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Standard Chartered’s CIO on embracing the ways digital can help the bank’s customers

Standard Chartered Standard Chartered

Michael Gorriz, CIO at Standard Chartered, says the bank's digital transformation will be of huge benefit to its staff as well as its customers.

Michael Gorriz, CIO at Standard Chartered, knows the fast and constant pace of change in the modern, digital world provides a major headache for all IT leaders. It’s the same in his business, where advances in technology must be absorbed, adapted and exploited.

“I cannot foresee an end in the transformation – the world is transforming every day,” says Gorriz. “We are getting there, but the world continues to change and we have to follow.”

In an interview with Hot Topics, experienced IT leader Gorriz talks about his firm’s plans to meet customer demands through digitally-enabled change. He also touches on the best ways to take advantage of innovative disruption and talks about some of the key technologies, such as cloud and security, that will loom large in his future IT spending plans.

Transforming through technology

Gorriz joined the bank in 2015 after 29 years at manufacturing specialist Daimler. A physicist and engineer by education, Gorriz progressed through specialist research and design positions in aerospace to general management roles, eventually becoming one of Germany’s most highly respected CIOs.

At Standard Chartered, he is responsible for the banking operations, systems development approaches and technology infrastructure elements that underpin the bank’s customer-facing services. As CIO, he also defines and implements the firm’s digital strategy and innovation agenda.

The bank started its digital transformation programme three years ago when Gorriz says the firm decided to enter a significant period of investment in its technology portfolio. However, he says an injection of cash in isolation is not enough. Successful digital transformation involves much more than a financial commitment to systems and services.

“It’s the way we work – it’s the way we satisfy the needs of our customers,” he says. “This focus on our clients is the core of our digital transformation. We want to transform our business so that we can deal with the demands of our customers in the digital age.”

It is not unusual to hear strong statements from senior executives in terms of improved quality of service through technological innovation. Yet at Standard Chartered, Gorriz says he and his team aim to match qualitative sentiment with quantitative metrics: “If the customer has a demand, we want to answer that request in five seconds.”

Facing innovation head on

The increasingly open nature of banking means finance firms face market disruption from multiple directions. However, Gorriz says Standard Chartered does not want to compete with nimble start-ups. Instead, his firm invites these nascent businesses into the bank to help the organization build its customer services.

Standard Chartered has created a specialist entity known as the eXellerator that scans the market and seeks out great ideas. Gorriz says this outside-in way of operating is already paying dividends, in terms of both sources of inspiration, and technical products and services.

“Whenever we have an issue or a problem we want to solve, we look for a solution that is already out there,” he says. “Through the eXellerator, we have engaged with more than 50 companies that are working at different levels.”

While some of these organizations have already taken their smart ideas to production, others are still at the proof of concept stage. In fact, some of these entrepreneurial businesses remain at what Gorriz refers to as “the ideation stage”, where innovative ideas are still being reviewed and refined.

“In a few cases, we’ve even taken a stake in these companies,” he says. Examples here include a strategic investment in blockchain specialist Ripple during 2016 and a joint innovation agreement with Paxata last year, which helps the firm’s employees make the most of the bank’s internal data lake infrastructure.

Dealing with the cyber risk

Technology, therefore, sits at the heart of the bank’s growth strategy. Gorriz’s capabilities and experiences across innovation and change in technology will be key as he takes the firm onwards on its transformation journey.

He talks passionately about the power of on-demand IT and the potential to drive considerable change at the infrastructure, platform, and software level. “Cloud computing comes in a lot of flavors,” says Gorriz, before adding that information integrity remains a crucial component of success for competitive enterprises.

“Cyber-security is a very important subject these days,” he says. “The risk level has risen in the not-so-distant past. Hackers have many more tools that they can use to break into banks and computers in general.”

Gorriz recognizes the bank’s clients trust the organization to treat their money and information securely. It is, he says, paramount that the data relating to these concerns is stored safely. The bank matches that recognition with a commensurate commitment to information security spending.

“It is, therefore, essential that our efforts to protect the data continue to increase significantly,” says Gorriz. “Year on year, we are putting more investments into the identification, the detection, the response and the remediation, if any of these cyber events take place.”