An Interview with Aman Narain


Bhattacharya: What are Standard Chartered’s more notable innovations used to combat online identity fraud and theft?

Narain: Online fraud and identity theft it something we take very seriously at Standard Chartered and we continue to revisit our standards to make sure they are rigorous and hold up to the ever changing online security landscape. One of the most notable technologies we use is two-factor authentication using SMS technology. This is something we have been operating in many of our markets and will be implanting across all markets this year.

There are a number of technologies used to conduct two-factor authentication, but SMS offers us the ability to offer customer awareness and convenience. In addition we are working on enhancing communication to our customers around online security including creating an interactive security advice section on the web which will complement our award winning security edu-game targeting younger customers (

Bhattacharya: In a recent interview you spoke about anchoring the power of social media within financial services. How has Standard Chartered adopted social media within its IT strategy to enhance customer satisfaction and retention?

Narain: I think it would be fair to say that most financial services institutions, including Standard Chartered, are in a discovery / exploratory stage with social media. We have had some very encouraging initial results with projects (including a campaign to raise HIV / Aids awareness through a micro site and also in engaging customers to experience our online services in UAE and have a few very exciting projects due to go live in the next two quarters. These will help us better understand how to utilise this medium to drive meaningful and engaging interactions with our customers and the wider community.

While we believe that social media is here to stay it is important to recognise it is still evolving. With that in mind we are focussed on learning from these projects and introducing enabling technology. A good example of this is web services that allow our traditional systems to talk to these new and emerging technologies. Leveraging the platforms that the like of YouTube provide us for serving content to consumers, along with these new technologies will be key to enhancing customer satisfaction and retention.

Bhattacharya: What do you foresee as the next big thing in internet and mobile banking?

Narain:  There is no crystal ball to predict the next big thing with certainty. I do think that on the internet we will see a real shift in focus in engaging customers in a two way dialogue using social media platforms. Here, I believe many will try this but few will get it right. In terms of online sales we will see more viral campaigns and engaging tools that focus more on the customer’s needs and less on the product or service.  In terms of access – the ability to have a consolidated relationship view across multiple countries and banks will probably become more mainstream. Currently a few banks are pioneering this capability including Standard Chartered with a feature called Global Link, that lets you see and move money to your accounts with us across the world  (  One potential trend we are also looking at is the personal financial management space where there has been a lot of progress made in the US and part of Europe and Australia.

With mobile, the next big thing we have been all waiting for is the development of ecosystems revolving around person-to-person payments and remittance. There are a few regulatory concerns here which will need to be addressed by the industry. Once these are done it will open massive opportunities. We also see the development of rich mobile applications that utilise emerging capabilities like location based services to offer better and more contextual services and sales. Finally we have also been watching the development of augmented reality on mobile recently and the mind boggling possibilities it offers.

The wrapper for all this innovation will have to be a great user experience. I am confident success will not just be determined by what great technology is brought to customers but rather who manages to adopt these new emerging technologies to simplifying the interaction and making it easy to use.

Bhattacharya: Given the growing adoption of 3G mobile technologies and an estimated 4.5 billion worldwide mobile phone users by 2012.  How does Standard Chartered plan to harness the potential of this budding user base?

Narain:  We are excited about the opportunity mobile provides us in terms of our ability to meet the “on the go” needs of our customers. Our focus has been on providing basic mobile alerts services (SMS and email) and we have one of the most comprehensive alerts services live in over 25 countries. These are available free of charge to our customers and help them manage and control their money effectively. We are working on further simplifying subscription to these services with bundled offerings and easy to use web subscription in many of our markets. In most of these markets we also offer “pull” SMS and USSD services. The growing adoption of 3G gives us the opportunity to provide all the functionality of the online site on a mobile device. We are live today in five markets with a mobile web solution optimised for Blackberry and Nokia devices. In parallel we are working with mobile providers to offer a full suite of services optimised for smart phones.

Bhattacharya: Standard Chartered recently introduced a number of Web 2.0 capabilities designed to enhance customer service and increase the banks market reach (Financial Health Check Online and the Rich Internet Mortgage Application).  What has this yielded thus far; and do you see mobile banking enhancing Standard Chartered’s market reach?

Narain:  It is still early days but the results are encouraging and as with social media have taught us a lot about using new and more engaging tools across multiple countries. For banks, the ability to provide richer content to customers whether on the web or on mobile is no longer a nice to have but rather a need to have. However, in addition to building rich and engaging tools the way we go about it is very important in order to allow for flexibility across platforms. A good example of this is our ATM locator which we built as a rich app that uses Google maps to plot ATM’s and Branches available to customers. We took this core feature and then added a credit card promotion capability on top of that allowing customers to see the latest card promotions. Now we are putting all of that on a mobile device. Its exciting stuff and specifically as we are able to continuously improve and build on the capabilities to provide better services to our customers.

Bhattacharya: What strategies have you established in order to remain abreast with, and potentially adopt, the swift technology changes within the internet and mobile landscape?

Narain:  I refereed to some of the enabling technologies like web services which will certainly allows us to develop and move faster in the near future. However I am a firm believer that it is not just the technology but also the people and organisations we work with that help us be swift across the online and mobile space. We increasingly use tech pioneers to address individual technology challenges. In the mobile space these are smaller niche players with infrastructural projects with larger technology houses. The most important criteria here is that we recognise that in a fast paced environment like internet and mobile often  the best skills are outside our organisations and not necessarily where we traditionally look for them. A great example recently was our global website revamp. After a few successful revamps with larger agencies we were able to locate an agency in Vietnam that helped us cut over 52 websites for a fraction of the cost in just 18 months.

Finally, I believe the most important ingredient we have been developing is the team we have in place to manage the internet and mobile. Two years ago we integrated the business and technology functions looking at these channels and since then we have had a significant jump in our productivity and ability to move faster than we have ever done. This combined with a young team (average age under 30), drawn from banking and retail technology, media and customer experience backgrounds, is a key to whatever success we have achieved or will in the months to come.

Bhattacharya: With the proliferation of Internet and mobile technology, do you see retail banking becoming a purely virtual service in the future?

Narain:  No. I am a firm believer that a bricks and mortars model must exist for the near term to medium term for retail full service banks like us to be successful. That does not mean to say that a Bank with a target direct offering will not be successful in Asia, Africa or the Middle East. However, we still operate in cash intensive environments that need a traditional infrastructure in place. Online and mobile will only continue to grow exponentially and I do see most of the servicing requirements being done on these virtual channels as well as basic product sales.

Bhattacharya: Every leader, particularly at your level, has a legacy they wish to be remembered for. What is yours?

Narain:  As we discussed the web and mobile is changing at a rapid pace creating great opportunities to build a channel that is truly engaging and customer focussed. My job is far from done but what I am motivated by is leading Standard Chartered’s online and mobile channels at this exciting time to tap this potential and offer our customers a truly differentiated experience. Doing that along with building a culture within the organisation that is focussed on delighting customers and constantly pushing the boundaries would be a nice legacy to reflect back on sometime in the future.