Pollack: Congratulations on your recent appointment as Director of Product and Operations. What are your goals for the first 12 months in this newly created position?
Ruha: Thank you. I’m really enjoying the broad base of the role which encompasses operations, product, technology and security. These teams are all focused on delivering enterprise services to our front line businesses and supporting the wider bank. The main objectives for me are to ensure that we keep innovating, stay customer focused and support our front line to continue their great work.
Pollack: What do you anticipate will be the key challenges of the new role?
Ruha: Our challenges this year will centre around balancing our ambitions in technology investment, process efficiencies, product development and as always, cost control.
Pollack: The story at BNZ last year was ‘integration’. How is this consolidation of delivery channels progressing?
Ruha: BNZ has worked hard on giving our customers choice in the way they interact with us. Our recent upgrade of our store network included on-line functionality being built in store. We’ve added free WIFI access and Internet terminals to our new stores, which makes for easier access for customers and helps combine banking options in one place. We call it ‘channel within a channel.’
While it’s great to bring these channels together, we are always looking at new ways to make banking easier through innovation and adoption of new technology. A good example of this is our recent experiment in Near-Field-Communication (NFC) payments with Vodafone. Customers need faster, more personalised solutions for payments and the mobile channel has the potential to become a significant part of our banking future. We’re focusing on innovating and linking mobile back into online and in-store channels.
Pollack: What were the outcomes of the NFC employee trial with Vodafone?
Ruha: Our NFC pilot involved a group of some 50 staff from both BNZ and Vodafone. Trial participants were supplied NFC enabled handsets and asked to use them to make purchases at a couple of sites in Auckland and Wellington. We gained a lot of insight into the capabilities and requirements of a true mobile wallet and we’ll evaluate these findings while we consider our next steps.
Pollack: What does the future hold for BNZ with regard to mobile channels?
Ruha: As mobiles become an indispensable part of everyday life for our customers, we’re making sure we’re as up to the play as they are when it comes to banking on a mobile phone.
We have already enhanced our Internet banking with a dedicated mobile site and apps to provide a much richer experience for people using Internet banking on iPhones, Androids, iPads and other smartphones. In future, other channels will include TXT and we are reviewing and developing video channels and instant messaging that will support mobile customers.
Pollack: Do you see social media as a worthwhile retail banking channel and, if so, how can it best be utilised?
Ruha: Social media is an important tool for the bank for communicating with our customers. It allows us to look after the growing segment of customers who prefer to get in touch with us via social media.
People use social media to seek information about our products and services, ask a quick question or offer feedback. Because of the unique set of social parameters that surround social media, we’ve been careful to always be respectful and genuine in our use of these channels. We avoid hard sells and our aim is to be useful and always approachable. Of course, due to the heavily regulated and privacy sensitive nature of our industry, there are things we simply can’t do in the very public realm of social media, but this in turn provides opportunities to innovate.
Pollack: What IT skills are currently in demand at BNZ?
Ruha: We have three skill sets that we find difficult to fill: BMC monitoring analysts, telecommunications service coordinators, and helpdesk analysts. Whilst our recruiters get a great response from advertisements, sometimes the calibre of applicant is light on customer service ethic, energy and professionalism.
Currently our IT skills demand is at both ends of the technology wave. There is a high demand for the newer, more agile technologies that can significantly change the game or the value proposition for an organisation. At the other end there is a need to maintain and enhance our solid legacy banking systems which are providing many of the basic transactional services that we and our customers need.
With this in mind, it’s not surprising that our IT skills in demand tend to span a number of technologies including the Websphere integration layer, the newer Sharepoint, K2, .net and Java skill sets through to the older Cobol, Assembler and ObjectStar.
Pollack: What customer channels are proving to be the most effective for BNZ and which channels are growing the fastest?
Ruha: We’re seeing increasing demand in online, including mobile and phone banking channels as people gravitate toward self service. This has a downstream effect of slightly fewer people visiting our stores in the past year and a reduction of calls to our contact centre in 2011.
This reflects our efforts to get customers to use online and also our efforts to improve ‘first call resolution’ so that customer queries are addressed in their first call. Our store network accounts for the majority of our retail sales and remains a vital part of our business. We’ve invested in a nationwide upgrade of our stores and Partners Centres over the past couple of years, and the response to these upgrades has been fantastic.
Pollack: Every IT leader, particularly at your level, has a legacy they wish to be remembered for. What is yours?
Ruha: My legacy will be defined by the strength of my team and the solutions, innovation and support we provide to our customers and staff. Leading and empowering a talented team to drive excellence and leapfrog new technologies in a fast changing, global environment is a legacy to aspire to, and a challenge I will relish.
An Interview with Rogan Clarke, Head of Online, BNZ