On Monday Jane Fraser spoke to Sopnendu Mohanty, the Chief FinTech Officer of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), about the importance of Singapore and Asia to Citi, both because of the wealth creation taking place there as well as the talent. Like Citi, BNY Mellon is another long-standing member of the financial services community which continues to keep its eyes on Asia’s development. And since 2018, when Singapore launched the Smart Nation initiative, the country, much like BNY Mellon, has been helping its people be Digital Natives.
A few months ago, Todd Gibbons, CEO of BNY Mellon, had a discussion with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft about some of the challenges that the company was facing and how they were solving them:
“Fintechs have the advantage, they get to start on Day 1 in the cloud. We don’t. Large banks are now taking advantage of cloud services more than ever, but we still have a lot of legacy technology that we will have to deal with. That is not unique to us, I think that is typical of any major bank. I see that it is forcing us to maintain the discipline to set aside the investments that we are going to need to make us more efficient and more relevant as we go forward.
“We’re the largest manager of investment data in the world, by a large margin. And it’s a business that we’ve built in the last 25 years.”.
There are several important themes in what Gibbons is sharing with Nadella. Perhaps the one that resonates the most with our readers will be his appetite to continue investing in both the firm’s partnerships as well as ensuring his teams are more efficient going forward. And, bearing in mind the current pandemic, this clearly means increasing the pace of digital transformation.
One of the key individuals at BNY Mellon who has a big role in both Innovation and Partnerships is Hans Brown, Head of Enterprise Innovation and Chief Information Officer for Corporate Technology at BNY Mellon. Hans sat down with #Disruptionbanking to share in more detail some of the key themes he is involved with at the firm.
“When COVID struck we were in a position, by virtue of our investment in our platforms, our technology and our operating system; that our CIO was able to get 95% of our c.48,000 employees across the globe to work from home within 2 weeks.” Brown started by sharing.
“The Bank is 236 years old and I look at the ‘Institutional DNA’ that it needed to survive that long. It is natural to conclude that it must have the ability to transform, innovate and be adaptable, in its’ DNA. Moving all our employees to work from home so quickly is a great example of our adaptability that also reflects on our culture.
“Culture is the real operating system of our company.”
Brown also shared a few thoughts about how BNY Mellon has positioned itself in the market:
“We’re the largest manager of investment data in the world, by a large margin. And it’s a business that we’ve built over the last 25 years.
“For those things that we do that nobody’s better at, we double our efforts and we enhance, we accelerate, we look at our market position, and we push it further.
“Look at our collateral management business and what we are doing as an asset servicer. The actual outcome is made better when we source specific capabilities to enhance what we do, which creates an even better outcome for our client.
BNY Mellon is a trusted partner for many clients around the world, and Brown tells us how the outbreak of the global pandemic impacted their ongoing digital transformation:
“COVID was a stimulus, and how you are able to respond defines you as an organisation. It has helped accelerate our entire digital enterprise, with our employees invested in how we transform every process, every client interaction, every product and how we digitise them further.
“The philosophy that we have in our approach we call OMNI, and OMNI creates an interconnected global network that brings together leading solutions and tools across all investment processes, and helps a client scale and grow their businesses at speed. OMNI stands for ‘open modular network and integration’. It helps our clients power their own growth, through distribution, data analytics, it helps them look at their efficiency and their resiliency, it helps them drive their own agility, so that they can remain nimble. And the more my client is nimble, the easier it is for me to be able to help.
“And an example of some of the ways we are open as an organisation is Eclipse collections:
“If you think about the open source ecosystem, the Java Eclipse collections are one of those. We have three Java champions within the organisation and they’re helping to advance the eclipse collections. And this is entirely open source and available to anybody.
“Openness has got to be more than just saying you’re open, you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to be involved. If I think about a real open architecture approach, one of the things we loved about working with Symphony, is because it’s open:
BUILDING THE NETWORK THROUGH A PARTNERSHIPS PHILOSOPHY
There are lots of acquisitions that #DisruptionBanking has covered. We asked Brown to explain more about how BNY Mellon is leveraging its partnerships where many others are buying up tech and analytics firms:
“Our approach and philosophy is slightly different. We have a very partnership driven approach. For instance we’ve announced partnerships with companies such as EZOPS:
“EZOPS has come in and helped apply AI to the process of reconciliation.” Brown elaborates.
“Depending on what it is, obviously, there’s always the possibility of making acquisitions. But the partnerships philosophy of creating that really open modular network approach requires a huge amount of investment in partnerships. We have a partnership with Microsoft, we have partnerships with EZOPS, we have partnerships with Symphony, we have lots of partnerships that bring capability. Being open to the world is the way that we’ll do the best possible job for our clients.”
“It is all part of the cultural DNA of the organisation and how we are trying to continue our digital transformation. It’s not a part time endeavour. It’s something that you’ve got to be really committed to. And you’ve got to be able to see the outcome. During the recent discussions between Satya Nadella of Microsoft and our CEO, they talked about creating. Not creating a ‘know it all culture’, but creating a ‘learn it all culture’. This sentiment resonates, I think, with a lot of the organisation in terms of how we build on what we’ve learned. Using it to accelerate us, which gives us more learning, which allows us to go even faster, and then creates a type of virtuous loop.
“We spent a lot of time building, and creating resilience: a resilient technology infrastructure, creating this digital first approach, which has three legs: the people, the operating system, the culture.
“Now, that’s not to say the job’s done, I’m an engineer, so the job is never done. As an engineer, there’s no working system that can’t be made better. People say if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. No, it’s not broken, but let’s make it better. There’s no system out there working, that can’t be made better, we can still be better.” Brown emphasizes.
Innovation Hubs get some bad press as was humorously discussed at a panel during last year’s #Money2020 in Amsterdam, another aspiring Digital City. Brown elaborated about how BNY Mellon’s Innovation Hub works:
“Our approach has been very outcome led. It is about how we create the cultural DNA, the innovation comes from the investments in the infrastructure that accelerates it in turn. If you set it up right, what tends to happen, is that the Innovation Centre, in its true sense of the word becomes a catalyst. In any chemical reaction, the catalyst accelerates the reaction without necessarily always taking part in the reaction itself.
“We use our Innovation Hub to engage with our clients too. We often engage in collaboration sessions with our clients. And hope to do so again soon.“
THE RISE OF THE DIGITAL NATIVES
A few weeks ago Brown spoke to Todd Gibbons about the implications of how society is even more digitally interconnected than ever:
Gibbons highlighted during the discussions how he thought it was: “so critical that our employees be digitally native”. Brown elaborated further on the growing importance of digital journeys and OMNI at BNY Mellon:
“I look at culture as the real operating system of a company, The greater the investment we make in training, making our employees better. And however we define better, the greater the outcome. So we are investing in how we look at people experience and training feedback loops. Technology’s been at the heart of this.
“We have launched an Olympics of learning across the entire organisation. Just one of the initiatives we are working on.
“Our people are our greatest asset, we are investing in making sure that our people continuously get access to the things that make them more productive, that make them better. We are looking at how to provide the infrastructure that helps them collaborate better, now we’ve all moved virtually.
“There isn’t a time zone that we don’t operate in, and everywhere is different. But the tools and the infrastructure that are available to everybody are the same.
“If my work experiences are tethered to a desktop, then that needs to change. Can I have collaboration sessions that are available on any device at any time that I want? Can I have the system channels that allow me to integrate with my teams, irrespective of where they are in the world? Do I have the ability to find information? It’s the operating infrastructure, that cultural OS, and we’ve been investing a huge amount of time and effort in getting it right. So, during this pandemic, we’ve had really good feedback in terms of what our employees are experiencing at home, and how they are experiencing our technology.
“And we are interested in understanding how they work from home. How many lines of code developers are able to write versus what they would write if they were in the office, the line between their ‘in- home’ experience and their office experience. The challenge becomes the better the investment, the more seamless it looks. This is the real art of creating a true digital experience. It shouldn’t feel complicated. It shouldn’t feel like there is any friction. It should just feel natural, like what we’re doing on this video call.
“And coming back to the definition of somebody who is a digital native. I think it is anybody that obsesses about the experience. And if you think about what all these startups and these digital native companies have been doing during this wave of transformation. They’ve actually looked at the client journey mapping, and that journey mapping has become the focus. And I think what we’re seeing more and more now, are people who think about the client journey first.
“So journey mapping becomes paramount. Who will use this? How will they use it? Bringing the client experience to the front and centre of focus.”
BNY Mellon is a finalist at the Singapore Fintech Festival FinTech Awards with an extension to its Global Risk Solutions Exposure and Structural analysis product providing information about how a portfolio is scoring against ESG and sustainability metrics. The announcement will take place on the 10th of December and before Hans will be speaking on a panel about ‘Keeping the Organisation Culture Alive Amid Covid-19’.
We asked him to tell us more about the importance of Singapore to him and to BNY Mellon:
“For instance, BNY Mellon is a member of the Veritas Consortium, which looks at truth and ethics in AI in collaboration with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
“Singapore has a good ecosystem, in terms of its relationship with organisations, the way the MAS is structured, and just think about the Singapore FinTech Festival, it’s the biggest thing since sliced bread. So, Singapore has a good infrastructure, a good ecosystem. And we want to bring some of what we’ve learned out in Asia. We’ve learned a lot of lessons watching what’s happened in Asia, with their ability to go digital first, and we bring that learning back to the US.
“On the other hand, the US has a good level of maturity in how it has digitised, and we can take that level of maturity back into Asia. We have an opportunity to be multiplicative in our approach.
“I spent seven years in Singapore, I learned a lot. I’d like to learn the same amount here in the US, and then make the outcomes for the bank become a multiplicator as opposed to just additive.”
Originally from West Africa, Brown is privately a Liverpool football fan and fondly compares his achievement of covering four continents, with Liverpool’s English league title success this year. Having started his career in the UK, before moving to Singapore for 7 years and most recently to the United States, to New York. He has now been at BNY Mellon for almost 11 years.
If he could choose which player he would be that compares to his role at the firm, but currently playing for Liverpool FC, he would choose to be Jordan Henderson, the midfield engine.
“The role that I play both as the CIO for Corporate Technology as well as being head of enterprise innovation, it’s literally quarterbacking and leading the team through the next match, the next innovation. If I consider it, I’m pretty lucky. I’ve got Mo Salah in every position.
“It’s one of those where when we spent the time getting the people right, getting the operating system right, getting the technology right. And then we try to be open and listen, we actually get the right outcomes. And so I’m thrilled whenever I hear somebody say, you guys are doing so much. And it’s like, thank God, because that’s, like, that’s the stuff that’s successful. Just like winning the next match for Liverpool.”
Brown also is passionate about ‘Multiplier leadership’, and looks to individuals like Todd Gibbons and Satya Nadella for inspiration for his own leadership style.
“The success of the team comes through people right at the front end, banging the goals in, writing the code. My job is to allow their effects to be multiplied and to anchor them and allow them to be successful. My job is to enable their success, that is what real leaders care about.” Brown concludes.
Make sure you stay tuned to the Festival to hear more about how financial services companies like BNY Mellon are digitising during 2020, and what challenges they are facing.
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Author: Andy Samu