growing team of data scientists working to utilise data.

One such pain point is searching transactions to understand purchasing history. “If I want to know how much money I have spent on groceries over the past year, I have three accounts and two cards, I need to check those five things, download all the data to a spreadsheet, then work out which is groceries versus something else. That makes no sense,” Uguina says.

Using search-how-you-speak, based on natural language search, customers can now search their transactions and query purchase history to find out how much they spent on groceries in the past month, or the last trip to Spain.

“We shouldn’t be teaching any single customer how to work with a bank. You as a customer should be interacting with a bank in the same way you do with anything in your life,” Uguina claims.

Another customer bugbear is personalised financial management, and Uguina points out consumers want to look at what amount of money they’ve spent in a month, and be able to limit or better manage expenditure. This also means it’s vital transactions are logged and accessible in real time.

“Security is another important thing in a customer’s life, so every time you use your card, you can receive a push alert to your phone in real time,” he says. “As a customer, I shouldn’t be accessing the bank every single day to know what is happening – you should be able to alert me when something unusual is happening.”

As an example, if a customer is spending $3 every day on a coffee, they probably don’t need to be notified each time this transaction takes place, Uguina says.

“In the same way, we are working on a model where if you are receiving your payroll every single month, I probably don’t need to tell you that; I should tell you when you haven’t received it,” he explains. “Or if you’ve been spending a certain amount on electricity every quarter but the next bill is double, you should know about it.

“With really strong algorithms, machine learning and predictive analytics, where we are heading is to an approach where you don’t need to access the bank, because if the bank is not alerting you to anything, nothing unusual is happening. Or we should be able to predict that your gas invoice is going to be between $250 - $300, and if it’s $450, we can alert you so you’re aware something is going to be more expensive than normal.

“This integration of digital channels and this peace of mind and trust that the bank is taking care of you is the big picture for us. That’s what success looks like for us in two years.”

It’s clear consumers love a personalised experience. But Uguina admits it’s challenging to deliver that humanised experienced through digital channels. “The only way we can create this awesome experience where you feel safe, comfortable and trust what’s happening, is when you’re using the data to provide this experience,” he says.

Uguina notes the current budgeting tool MVP as another example. The tool allows a customer to state their own goal or limit and be supported around it, as well as create ‘what if’ scenarios that can help them with financial saving or expenditure.

“As a bank, we know your spend patterns and what’s going to happen in the future,” he says. “The future model as a bank for customers should be that you know me, I use your products, so in your experience as a bank, how do you think I should limit my expenses?

“For example, you could ask: ‘What if I want to buy a new car?’ The system could then say, ‘well you should reduce the number of times you go to a restaurant every week, because you could save $3000 in one year’. These are the things that make a lot of sense that customers love.”

The chief digital officer role

While Uguina is convinced digital must be at the foundation of business today, he doesn’t believe the chief digital officer role is a transitory one.

“Technology isn’t something that’s static; it’s changing every day. What that means is technology, methodologies and ways of working, and how people behave, changes every day,” he says. “You need someone that is going to be the chief trouble making officer, and someone challenging the company.

“The traditional business needs to be able to decide how the product is going to work. My mission with all is to be sure we’re always with the right mindset and culture in the way we approach the execution and delivery.”

Uguina says having someone focused for one year or three years on digital strategy also suggests there is an end destination that’s achievable. “Digital is the journey… it’s not a thing, it’s a way of doing things, a mindset, an approach and capability of the company,” he says.

The key to being a chief digital officer, meanwhile, is being able to align business and technology.

“You need to be able to use technology with maximum impact to get the best business outcome,” Uguina says. “To be a good CDO, you need to be passionate about technology, be the person that is challenging the company every day, and you need to be ahead of the pack in terms of what’s happening in the market.”

And of course you must strive to embrace speed and agility, Uguina says. “You need to be moving as fast as possible without breaking anything,” he adds.

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