Digital Summit

How banks and credit unions can revive the health and vitality of communities

Financial institutions are becoming ‘societal hubs’ that play a critical role in renewing the prosperity of the communities they serve. Imagine if through your local branch, you could contribute and invest in the health of your local supermarket or favorite restaurant. The success of neighbourhood businesses directly impacts an individual’s personal wellbeing and is the backbone of what keeps communities vibrant and thriving. Branches today are evolving into trusted hubs and as this trust builds individuals will be more open to sharing their data, which can ultimately empower the whole community to grow & expand together. In this Digital Summit, we discuss: • Branch networks as community hubs & the future of the token economy• The role banks & credit unions can play in accelerating the reboot of SMEs • Empowering individuals to become a catalyst for reviving the economy

Speakers

Yassi Profile Photo

Yasaman Hadjibashi

Managing Director, Global Head of Data and Analytics

Citi Global Consumer Bank

Hossein Rahnama Photo

Hossein Rahnama

Founder & CEO

Flybits

Rizwan profile photo

Rizwan Khalfan

EVP & Chief Digital and Payments Officer

TD Bank Group

Webinar Transcription

Hossein Rahnama:
Hi, everyone. Thank you very much for joining our webinar today. My name is Hossein Rahnama, founder and CEO of Flybits. I’m also a faculty member at Ryerson University in Toronto and a visiting professor at MIT Media Lab. I’m very much looking forward to hosting our session today. We have two great leaders in the industry from two very well known financial organizations. Well, I’m very happy that they managed to join us. And we will be talking about the role of banks, especially after COVID-19 and how they are leveraging data science and digital to not just contribute to their digital transformation, but also how to contribute to the economy and the reboot of the economy in an effective way.

Hossein Rahnama:
As many of unlike 2008, this is not a financial crisis. This is a health crisis. And our belief at Flybits and across our ecosystem is that banks and financial institutions can play a significant role in not just helping people to go through this crisis more effectively, but they can also play a role to accelerate the reboot and acceleration of the economic comeback on a community level and with a focus on small businesses. So, in our today’s webinar, we have Yassi Hadjibashi from Citibank, and she leads data and analytics for Citigroup, and we have Rizwan Khalfan, who is the Chief Digital Officer for TD Bank.

Hossein Rahnama:
Before I pass it on for introduction, there was a reason that we invited Citi and TD to this session. They are both leaders when it comes to financial innovation, data innovation and digital innovation. And we thought that they have some great lessons and observations to share with you in terms of how they are really leading the way by leveraging data to support their consumers and customers. So with no further ado, I will pass it on to Yassi to introduce herself and then to Rizwan. Yassi, to you.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
Thank you so much, Hossein for inviting me to be part of this panel today. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening to all the participants. Pleasure to be here today. I am managing director of data and analytics for Citibank’s Global Consumer Bank. As we are one of the biggest global banks in the world and the global consumer bank focuses predominantly on retail banking, credit card business, mortgage and wealth management. I joined Citi about two and a half years ago, moving from South Africa to Dallas, which was a bit of a cultural shock, but coming in to drive our big data transformation for GCB, specifically focusing on bridging the gap between new capabilities that we needed to build and helping make our digital efforts become more data driven, essentially the vision of personalization, and making sure that all the investments you’re putting on the digital front are really getting the return that they are hoping to achieve for our customers.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
It’s been a very exciting journey at work in a realm of products, roles and customer experience and data and FinTech partnerships. But I have to really say Citi has been the most global organization of experience to date. Working across 19 markets has been very, very exciting. I’m based in the U.S. but my teams are spread across Mexico, 17 Asia Pacific countries. And as you know and see during the pandemic right now, being in the data domain is probably a never ending journey and we’re continuing learning from it. I’ll hand it over to Rizwan.

Rizwan Khalfan:
Thanks, Yassi. And good to see you both, Hossein and Yassi. I have the privilege of leading a team that’s truly passionate about doing what’s right for our customers across digital payments and innovation at TD. I’ve been at TD for almost 18 years. And I have something else which is common with Yassi. I’d also spent my first half of my career at Citibank. Those were the only two banks that I worked at, which is interesting that we are on the same panel today. So over to you, Hossein.

Hossein Rahnama:
Thank you, thanks to both of you. So what we are planning today is that we have structured our webinar to have three key areas of focus. The first one is going to be on the market dynamics, what’s happening to the world and how banks are adapting and adjusting accordingly. The second part of it is going to be about the importance of personalization, leveraging data and something that is very close to the core of Flybits, which is data contextualization, and the use of entities like Citi and TD on that. And the last part is the role of banks on the revival of the communities and what they are doing by leveraging digital and data to do that.

Hossein Rahnama:
So the question that we are going to ask will be under the umbrella of the three categories that I mentioned. So, we are going to start with the first set of questions, which is very much focused on market dynamics. COVID-19, as I’m sure all of us are aware of, is a terrible thing that happened to the world. One thing we are observing that Flybits is that most entities that we work with, which are mostly financial institutions, almost all of them had an initiative in their organization called digital transformation. I’m sure that term is very familiar to all of you. In many cases, this was a strategy that was supposed to take multiple years. And what we are seeing is that COVID-19 is actually acting as a catalyst to really accelerate those strategies. So initiatives that were supposed to take multi years, now they have to be delivered in a matter of months, maybe a year. And we have two leaders now in these organizations who are leading these initiatives. So I’ll be asking them questions in terms of what they are seeing in their organization and in the market, on how the banks are adjusting and accelerating when it comes to data and digital innovation. So perhaps we can start with you Yassi and then we’ll go to Rizwan.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
So very interesting times Hossein. Let me just maybe start at the macro scale by saying first of all, lockdown started, people could not go to work and the biggest fear for us, obviously needless to say, for customers that come to our branches, they know if you’re going off the banks in the United States and globally, that strategically reduced the physical footprint since the financial crisis. But first of all, how do we serve our customers? And then internally to your point, since we cannot come to the office anymore, how do we remain productive and still move at speed delivering, let’s call it customer relief initiatives that were so time pressured for our customers.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
So what we learned is sometimes in crisis, the best side of us comes out and how we collaborate with each other and how we embrace technology to do the right thing. So internally, what we saw is we’ve actually become a lot more agile and fast in our delivery efforts. But that doesn’t just apply to digital initiatives and getting the likes of payment or payroll protection plan set up, up and running in a matter of just two weeks, three weeks, versus such an initiative would have taken us probably months to get ready to launch, but also in how we handle the communications with our customers, educational material in our digital channels because across the board, all the big banks started reducing their branch hours and some closures due to physical safety as we know and the infection rate, had it been out of control at the initial phase of the pandemic.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
But what we saw is that the educational material was very well received. Customers started more and more adopting our digital channels. And internally, we really sped up and became more flexible in how we’ve looked at our historical bureaucracy and processes inside the firm, to get stuff launched faster than before. I don’t think the issues had traditionally always been just technical issues. It was a combination of process controls and technology coming together to make us more agile. And I think because this was a very pressured environment, and we had to act fast for our customers, we learned to make decisions faster, which is the number one criteria for moving at speed. And we learned that now we need to take that on as the new norm for anything and everything we do in digital.

Hossein Rahnama:
Thank you. That was great. Rizwan, we’d love to hear your views as well.

Rizwan Khalfan:
I think none of us would have seen how the pandemic was going to affect all of us on a global level across societies. However, I’d say that how our colleagues around the banks have responded has been truly inspirational. The moments in your life and you look back at your career, and in my case, 26 years working in the financial industry, there are a few moments that stick out, and this is going to be one of those that I’ll talk about for years to come, and the focus was across four things. The first one was the safety of our colleagues and our customers. And like Yassi mentioned, we reduced hours in the branches, we reduced locations, but we moved 60,000 people to be able to work from home. Our initial capacity before COVID would have been 15,000. And in a matter of weeks, including contact center agents who are enabled to be able to work from home. So that was the first priority, safety.

Rizwan Khalfan:
The second was banking is essential. It’s an essential service, so regardless of what was happening, we needed to ensure that our customers, both consumers and businesses were able to perform the day to day financial transactions. And so we pushed, promoted existing self serving digital capabilities, while also building new ones that did not exist. Some of these new capabilities took us weeks, if not days to enable, which otherwise would have taken us months. And so back to the point that Yassi was mentioning around agility, we literally saw firsthand where there was purpose, there was commitment, where decision making was up and down the chain made very quickly, teams are able to do things that we could not have imagined. So that was the second thing we did.

Rizwan Khalfan:
The third thing was putting financial relief programs that the banks wanted to actually provide to their customers. So we had things like deferring your mortgage payments, things like deferring your credit card payments, your auto finance, to name a few. And then we also had to facilitate the government sponsored programs and so in Canada, the likes of CERB or CEBA, in the U.S., the likes of PPP. And all this was done on a self serve basis. A lot of times, the time that we were given to facilitate this capability from the government was a week, in some cases days. So the team had to move with purpose and speed to be able to enable these financial relief programs to help our customers.

Rizwan Khalfan:
And then the final thing was we play a significant role in our communities and looking at the needs of the communities. What do the frontline folks require? How do we set up funds to help them whether it’s to be able to get PPE, or whether it’s to basically provide other facilities? We set up a fund to help our small business customers in the communities to be able to navigate through the financial distress that this pandemic was causing. So in the end, I think coming out of this, one, it was inspirational to see how the organization and how our people responded to the crisis, and I feel way more confident that we will come out of this pandemic a much stronger organization, a much more agile organization to be able to respond and adapt to the market conditions.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
One more I would also add to this one point, I think that touches on the data aspect of things is you all are very well aware when data transformations happen in big organizations, it’s a lot of times trying to increase the speed of decision making with more real time data rather than batch. Gone are the days for once a month reports. We want everyday reports. I get it real time. A lot of times these are huge technology projects for big corporations because you have to go to legacy product processors or systems.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
What we saw during this crisis is how urgent the need was for a lot more real time information, for example, how these SBA loans were taken up by customers, what the points of frictions were. In a matter of hours, we had to resolve those to make sure we are dispersing the funds and servicing our customers the right way. It was a wake up call that more than ever, we need to have more real time information not just even once a day, ideally every hour, getting information, make the right decisions, have way more frequent product iterations than before. So I think what you’re also going to see on the back off the pandemic is a lot more emphasis on overall platform transformations to enable really decision making to speed up in the organization.

Hossein Rahnama:
Great. Thank you. Before I move on to the last question of the first part, I like to remind the attendees that you can post your questions on the QA section of Zoom, and we will be answering them towards the end of the discussion. We have allocated about 15 minutes for that so please feel free to share your questions and observations with us. The last question I have for the first section is over the past five years or so, a number of your challenging competitors, which they refer to them as digital banks, tried to leverage elements of community building experience, design, user experience and data science to essentially compete with large banks.

Hossein Rahnama:
So they leverage their agility. Naturally, they can be more agile because they are smaller than larger organizations. And they really emphasize on user experience communities. They learn the network effects that a lot of consumer facing internet companies learn. And then they try to, especially in the consumer banking sector, compete with banks. It’s not a secret that when you look at the industry and the market, a lot of those entities are going through some significant challenges, job losses, reduction of market share. I’m curious to know your feedback that while they really emphasize on that area, what could be some of the reasons that they still could not adjust and adapt to the dynamics of post COVID-19? Rizwan, maybe we start this one with you.

Rizwan Khalfan:
Sure. Yeah. So I mean, our belief has always been about giving customers choice based on their preferences, especially during a crisis, whether it’s a financial crisis or in this case, a health crisis, our relationship with our customer is fundamentally based on trust. And what you see is customers reaching out to the trusted partners, who know them intimately, who know their preferences, and who are there to kind of guide them and navigate them through these anxious times. And so for us, it was always about the intimacy we have with our customers and how well we know them, and based on their preferences, deliver a highly personalized and connected experience across all interactions.

Rizwan Khalfan:
That was the model, and through COVID, we had to calibrate it. But because we had choice, and we had the position to be able to adapt, we calibrated towards self serving digital, but I can tell you that the branches still played an important role. The phone channel played a very important role in terms of reaching out to the customers. The one thing I’ll share with you is that while economic activity was down across the board, across all segments, the number of interactions we had with our customers through the COVID period, mid-April or May, that actually increased year over year.

Rizwan Khalfan:
So on one hand, you can kind of rationalize and say, “Of course, because folks were worried. They were checking their balances. They were trying to see if their relief funds came through.” Absolutely, there was the case. However, there was also an increase in engagement on those properties that provided what I describe as small A advice, real time in the moment advice. For example, we have a spending tracker that we partnered with a FinTech as you know, and we saw a significant increase in the use of that spending tracker. New customers are signing up, and they were actually interacting with that spending tracker on a level that I’ve never seen before.

Rizwan Khalfan:
And so, I’d say that the trust that we have with our customers, and how we stepped up as an organization to help our customers, be it retail or be it business, continues to be a differentiator in the marketplace. And then based on their preferences, we figure out the best way to fulfill their banking needs. And while you could say that if you are a digital only bank, you could be more efficient. However, how do you meet the needs of all your customers on a scale that we as in TD or Citi does on a day in day out basis?

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
I would echo exactly what Rizwan says, probably building a little bit further off of that by saying it’s a fundamental business model question as well. Big banks, we are very diversified businesses. We built this modality. And even if you’re not global, but the diversification around being an investment bank, a corporate bank, a transactional business, a wealth manager, commercial banker over many, many years. And then the beauty of that diversification, which is technically hard to manage, that’s why it takes us a long time to launch change. However, during times of crisis, when one side of the business suffers, typically another side wins.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
This is exactly what we saw. As soon as the lockdown started, the signals for an economic crisis was kicking off because yes, it is a health crisis but is leading into a financial crisis as well, as we talked about the recession, is that people in our transactional business are transacting a lot. That’s bringing us great revenue and yes, consumers, like everybody’s suffering, because you’re going to see defaults, you’re going to see delinquencies. And I think for the smaller digital players, the neo banks or digital lenders, it’s hard to absorb those losses. You’re taking already humongous reserves, and we’re going to see in 2021, those reserves being materialized, all of us, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, the smaller ones, they need to raise capital. They got to go for the next round of funding, and it doesn’t look as rosy so their valuations have to come down. It’s going to be even harder to probably even raise funding if they don’t already sit on some profitability.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
So I think from a business model perspective, that’s where you see them challenging and us winning because of our diversification. Going back to the trust factor, as funny as it is, we always say the millennials and Gen Z-ers are the pioneers of going to the new players, taking them on, being the early adopters. But there are plenty of studies published by the likes of American bankers in the past two years that still show primary relationship to this day for the majority even of millennials and Gen Z-ers reside with the high street bank, just because that trust is there, money is maybe to this day, you could argue is still the most valuable asset for us individuals even though you’re getting to the territory of information and money both are very valuable assets for us but money probably even more in some respects.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
During times of crisis, they bring it back to the party they trust the most. They let us guard it and we saw huge deposit intake and CDs intake even more than before the crisis, which is a clear behavioral indication that they trust us more with their money than other parties.

Hossein Rahnama:
Interesting. This is actually, I have a quick observation there as we are shifting our conversation around data and digital transformation. Do you see that the demography that you had on your digital channels changing? You actually mentioned millennials and Gen Zs, they are the ones that are very digitally active. And there were other segmentation of your customers, I’m assuming that they really wanted that branch network. I’m not saying in the absence but now that digital is becoming more prominent, do you see a shift in the digital demography that you have on your digital channels? And do you also see based on what you said that you think banks are going towards the way in which the unit economic model can be data and bits rather than financial assets, so you can actually monetize data rather than just that be the vault for our financial assets? So if you can kind of highlight those quickly, I’ll appreciate that.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
I would absolutely. I think the demographics of our digital adopters are expanding because of the crisis. Now, we took a very strategic bet since the financial crisis, as I mentioned earlier, to downsize our physical footprint. And I think there were a lot of dual justification, is it the right thing? Is it not just because our direct competitors were actually expanding their physical footprint? Now what we saw, the crisis is prompting the older segments specifically to start adopting digital and you have this cute example of our CEO Jane Fraser, who always says recently that her mother started using mobile check deposits and using the digital for payments and she says, “If she can do it, then everybody can do it.”

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
So I refer to that as our exemplary model that yes, even our older segments are starting to adopt because they don’t want to go into the branch out of safety issues for their health conditions. And we need to as a result of that focus even more to tailor the services providing digital channels also for our older segments, meaning the education, the tutorials needs to go hand in hand before each launch of a new feature, probably repetitively to get them prompted to adopt it and use it the right way.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
And I think going forward, what we’re going to see is data is going to go hand in hand together with the digital just because we need to understand where these individuals have historically used the branch network for and how can you start in the right channel, and they will still call the call center as well and you’re trying to also minimize and make that social distancing more accommodative for our colleagues. Make sure that the really downsize that to really meet the conversations that need to happen in people and data is going to be for us very relevant going forward.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
And to your point, it goes beyond just trust in we guard your money. But information is a natural extension of that, which is I bring my information to my bank to get the right service for the right product and the right channel in the right time. But what you have to be very careful about, I hate to say the word monetizing, because that would not differentiate us from the likes of Amazon and Facebook, where that’s where the trust factor is missing when it comes to financial services that I’m just a walking wallet and you’re just trying to monetize me for the next product. And you see it plenty in Instagram channel and others. We have to make sure it’s cross servicing. Yes, sometimes it’s a product, but sometimes it’s protecting you against fraud. It’s protecting you against this and that. It’s not just about marketing and offers, and that’s the balance we need to crack with a comprehensive use of our organizational data.

Hossein Rahnama:
Thank you. Rizwan?

Rizwan Khalfan:
Yeah, I’d say similar. It’s across, we’ve seen a lift in digital across demographics, from students all the way to seniors. And you have to categorize it into two different categories. The first is new to digital. So we have existing customers who never were active on digital, and how you onboard them, how you register them, the tutorials, the visuals you provide were very different. They have to be really personalized. And then you had existing digital customers who maybe did a portion of their banking on digital. And now you’re reaching out to them to say, “Look, you have this full suite of capabilities that’s going to make your life more convenient, and in this case, even safer.”

Rizwan Khalfan:
And so we’ve seen a lift on both, digital adoption and digital engagement. My favorite story, similar to Yassi, has we’ve seen a huge lift amongst the seniors, which I think is so impressive. If I can share verbatim, I look at customer feedback all the time. And I’ll share a verbatim, I’ll just read it out from one of the customers, “I’m a retired senior, have not left my house nearly three months because of social distancing, trying to stay safe! I never wanted to bank online. Now I’m doing it, love it, fast and easy. COVID-19 made me start banking this way. Something good had to come out of these trying times.” I love it. And we have a ton of this kind of feedback from the seniors who are embracing digital for the first time and finding it to be as convenient, if not more convenient, while ensuring that they remain safe.

Hossein Rahnama:
Yeah, that’s great. Thank you. That was a great story. My second set of questions are more about the technologies that you use in banks related to AI, data science and personalization. This is something that I think all of us hear on a daily basis and different people have different viewpoints on that. So let me share our view on Flybits and then we’d love to see what you’re doing in your organizations. When it comes to personalization, especially in the financial sector, people have different opinions. Some people refer to personal finance management tools and PFMs as personalization that okay, I can tell you when your bills are due or how much you spend time or money on coffee.

Hossein Rahnama:
Some people are thinking about providing offers. And our view at Flybits is that in order to do personalization right, you need to really think about multi dimensional personalization. You need to understand data. You need to have the ability to bring data from different sources, making sure that the privacy of the user is protected, and engage with them on a more contextualized basis. The other thing that we hear is more around AI and our belief system is that AI without data really doesn’t mean anything. And what we are observing in the market is that the AI mindset in even larger organization is a mindset of a graduate student working in a data science lab, which says, “Okay, Professor, give me the data, and then I’ll do my project or I’ll write my thesis.”, whereas the reality is, data is sensitive, data should be protected. And there has to be a way, especially for banks, if they want to create these data ecosystems, they need to first figure out how they manage data portability and data security before they empower a very scalable AI strategy.

Hossein Rahnama:
So what I would love to hear from you is that what are your organizations doing in terms of looking at personalization and contextualization of data and how you’re leveraging data portability, data science and AI to support your customers on a more predictive basis. So maybe we start with you, Yassi and then go to Rizwan.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
So as you hit the spot Hossein, there’s two sides of our focus. There’s one side with regards to still fixing the basics, meaning getting the quality work right for data, because we all are a very diversified large organization that we’ve built over years of mergers and acquisitions, now, the retrospective is still to this day trying to clean up and we are learning in fact, we need to simplify further in terms of how our data flows are running across the organization.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
Reconciliation is manual intervention, so this needs to be all removed. And a fast track to that is essentially AI-led solutions that can help us find frictions and quality issues a lot faster and monitor those also on an ongoing basis. On the flip side, the shift for what our customers want in digital and having to become a lot more personalized, especially now on the back of the pandemic, if you’re shifting over even more towards digital, that plane is not going to stop. So we’re going to continue investing into making those channels a lot more intimate than ever before.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
And biggest sort of in our focus areas for us is first of all, addressing any existing friction points in our core customer journeys, and we are taking an omnichannel approach and that to this day is still a big trouble for many, many big large banks to get the data across call centers, ATM, branch, online, mobile, conversational, channel all into one. So at any point of time, when the next touchpoint comes, we can service the right message with the right tone with the right action to you.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
So that’s going to be key number one for us, omnichannel servicing and insights and analytics. And then based on that, we’re going to focus on foundational in terms of fraud, the right fraud experience, the right operational experiences, making sure again the basics of what you want from the back are done. And then going into the sort of really sophisticated offers.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
However, that varies for us from region to region. As you know, we are operating across U.S., Mexico and Asia. Asia, for us, is a more progressive standpoint. We are already very deeply embedded into the merchant offers, into connecting buyers and sellers. We are at the middle of making sure you find each other in the right space. That’s going to go ahead further with real time triggers. And U.S., we’re going to piggyback off of that and also focus on that in the next few years. Because ultimately to your point, rebuilding economies and I know we’re going to touch on that, number one is how are we going to bring these businesses and connect them with the same consumers in the same community over the right context?

Hossein Rahnama:
Thank you. Rizwan?

Rizwan Khalfan:
Yeah, for us, personalization and connected experience is a differentiator in the marketplace, and I touched upon the connected aspect when we kind of compare a bank like TD to say a neobank that only offers digital experiences. It’s about preferences, and it’s about giving choice to customers. On personalization, it’s about empowerment. It’s empowering customers, and the way you empower is to know them intimately. And it’s not about the big moments alone. It’s about real time in the moment, all the way to the big moments. So the data that banks have on customers, I have to say that we haven’t fully utilized it. And with the evolution of AI, we have been forced to basically evolve our data capabilities.

Rizwan Khalfan:
Our acquisition of a capability like Layer 6, that we acquired a couple of years ago was as much about evolving our data capabilities as it was about an AI-first approach, because as you mentioned, without the data, AI is not that useful. And so, what we’re seeing in the market, and this is the opportunity from a personalization perspective, is taking the data you have, and being smart about how you empower customers, respecting their privacy, respecting their safety, respecting their preferences, and creating value propositions on a real time basis, all the way to the big moments in life I think, and providing a continuum of advice, is a real competitive advantage on a go forward basis.

Rizwan Khalfan:
I think that’s kind of how we look at the world to say that, take the data we have, partner with organizations like yourselves. I mean, if we look at one of the domains that Flybits plays for TD is to serve as a connective tissue between internal data and external data, so we can understand the customer behaviors, we can understand the needs of the customers better, and deliver those experiences that are highly personalized. I think that’s the journey we are on. And it’s a huge opportunity for a bank like TD to be able to differentiate in the marketplace.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
And I think that the pandemic, the opportunity is the biggest to be honest, like you know in the United States, millions and millions of Americans can’t even absorb an unexpected expense of $300 to $500 within their budget. Now, you talked about PFM Hossein, I think that topic will become even more relevant than ever, especially on the back of the pandemic crisis, then in terms of losing jobs and not having any income, how can we take the insights that we have from our data to understand where our customers have been struggling? How do we help them to earn new income? We always talk about financial wellness, how do you squeeze more dollars out of your existing budget but then we don’t talk about how do we even help you to earn more income in the first place?

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
For example, as Citibank, this is a very fascinating story. Most of our clientele is actually mass affluent. And when you look at the data, you see customers who are also Uber drivers and Lyft drivers, and there are already stories before the crisis. Now, I can only imagine how worse it has become during the crisis, so I think we got a job to do, how we connect them to other resources beyond just financial products. It’s not just about the next loan and the next CD, but what else is there in the economy where we can help them to progress and pursue financial wellness?

Hossein Rahnama:
That’s great. Thank you. Before we move on to the role of banks in the revival of communities, I have one last question for you in this section. I can’t tell you how many times in university circles, at board levels, the discussions for a financial institution becomes, “Hey, what if Amazon or Facebook or Google, they become a bank and want to compete with you?” They have all the data. They have all the agility and the experience, design capabilities. Your organizations are both leaders in this space. TD is definitely leading digital across Canada. You have won numerous awards. Citi’s the leader in the U.S., numerous awards on your digital and data capabilities.

Hossein Rahnama:
So when you hear that question that it’s definitely predictable that these big tech companies, they want to have access to financial data, they can get regulated as financial institutions, and they may want to compete with you leveraging data and digital and user experience assets. What could be your strategy there? Will you form alliances leveraging the physics of data? Will you do organizational transformation to turn the bank into a tech company? We’ll be curious to kind of get your very high level view on how you see that potential dynamics in the future before we go and talk about communities and I please ask the attendees, if you have any questions, please feel free to type it on the QA section. So Rizwan, maybe we start with you and then go to Yassi.

Rizwan Khalfan:
Well, I’d start by saying five years ago, the headlines were FinTechs are going to eat the banks’ lunch, and then slowly the headlines changed to say FinTechs are now breaking bread with the banks and new partnerships were formed, new ecosystems were formed, and banks partnered with the FinTechs, for mutual results and mutual benefit in terms of serving our customers. I think, to me, the big tech is already in banking. So it’s not they will come into banking. You can pick any one of them, and you can see clear signs, depending on the services they offer that they are in.

Rizwan Khalfan:
Now, I know for a fact that none of them really want to be in banking, but they’re in banking because they feel that they can serve customers better. There’s friction, especially in aspects of payments. There’s friction in aspects of lending, that they’re trying to solve for. So the way we look at it is that we need to raise our game, like we did when the FinTechs were a threat. We now have a different competitor who has care, who has capital, who has a massive user base, that they can leverage so what are we going to do differently?

Rizwan Khalfan:
And I come back to the fact that our differentiation is really the trust that we have with our customers. Now we never want to put the customer in a position where they are making a trade off between trust and convenience, and we have to raise our game from a convenience perspective, how we sell our customers, the experience we deliver. We are an experiential brand. And we have to raise our bar on how we deliver this personalized, connected experiences. I’d say being in the role that I’m in over a long period of time, you get to see the whole journey, and that’s the benefit and being a technologist, I actually felt that we created the best Design Center of Excellence at TD, amongst the banks, and that was our secret sauce, in terms of the Design Center of Excellence with the right designers.

Rizwan Khalfan:
I think the last few years, it’s all been about how do we leverage the data and incorporate data into design to deliver these experiences and remove the friction that currently exists, be where customers are. Look, we are partnering with not only FinTechs but also with big tech. Because if our customers are on those big platforms, we have to be there to be able to serve our customers in a way that uniquely differentiates us, in a way that the customer feels, “Oh yes, TD has my back no matter where I am.” And so, I look at it as an opportunity, as big tech emerged in the financial space to say existing incumbents like TD need to step up and we are to leverage data design incorporated in a way that we can differentiate our experiences in the market.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
Yeah, I fully echo what Rizwan said. I think the foundations of it is number one, again, trust. I would say it’s easier to build technology than to buy trust. And that’s the starting point. It’s tough but I think it will always be on the side for banks because they have that trust and during the pandemic, we saw it yet again. However, having said that, there are already banking that fully echo that, NVR consumers of their technology solutions, a lot of banks, some more progressive, some others, you look at BBVA, look at Capital One that are fully migrated towards the cloud, a lot faster, nimbler.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
I think the bigger high street banks such as us, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan, yes, we have to catch up still. And my expectation is on the back of the crisis, that you’re going to actually prioritize and accelerate our execution, our current investments in the digital data on overall technology, architecture space, because that’s what the biggest sort of slowdown has been, trying to implement in existing legacy environments.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
But we see as the cloud journey is going to pick up for the remaining institution the next few years, you’re not going to have a showstopper anymore, and you’re going to be always probably slower in a bit but not much slower than them. Yes, we will not be able to deploy updates every single day multiple times, but we’re going to have much more frequent product iterations and experience iterations than used in the past. The trust is already there. And I think if you just expand that into also really leveraging the cross organizational insights effectively for omnichannel experiences, I would say it’s a big pie that everybody can have a space in it. It doesn’t mean that one side is eating up and destroying the other, personally.

Hossein Rahnama:
Thank you. The last part, which is something very interesting to us at Flybits, both in terms of the R&D work that you’re doing and also planning the growth of the company is the role that banks can play in the revival of their communities. I mean, both of your banks have very strong branch networks. And there are lots of discussions even among economists that the reboot of the economy, a lot of it will be dependent on small businesses and smaller organizations and entrepreneurs.

Hossein Rahnama:
So when I look at the role that a branch is playing today, a lot of their community members are going there to deposit checks, they develop personal relationships. And when I think about the future and the role that these branches can play, can they actually measure the wellness and the well being of their community, enabling their community members to go and invest in their local businesses, and then through that network effect that they create, they contribute to the revival of their community and because they are very data driven and quant driven, can these branches be used to measure and even compare communities together to drive things such as entrepreneurship, leveraging things such as token economy?

Hossein Rahnama:
So this is an area that is very close to our heart at Flybits, lots of great work is being done by great leaders like Professor Sandy Pentland, who is also working with us at MIT Media Lab about how can you really leverage financial organizations also as data vaults and contribute to the health and the well being of their communities.

Hossein Rahnama:
I would love to kind of get your opinion there and not necessarily about immediate things right now, but in terms of your thought leadership in terms of where the industry can go and the role that banks can play now that they are a proxy between government relief programs, citizens and residents in need, and governments, of course, do not have all the resources to personalize these financial relief programs for individuals. I would love to see your opinion about the bank’s role and especially branch networks in monitoring and contributing to the health and well being of their community. So Rizwan, maybe we start with you, and then we go to Yassi.

Rizwan Khalfan:
Yeah, no, absolutely. I’m very aligned to the thinking, where the branches have played a significant role within communities. And in a lot of cases, the relationship with our customers, be it retail or business, has been generational, and has kind of grown over the years where, whether it’s me or my children, you’re both the same branch. There’s so many cases where, even if you move neighborhoods, you end up still going to the same branch, and it’s not only the fact that there are certain things that you can only do in the branch. It’s the fact that you build an intimate relationship with the organization that you trust.

Rizwan Khalfan:
And on a go forward basis, I think developing an ecosystem around communities, to connect businesses with customers, is a huge opportunity. And we want to play a bigger role. We play a significant role. And I think as a bank that has strong relationships with both businesses and customers, serving as the connectivity, can not only help the economy, help our customers, but also allow us to play a bigger role on a go forward basis.

Rizwan Khalfan:
So I think that’s the thinking on our side. It’s easier said than done, back to the idea that most banks of our size are within each business line, whether it’s retail, business or wealth or insurance, are trying to figure out the data within each of these silos. We need to break down the silos. We don’t have a choice and we need to kind of flip the data. And this is much more doable, in where that you can actually see the customer across all your lines of businesses and you become even more customer centric. And once you start to go down that data transformation, you start to see these opportunities that you can play a bigger role in connecting businesses to potential customers and elevating your role in society.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
I agree. I think look, for me personally, it doesn’t even have to come to the physical aspect of the branch trying to drive the change physically in the community. I think the data is already there, so we gather because we are playing in both domains. We provide consumer experiences and services and we provide small and medium sized business products and services. But what we haven’t done in the past is to really bring all of that together to understand who are these customers, who are the businesses in their community, and what do they like to buy? What do they like to consume in that community?

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
That’s why when you look at, for example, credit card rewards programs and the likes, we haven’t done an efficient job to try to actually prompt our customers to take on more services and your respective community. I think there’s been a wake up call during the pandemic, if you actually want to try our small and medium sized businesses, because we know they’re the crown jewel for our economy, for our job growth, for our prosperity. And I think consumers even out of their way continue their membership fees for the local gym or continue doing the takeouts of the restaurants because they wanted to support those services.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
And lesson learned for us, we need to do a better job I think on this credit card and rewards business, connect these offers with the customers, prompt them that there is a better opportunity in your own community to foster that. I think secondary, especially in the communities where there is a lot more poverty issues and social inequities that you’re saying, African American or Latino communities in the United States, there is a fundamental question of do we understand how we can help them towards more economic growth, both sides, by the way, the businesses with the right products and lending space, in business banking products, but also on the consumer side, if there are already indebted consumers, maybe we should not market the next credit limit increase to them, because you’re pulling them more and more into debt.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
And then they shouldn’t be surprised that they’re showing up on the next payday loan provider door, and getting them set themselves even deeper into the vicious cycle. But maybe they should leverage other tools that we have. We launched for example, at Citi just recently with our Citi Ventures side and Hossein, you know very well the Citi Ventures Studio Team launched something called Worthi. It’s a digital platform that shows you what skills you can get to make what type of income and as people are out of jobs and rethinking their careers, by the way, both for individual consumers and small and business owners, this is the time to get these types of services from their bank. Bank of America opened all the doors for Khan Academy and courses and you’re doing it with Worthi. But ultimately, if you want to help both sides to earn more, and ideally spend it in the community, you have the data for the latter. And for the former, we need to provide them the tools and platforms.

Hossein Rahnama:
That’s great. Thank you, Yassi. I’m seeing that we have some great questions and I want to make sure that we can address them. So perhaps I’m going to ask my colleague Jannine to help us and read the questions in the remaining 10 minutes that we have. Jannine, I’ll leave that with you to start with the questions.

Jannine Krish:
Thanks, Hossein. We have a couple great questions here. One of the questions is from Coralles. And Coralles asks, how much does the role of a brand actually play into all of this? So specifically, your core brand values. I know both of you’ve touched on trust. So can you speak to that a little bit more?

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
It’s very important. Yeah, it’s very important that you build brand, equity and brand loyalty over a long period of time. So you never open your door to business and people immediately trust you. I think it’s an emotional relationship journey, so the entity that provides a service does one good deed, the receiver gets a little bit of trust, you do another one, and you do another one and another one and the trust goes off.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
So what we’ve seen in the past is sometimes we do a great job, and sometimes they do a lousy job. We learn from it and you try to enhance it for those who haven’t had that problem yet, hence this entire focus around customer experience improvement, friction points, journeys, et cetera, et cetera. So I think once you get to the point where yes, you have a good loyal clientele, then you can deepen, dig in deeper and deeper to expand that trust into new domains, maybe vertical products, they have vertical businesses, which is exactly what Amazon has done, come again as being an e-retailer, and then they started becoming almost a lender, and the likes of also Facebook has done in the past. And that’s what banks have also built. We started being a retail bank and we expanded into a business bank and we expanded to being a corporate bank. You may be on the board of McDonald’s, and then you have your entire banking relationship with us. So it’s very, very important. And it’s a never ending game. You have to keep investing in it and learning from mistakes to not do them again.

Jannine Krish:
Thank you very much.

Hossein Rahnama:
Maybe the next question for Rizwan.

Jannine Krish:
I’ll move to the next question so we can tackle them. This question comes from Surab. I’ll ask this to Rizwan. Are banks planning to modify your product suite predicting change in customer behavior and the interaction pattern with customers? If so, are they planning to build in house capabilities or collaborate with FinTechs? So changing customer behavior and how is this impacting?

Rizwan Khalfan:
Absolutely. I mean, we’ve done that previously and we’ll continue to do so. And I know that when we talk about products, we’re thinking about specific products, but customers don’t think about products. Customers think about solutions to meet their needs. And I think, to some extent, the industry has always kind of pivoted towards products. But I think, going forward, the way we think about it is what are the needs of the customers and how best do we bring the entire bank with a solution that best meets their needs. And this is a constant thing. It’s a constant evolution. You need to look at the data that you have on customer behaviors and continue to evolve your offering to stay relevant in the marketplace.

Jannine Krish:
Thank you. We have one question that came in via email, so maybe if you can each answer this in one point. You all touched on how the crisis has considerably accelerated digital transformation. However, agility may be challenging for some banks given their size. So how would you recommend leaders within banks can accelerate this process and start to not only say, “I want to be innovative.”, but they’re actually able to operationalize it.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
I would say big focus, processor engineering. You talk a lot about technology innovation, it’s easy to just go and deploy one application onto the cloud and claim it as a big innovation. What’s harder to do but needs time and needs focus in order to drive systemic change is to look at end to end processes in your organization, exactly hit the spot. Large organizations are suffering from many different departments that need to be part of anything and everything that gets shipped. With that comes supply chains that are also touching many different colleagues for approvals and governance. So the one thing that we need to invest in is process reengineering is simplification. That needs to go hand in hand to drive the agility.

Rizwan Khalfan:
I have a slightly different opinion. So in addition to process engineering, cloud architecture, et cetera, I think the one thing we’ve learned in which Yassi pointed out earlier is in large organizations, we tend to get consensus in all decision making. And through code, we were able to cut through that, and the accountability of the decision making was very clear, without taking any more risk than we normally would. And I think that’s a muscle that was built in the last three months within our organization, that we want to continue to nurture and grow, to be able to compete with whoever in the marketplace.

Hossein Rahnama:
Thank you. I see we have a number of other questions. But unfortunately we are running out of time. I’ll make sure that we can get back to the participants through email and answer their questions. But with that, I think there were some even great takeaways for me here, Yassi and Rizwan, the importance of digital adoption and digital transformation happening at the same time, the human element in digital and data transformation and not just technology, the importance of privacy and kind of the change of unit economic models around banks are great things that I think were takeaways for me and I’m hoping that you all enjoyed the conversation and the takeaways from our panelists. With that, I really appreciate you joining us today. Thank you, Yassi. Thank you, Rizwan for being with us. And I also want to thank my team at Flybits who pulled this together along with the team members from Citi and TD who helped us to organize this. Looking forward to staying in touch with you. You can contact our information channel at Flybits if you have any question and looking forward to share more information with you. With that, stay well, stay healthy, and all the best. Thank you.

Rizwan Khalfan:
Thank you.

Yasaman Hadjibashi:
Thank you very much. All the best.

Hossein Rahnama:
Alright. Bye.