‘Tech is just the enabler’
For more than 20 years, banking industry veteran Pere Nebot has held key roles in the information technology department at Spain’s leading bank. He said that hypervigilance is critical to remaining relevant in a sector that has been massively transformed by digital and this is no different at CaixaBank, Spain’s leading bank in digital customers.
CaixaBank continues to set the bar as one of the leaders in digital innovation and transformation. Its digital transformation strategy has earned it the accolade of being one of the highest-rated banks in the world based on the quality of its digital products and services. US magazine Global Finance named it as “one of the most innovative banks in Western Europe” in 2022.
CaixaBank is on a continuous digital transformation journey. It is exploring the use of several emerging technologies including big data, cloud, and blockchain to improve operational efficiency, diversify product portfolio, and enhance customer experience. At the heart of its digital philosophy is simplicity, its strategies focus on creating digital services that offer an uncomplicated, seamless customer experience. The bank’s strategic plan is focused on the customer and developing the best solutions while offering excellent customer service.
“You can change your digital ecosystem, you can change your legacy system, you can put AI in the mix, but in the end, it is about the purpose,” said Nebot. “You need to ask yourself what is it that you want to do with all the digital capacity. No matter what, transformation must be linked to the business strategy, tech is just the enabler.
“In the end banking service is about the customer; AI and blockchain are the technologies. Understanding the customer and designing the right proposition for them is key.”
Digital preparedness delivers
Nebot, who leads the 1,000-strong IT department responsible for IT across the entire financial services group, joined CaixaBank at a time when the bank was already focusing on digital transformation. The bank’s journey continues as digital innovations rapidly transform the sector.
Nebot said it is important to always keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to digital transformation. “It is essential that I keep up to date on what’s happening in industry and society, otherwise in five years if you don’t get any new insights, you are quickly out of date.”
No need to fear challenger brands
The evolution of fintech has given rise to challenger brands that offer consumers an online-only banking experience. While the challenger brands have shaken up the sector, Nebot believes when it comes to digital transformation, traditional banks can learn from the online-only banks who can be more nimble and agile.
“Challenger brands are not a threat; they help us to improve ourselves,” he explained. “They raise the bar of the user experience, forcing us to make things better. If we can change and improve in the same way as the digital entrants do, we will continue to be successful in the future.”
You can never know enough
Nebot takes time out of his busy schedule to attend in-depth courses whenever he can. He said that the insights he gains from programs such as Leading Digital Business Transformation (LDBT) provide him with the external perspective and knowledge that helps frame his approach at work and inspires opportunities to innovate.
Nebot, who attended LDBT in 2017, said what he learned then is still highly relevant today. The concepts of ‘hyper-awareness,’ ‘blind spots’ and ‘digital connections’ were of particular interest.
“You must be constantly aware of what is happening around you, but this doesn’t mean you have to apply it in your organization,” he said. “You do, however, need to be aware of what is happening.”
Nebot acknowledges that without data it is impossible to understand 100% of what is happening in an organization or in its systems. However, he said learning about the opportunity that data presents in identifying blind spots, that are not obvious at first sight, was fascinating.
Relating this to CaixaBank’s customers, he said that thinking that the bank’s twenty million customers would act in the same way would be a huge mistake. “With data, it is possible to identify the outliers, which highlights that it may be important to consider new ways of interacting with them.”
The importance of digital connections is only becoming more important Nebot said because with data you can create digital events, which can be used to connect different ecosystems. “Digital ecosystems are very powerful – not only to reduce costs, but also for creating new products, delivering services, and creating new customer experiences.”