An interview with Bryan Meredith


Rabobank’s Head of Digital speaks to FST media about how Rabobank will harness the potential of social media to engage with a growing millennial customer base.

FST Media: What are your main IT priorities for the next 12-18 months?

Meredith: Our digital priorities at the moment are to complete the digital user system which we have been building. We are nearing the completion of the first phase of our digital strategy, which essentially has set up the infrastructure that will vastly improve the high speed market as well as performance functions of our digital assets at Rabobank going forward. We are at a point where we are nearing the completion of building the underlying infrastructure and heading into a focus on the speed and culture with which we make change in the future.

FST Media: What further developments can we expect to see within Rabobank’s digital marketing space and how will your digital strategy help enable that?

Meredith: Essentially, what we are focusing on is a far larger volume of content and personalised content. It is certainly our digital assets that will help enhance interaction rather than just basic content. The systems are there to support that type of digital marketing activity, but the focus going forward will be to build far more front-end development than we have focused on in the past.This will take place in both the general websites that we use but also across our mobile assets and as a multi-channel approach, focusing on enhancing customers’ interaction with the bank.

FST Media: What are your views on the role of mobile platforms and what role will mobile technology play in the overall customer experience at Rabobank?

Meredith: Mobile is a growing channel across most industries at the moment, and certainly in financial services we have seen a massive growth in that space over the past few years. Rabobank’s business is no exception. We have a mobile banking channel that was launched last year for RaboDirect. We will have a similar channel, another mobile banking channel launched for our Rabobank customers this year. However, we also note that the general search and information gathering behaviour of customers is not just a desktop or a single channel activity, and we need all of our digital assets to be able to serve them in the best way possible through whichever device customers are using to find it.

FST Media: How will Rabobank harness the potential of social media to engage with a growing millennial customer base?

Meredith: We have a number of different lenses on the potential of social media. We think of social media less in the context of just being social media channels that exist today – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – which do have their own value proposition for us. Last year, we announced the launch of our own social media channel, which focuses on the ability of our clients across the globe to be able to interact with each other. This interaction is not just with the bank, however, as a valuable proposition for those clients. For us, the channel is probably the most exciting development in social. Equally, we see social as a key aspect of how we interact internally as a business with each other.  

One of the key considerations for us is certainly how we would use existing social media, such as third party social media channels, to contact clients about information we may have for them, or to build relations and interact with them. 

FST Media: What is the most technology or innovation will have the greatest impact on the financial services industry in the near future?  

Meredith: Looking at the financial services industry over the next few years, we are focusing on how we are going to continue to move forward. Many of these emerging technologies that are appearing in the industry today are actually making the space noisier than it might need to be. Here at Rabobank, we are in a place where we want to consolidate and improve the way in which we do business and not be tied down to individual pieces of technology. Having said that, what is quite exciting is certainly things like quantum management systems, which are rapidly improving and the offering is becoming more holistic. We have the opportunity to integrate multiple channels through single systems, and that development, albeit a slow one and not necessarily a brand new trend, is probably the type that offers the most value for us at Rabobank.

FST Media: How do you encourage a culture of innovation in your team?  

Meredith: Having a culture of innovation is all about collaboration. What we want is essentially the systems and the applications that we use to be in the background to allow us to essentially transact or do business at the speed of thought rather than the speed of the systems’ operations. We are looking for the opportunities to be able to get people together – we want to have them thinking, coming up with good ideas and then being able to bring those good ideas to life. What we see are the steps we are taking in terms of the infrastructure we are putting in place, to being able to bring new ideas to life in the fastest way possible. Essentially, we see that infrastructure as the centrepiece of being able to allow people to innovate.

FST Media: What will payments look like in 2020?  

Meredith: I think there is certainly a lot of disruption happening in payments at the moment and there is plenty more to come. I would be surprised at this point if the banks will be the ultimate winners in that respect, but I think the consequences of disruption for Rabobank is probably a bit less than for the retail banks. I think that with the increasing disruption to the payments industry, this disruption is having an effect on our clients but it is not core to our business. I do think that the essence of open source systems and the ability for smaller players to be able to create new value added services will result in disruption in the near future.

FST Media: How are Rabobank looking into the use of data insights to enhance the overall customer journey? 

Meredith: We deal with data insights in a number of different ways. At RaboDirect, we have a need to understand our customers and who we are trying to target. We also want to determine whether we are attracting the types of customers we want, and that is very important for us in terms of how we grow our business going forward. At Rabobank, we are more interested in whether we offering the right amount of value to our clients and whether we are understanding what they truly want. We are looking at how they truly interact with us rather than making assumptions on the basis of the information we have had in the past. We are not necessarily using data to trigger next best offers, but what we are doing is using a lot of data to understand exactly what the customer experience is that we need to be building and whether this experience meets our customer demands.

FST Media: How significant is the role of technology in your everyday life? 

Meredith: I am not a technologist and I tend not to carry a phone around with me whenever I can avoid it. Interestingly enough, I try and steer clear of technology when I am outside of the workplace as much as possible. Having said that, it is not unusual for me to actually have some sort of device in my hand at some point, and I guess that comes down to the devices that are most interesting to me. The reality is the technology that is most interesting to me is the technology which is most seamless to my everyday life. Ultimately, that is the same role that I would like to see technology playing within our business and with our clients. At Rabobank, we are looking for the things that will create seamless experiences with technology not interruptive customer experiences. In this way, something that enhances our lives and enhances the things we want to do does not necessarily classify it as a gadget for the sake of being a gadget, or a technology for the sake of being a technology.

FST Media: Every leader has a legacy that they wish to be remembered for, what is yours?  

Meredith: I would like be remembered as a leader of change, and someone who was a champion of customer experiences rather than simply technology. I think it is very easy to get lost in the space amongst the ever-changing trends and new technologies coming out. Ultimately, I think I would like to be remembered as someone who has created real change, not just in technology but also from a cultural perspective.