Digitalization can help banks to reinvent themselves: Anand Bajaj, YES BANK

Noah D'Mello September 11, 2015
Digitalization can help banks to reinvent themselves: Anand Bajaj, YES BANK

Anand Kumar Bajaj, President & Head, Digital Payments and Mobility, YES BANK, says digital banking is critical in facilitating the momentum of the changing dynamics in financial services sector.

From being the first bank to co-introduce a prepaid wallet that connected a million customers to being an institute that aims at including society’s lowest common denominator through its latest innovation in mobile banking, YES BANK has consistently used digitalization and innovation to become one of the key players in the country’s banking sector. Anand Kumar Bajaj, President & Head, Digital Payments and Mobility, YES BANK, spoke about the bank’s journey as well as the challenges and innovations in the digital banking sector, among others.

Here are the edited excerpts from the conversation:

How has the journey been for YES BANK in the field of digital banking and how has digitalization helped it become one of the five largest private banks in the country?

YES BANK, being a Greenfield bank, did not have any institutional legacy in banking or pre-set technology systems. When we started, we partnered with the extant best technology platforms. Over the years, the high-speed evolution of digital banking and payment domain, we realized that any technology beyond five years needs to be revisited. As a constant endeavour to digitally empower our customers, YES BANK has led various one-of-a-kind projects. We were the first bank to bring a prepaid model with Nokia partnership in India—the first prepaid wallet that connected around one million customers. While this was six years ago with interoperability supported on NPCI (National Payments Corporation of India) platform, the business solution was much ahead of its time.

The mindset and approach at YES BANK is very professional and entrepreneurial. We call ourselves the ‘Professionals’ Bank of India’. We engage with the finest young minds of top colleges in India and across the world through YES BANK Transformation Series, which is a unique case study challenge to test the innovation acumen of budding entrepreneurs. Real-life business case study along with industry mentorship provides the aspiring young leaders with a launch pad to get them on board with us to ride the technology wave.

We believe that insightful usage of technology and digital innovation can be a defining tool in financial inclusion. YES BANK created an assisted digitization platform in India, which could use the distribution network of telecoms, for transferring money into bank accounts. This platform harnessed IMPS (Immediate Payment Service) to offer 24x7 services to a user. It gave our customer a never-before experience to send money into any bank account in four seconds even on a Sunday. Today most of the banks have adopted this technology and we are glad to have created this faster and efficient payment ecosystem.

In today’s scenario, what is the importance of innovation and digitalization in the banking sector?

I think the word “innovation” means applied intelligence. It is the intelligent cross pollination and connection of things available to everyone. How we re-render it is an artistic impression of the ecosystem that you create. Moreover, any model that is mature enough is ready for disruption. Banking is one amongst the few mature industries in the world. Innovation and digitalization has provided banks with an opportunity to reinvent themselves and be more customer-centric. Digital banking has a very important role to play in facilitating the momentum of the changing dynamics in financial services sector.

What are the challenges that the banking sector is currently facing with regards to digitalization?

The technologies we are operating in today will be due for an upgrade very soon. One has to build architecture to upgrade, migrate, integrate, and modify the existing systems. In the digital environment, one needs to create an end-to-end stack of system rather than doing the so-called modifications in the existing systems. Coping to the needs of the digital savvy youth is also an area of improvement, which can help us think very differently for our customers; and we do this through our partnerships with startups.

YES BANK recently tied up with TAISYS Technologies to develop Slim Sleeve solutions for transactions without using the Internet. Can you tell us something more about it?

The genesis of this technology was “Agnostic to all, Service all.” We wanted to do something that cuts across the type of handset (smart or feature), the person using the handset, or the availability of Internet connectivity. We aspire to make it usable by all customers irrespective of the service provider. The core of propagating Digital India is to go be able to uplift and empower even the lowest common denominator. This is the inspiration that is driving the business solutions at YES BANK.  

How has the response been so far?

We are getting a good response during the pilot sales engagements with selected customer segments but we want to calibrate the solution to the simplest possible usage. People across all socio-economic segments should be able to understand the different functionalities. How simplistically we can render the UI to the customer is the most complex challenge.

There is so much emphasis given to Internet by the government and private players that it has become imperative for everyone to be connected via the Internet. What made YES BANK take an approach which tells customers to be less dependent on the Internet?

We are not telling our customers to stay off the Internet; we are just omitting it to be a prerequisite for making payments using mobiles. It is an added service that we are providing to the customers. In the digital environment, multiple technologies with less than 3-5 years of impact period will keep coming. One has to define the GAP period technologies in such a manner that it aligns with the road map and merges with the next innovation.

Has mobile banking come of age and do you see it overtaking Internet desktop banking in the years to come?

Every bank has a digital journey of its own and mobile as a platform has not come of age yet. YES BANK as part of the working committee for mobile payments with the RBI focuses on simplifying and not standardizing YES BANK’s disruptive innovations. With a simplified ecosystem in place each bank will have different engagement models for their customers.

What are your views on the current and future digital innovations in the banking sector?

The future is now, and the current is past! With this motto, banks have to be on their toes to sense the requirements of their tech savvy customers and present to them digitally innovative yet simple solutions. Digital innovation should not be over strategized beyond its trajectory; directional focus is important to achieve the business goals around it.

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