Lyndon Subroyen, global head of digital at Investec, recognizes technology-enabled disruption creates threats and opportunities alike for traditional finance firms. He wants his to embrace digital change and create innovative products for its customers.
“Change in financial services during the past seven or eight years, with a combination of a boom in FinTech, the increase in regulation, the advent of new technology and the ubiquity of mobile connectivity, has resulted in a whole bunch of new players,” he says. “The initial aim of these new firms is to eat the lunch of the big incumbents.”
Subroyen says Investec is rising to the challenge of disruption. In an interview with Hot Topics, he explains how the firm is making the most of digital change, keeping its customers happy and creating a lasting platform for success via a company-wide digital program.
A transformational digital program
Subroyen says Investec’s digital program is centered around how the firm can turn technological threats into opportunities. “We want to transform our internal capability but also create new capabilities for our clients,” he says, suggesting the digital initiative focuses on three key areas.
The first area is what Subroyen refers to as “a classic digital transformation program”, where the focus is on boosting self-service capability and improving staff confidence about emerging technologies. Those developments are centred on several elements, including channels, data analytics and social media.
Subroyen says the second pillar of the digital program looks into the firm’s FinTech activity. That process might include scouting the external ecosystem for fresh opportunities, such as partnerships, acquisitions or investments.
The final element of the digital program concentrates on the creation of new digital-first, or digital-only, businesses. These start-ups are pioneering in outlook but are still focused on Investec’s core philosophy: client base and competencies. Subroyen says the three pillars of the transformation program in combination embrace disruptive thinking.
“If you are an expert in something, that means you’re an expert in the past,” he says. “So, if ever you want to find a new way to do something, or challenge your thinking or challenge your model, you’ve got to look at people who do not have years and years of expertise, because they will bring the fresh thinking.”
Building better customer services
Subroyen says the easiest way to measure the success of Investec’s digital transformation initiative is to analyze the responses of its clients. “That’s not just around the channels being enhanced for them to use, but also how they’re responding to what’s happening within the organization,” he says.
Digital transformation, reiterates Subroyen, should not just be an initiative that homes in on the direct client interaction. Internal developments, to core platforms and systems, should help ensure better customer service for all.
“If our clients are staying with us, and they’re doing more with us they and are recommending us to more of their peers, friends and colleagues, then that’s probably one of the best successes we could have,” he says.
“We’re quite fortunate. We don’t have a branch infrastructure to worry about, so we’re not looking at reducing footfall. We don’t charge people for the utilization of digital platforms, so we’re really making this available as a channel of choice for our clients. The more they choose to use a self-service option from Investec, then that’s the best indicator for us of how well our transformation is progressing.”
Making the right selections
When it comes to disruption, Subroyen says many of the case study references for technology-enabled change are digitally-native start-ups. “Everything that they have is created around their business model,” he says. “Their operation is centred on technology and the use of data, which is a new skill that we’ve had to learn.”
When workers at the firm think about the challenges they face, says Subroyen, they need to overcome a multi-pronged hurdle. This barrier includes making people comfortable with technology, thinking about the opportunities and using data.
“We live in an era where we are flooded with information,” he says. “We must think about how we shift hearts and minds to get people to be more comfortable with using data, its sources, its processing and how we can access more information, because it’s a potential goldmine.
Subroyen, however, doesn’t believe there are any silver bullets when it comes to best practice for data-led digital change. “I think every six to nine months, you’re going to have a new wave of technologies that will be able to make your organization better and that help deliver better experiences for your clients,” he says.
“Success is about being very selective. You can very easily get caught up in this magpie syndrome, where you feel you need to run after every shiny, new thing. We’re being very selective around what we choose to implement.”
Subroyen says customer feedback helps his business judge project selection and success. “We don’t have millions of clients,” he says. “We’re a niche organization, so we really take in feedback from our clients and we look at how we can meet their needs either proactively or reactively. We make technology selections based on that input.”
Continuing to change
The aim, says Subroyen, is that the three pillars of the firm’s digital program help ensure technology-enabled change becomes a core value of the Investec organizational culture. “We want everyone to think about how to compete in a digital era – how we change, and how we think about business models, client experiences and product designs.”
Subroyen says technology must be placed at the heart of how the firm continues to innovate and change. “The very nature of what humans are good at is looking for ways to do things better,” he says.
“They inevitably will come across fresh opportunities and experts in a field. If they’re not responsive enough, they will be challenged by new competitors. We must be ready.”