An Interview with Stuart Beaumont, Global Head, Voice & Virtual, Standard Chartered Bank


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

Beaumont: I’m responsible for transforming how we deliver service and improve service standards in Standard Chartered’s client contact centres across 23 locations in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. A lot of these improvements will be delivered through technology so our clients can enjoy a better banking experience. 

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

Beamont: As global head of Voice & Virtual, I’m responsible for transforming how we deliver service and improve service standards in Standard Chartered’s client contact centres across 23 locations in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. A lot of these improvements will be delivered through technology so our clients can enjoy a better banking experience.

A key priority for us is to make sure our clients feel a genuine improvement when they interact with us. We will be rolling out video banking and fingerprint and voice biometric technologies across multiple markets by year end, which will make banking even more convenient and secure for them. By instituting global standards, we will build more consistency across all our retail markets.


FST Media: What technology or innovation is proving to be the biggest game changer across financial services?


Beaumont: Personalisation is a big theme for us.  We no longer operate in an environment where clients must come to the bank and queue up in branches. Instead, it’s all about us going to the client, making it easy for them to deal with us and providing them with that personalised touch. That’s how we can retain our clients’ trust and faith. Some of the biggest technology game changers we are seeing in the contact centre space are:

Analytics –  It starts from knowing our clients and what they need.  By providing our consultants with the necessary information about our clients, they can have relevant and more meaningful conversations. So it’s offering to set up a sms payment alert when the client asks for a late fee waiver, or offering the client a savings product when they are saving up for a holiday.

Biometrics – It’s all about convenience and easy banking while keeping it secure. With biometrics, clients can access their bank balances, cards and investments, with just their fingerprint or voice. No more having to remember passwords or PINs.  

Convenient banking –  Video, chat, bots and other ways of interacting are vitally important in a world where time is precious and clients want immediate responses from their bank. Within just 8 weeks of launching video and chat banking in Singapore and Malaysia, we were already handling more than 4,000 client interactions. Client feedback has been very positive so we know we are on the right track.


FST Media: How are you leveraging big data and analytics to meet the demand for customer-centric solutions?  

Beaumont: Analytics help us understand and serve our clients better. If you use the client contact centres as an example, we use analytics to have better and more personalised conversations – we understand why the client is calling and can at times pre-empt their needs.  We can then route them to the best person who can help them with their enquiry. If we understand past history and behaviour, we can tailor our products and services more seamlessly. We can, at the right time, even proactively contact clients who might be interested in those products and services. A very interesting new area we are exploring is speech analytics which analyses speech patterns and key phrases. Are they sounding annoyed? Are they angry about something? This helps us understand real-time client needs and resolve issues more effectively.


FST Media: How are digital disruption and new innovations such as video banking transforming the finance industry?

Beaumont: It’s transforming the way clients manage their financial needs.  Banking is empowering clients to manage their financial affairs on the go.   Clients using video banking are able to securely interact with banking consultants face-to-face via video while enjoying the flexibility and convenience of banking from any location using their laptop. In the past, clients would prefer to purchase products from a brick and mortar branch, they are now more likely to buy products over video as they can ask questions and get immediate feedback, but in the comfort of their home. In selected markets, our Priority Banking clients can use video banking to consult “face-to-face” with investment advisors to explore new wealth management opportunities. Both banking consultants and clients can even upload and share forms and other documents as if they were in the same location.

We believe the human touch provided by video and chat banking will improve client satisfaction. We are already seeing very positive feedback from clients saying they like the convenience and speed of response offered by video and chat banking.


FST Media: Where do innovation and retail banking strategy meet?

Beaumont: They go hand in hand.  Retail banking strategy must be centred on innovation.   Banking is now changing yearly, coming from an era where banking hadn’t changed significantly in 50 years.  Banks need to differentiate their offering and experience and we all strive to offer the next level of security, convenience and product capability.  Innovation can therefore not exist solely in a lab – it’s about getting client insights, delivering solutions which meet client needs, testing it with them and rolling it out quickly. 


FST Media: Where do you look for emerging technology trends?

Beaumont: We actively partner fintechs in all the most important emerging technology trends – whether it’s in payments or cards or Blockchain or analytics or biometrics, so are very much involved in the latest developments. We also observe other retail industries – what’s happening in telco, energy, travel today will happen in banking in the near future. The lag is getting shorter and shorter!

We also ‘talent scout’ for the most promising starts up through our accelerator programmes. For example, in Hong Kong, we have launched the SuperCharger FinTech Accelerator Programme, in partnership with Baidu and TusPark Global Network. In Singapore, we have opened the eXellerator, the Bank’s Innovation Lab. The eXellerator works closely with the Bank’s business units to explore the use of emerging technologies to solve business issues. Standard Chartered has also invested in a technology outpost in San Francisco which connects ‘technopreneurs” and start-ups in Silicon Valley with business units of the Bank.


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

Beaumont: Success breeds success and a desire to do more. We have launched a slew of new technologies in the last 6 months which have transformed the client experience – Retail Workbench, fingerprint and voice biometrics, video and chat banking, new mobile and online banking platform in Africa. This has created a strong sense of achievement and a desire to keep going.  It wasn’t easy at first convincing a 160 year old bank that banking needed to change.  Our teams are now centred on Digital and our vocabulary reflects our desire for positive change.  The fact that “Voice & Virtual” is the term used to describe traditional call centres shows our drive to create change.Our teams are also given the capacity to be creative.  They are rewarded for execution and encouraged to challenge the status quo. 

We have hired a lot of new talent in the past 18 months coming from various industries.  We have made a conscious decision to not hire only bankers, but rather focus on domain expertise, including myself who has come from outside banking, so we have diverse ideas and expertise driving the change.


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

Beaumont: Action is better than talk.  Those who talk a good game but fail to deliver will eventually be found out.  If you aspire to be respected over the long term and continue an upward career journey then you must let your actions do the talking. Never take a comfortable role when presented with an opportunity.  Reach outside your comfort zone, challenge yourself and you will learn more than any training course can offer.  It could be a more senior position, an alternate discipline, a turnaround/transformation opportunity, or a new country/location.  You will thank yourself later for the learning gained and the opportunities that continue to present themselves.