An Interview with Jeremy Hubbard, Head of Digital, UBank

Jeremy Hubbard, UBank

“Cloud technology is really allowing us to have new levels of agility in the banking world. Right now, many of us are saddled with a two-speed IT system. On one hand, we have big legacy back-ends that make quick changes challenging. On the other hand, we have this new ability to be nimble with cloud native applications…”


FST Media: What are your business and digital priorities for the next 6 months?

Hubbard: Our vision is to be Australia’s most referred brand. So, our focus is firmly focused on working towards this goal and putting customers first in everything we do. That starts with creating a simpler, better, smarter banking experience for our customers, and taking the pain points out of banking. We’re also looking at how we can create new and innovative experiences that will empower customers to manage their finances more effectively.

The second area we’re focusing on from a digital point of view, specifically, is experimenting more. We’ve just launched a new refer-a-friend campaign on Facebook which allows customers to refer potential customers for a UBank home loan and receive a $300 eftpos gift card for each friend that settles a loan. To create this, we worked with the Facebook team and leveraged their APIs to design an easy interface and experience. We were able to take advantage of IBM’s platform as a service offering, Bluemix, to accelerate the build and deployment. From this experience we’re going to learn what works for our customers and we’ll use the insights to help us continue to deliver a consistently great experience.


 FST Media: What technology is proving to be the biggest game-changer across digital banking?

Hubbard: Cognitive computing and artificial intelligence coupled with application platform as a service (aPaaS) is proving to be a game-changer. The most important area that this allows us to tap into is meaningful personalisation. Personalisation is of course something we have been doing for some time, but up until now it has been quite generalised. Now, with the help of cognitive, we are able to deliver true personalisation for each customer and really make an impact. And, we’re going to be able to continue to do this at an ever-increasing pace.


 FST Media: How is cloud technology enabling new innovations to take force in banking?

Hubbard: Cloud technology is really allowing us to have new levels of agility in the banking world. Right now, many of us are saddled with a two-speed IT system. On one hand, we have big legacy back-ends that make quick changes challenging. On the other hand, we have this new ability to be nimble with cloud native applications and that is enabling a new speed of innovation. In addition to speed, the current cloud computing models have really lowered the barrier to entry, allowing us to experiment in a much more cost-effective way. It’s an exciting period for us as we work to ensure we can bring the two together and optimise our outputs.


FST Media: What are the key challenges banks face in developing resilient technology against fintech disruptors?

Hubbard: Luckily, UBank is a disruptor, so we are helping to drive change in the industry rather than try to keep up with it. But overall, resilience is a key factor – and the ability to continuously pursue new avenues that are going to make life easier and simper for your customers. The pace of change is now so significant and all of the innovations and advances that we’re experiencing make it critical that teams continue to try to keep up with it. And this has to happen in addition to the day job, which is challenging for any team.

I also think another barrier is culture. You need to have a culture that enables teams to move at a faster clip and keep up with the rate of change. As we’ve discussed, the technology is available so it’s about teams being able to grab it and implement it. And culture is currently holding back a lot of companies. It’s a critical mind-shift to make with a team and can help deliver tangible benefits to the customer and your business.


FST Media: Where do you see traditional banking in five years?

Hubbard: One interesting concept we’ve been keeping an eye on is the idea of the “invisible bank.” KPMG recently released a report suggesting that banks will be “invisible” by the year 2030. Hard to imagine that’s just 13 years away. Their view is that instead of the traditional model, the banking industry will operate more like personal assistants, gathering data about our financial commitments and helping customers forward plan. This concept may have seemed far-fetched a few years ago, but it is now a real opportunity thanks to the help of artificial intelligence (AI). It’s an exciting prospect, and one that I think will take shape even further in the next five years.


FST Media: How is UBank responding to the challenge of digital disruption?

Hubbard: UBank was actually borne out of this challenge and introduced with a clear mandate – to disrupt the banking industry.

But even though we’ve been a disruptor from the start, it doesn’t mean we can sit back and relax. We still need to challenge ourselves each day and stay ahead of the game at all times. From our inception as a challenger brand, launching the financial industry’s first digital mortgage, to our first housing app, we have been focused on solving our customer’s problems and delivering a better experience from day one.

And, this goes beyond just digital. It’s something we think about across the board at UBank. We must disrupt ourselves to stay relevant.


FST Media:  What does it mean for a company to stay ‘agile’ with its digital initiatives?

Hubbard: The first piece is around listening to our customer feedback no matter what. We need to ensure that we have processes and plans in place that allow us to make changes quickly if something we’re doing isn’t working. Part of this is tapping into the “fail fast” mentality and genuinely leveraging it. We are very focused on coming up with new opportunities for our customers and delivering on them quickly – not waiting for long product cycles. And with that comes an acceptance that not everything will be exactly right, but that we will learn and improve quickly.


FST Media: What are you hoping to achieve from your presentation at the FST Media Banking Summit?

Hubbard: I am leading the “Banking on Cloud” peer to peer discussion during the summit, so I look forward to a great discussion with the team about some of the things we’ve spoken about today. How are cloud native applications changing the game for the industry? What successes are people seeing to date? How are teams managing the two-speed IT system to make the most of what cloud is able to deliver?


FST Media: What is the next big thing for UBank and how will you measure its success?

Hubbard: It’s really about embracing the fail fast mentality and delivering new innovation to market quickly. We will measure ourselves on how quickly and efficiently we can make improvements in our customers’ lives.


FST Media: What is the best career advice you’ve received?

Hubbard: The best advice I’ve received is to be a leader that trusts his team, rather than one that waits for that trust to be earned. The way I think about it, if I’ve gone through the process of hiring someone and decide to offer them a role, I should trust that person’s ability to deliver. And give them the space to effectively reach his or her full potential. A lot of leaders sit back and wait for someone to prove themselves and then extend that trust. But this can be a strategic error as then you really hold someone back and don’t encourage them to do their best from the outset.