An interview with Vaughn Richtor


Having delivered the opening keynote address for our Sydney Banking conference this week, ING Direct’s CEO sheds light on how rising customer expectations will shape the contours of financial services.

FST Media: What are your key priorities over the next 12 to 18 months?

Richtor: Our first priority is trying to always do the right thing by our customers – that means making it easier for them to manage their money, and to make the right financial decisions to help them get ahead in life. 

Growth is also a key focus area for us – we want Australians to enjoy banking with us so much that they not only choose us as their main financial institution but recommend us to their friends and family too. Customer advocacy, evidenced in part through our leading Net Promoter Score, is integral to the way we do business.

Customer equity is now a core part of all our propositions; we want to delight and reward our existing customer base as well as attract new customers. We aim to deliver consistently fair value and simple products to everyone who banks with us. 

FST Media: You spoke at FST Media’s The Future of Banking & Financial Services conference in Sydney, can you give us a snapshot of your presentation?

Richtor: The pace of change and innovation is moving so rapidly, that organisations can no longer take their time with research and delivery; they have to be increasingly agile to compete in the marketplace. Speed and constant innovation are both key to success. The question is: what is it that will ensure the sustainability of financial services in years to come? 

To have some way of answering that, we have to consider what customers will be looking for in 2025, what kind of environment they will be operating in and what technology will be available to support innovation. However, we need to constantly test our hypotheses with real customers and develop our solutions with them.

FST Media: In your view, how will rising customer expectations shape the contours of the financial services sector over the next 10 years?

Richtor: Digital technology is now ingrained in the way we do things. People see what Apple and Netflix are doing and they expect the same from their financial services provider. Already customers are largely dictating how we deliver our services, and the growth in popularity of mobile banking is just one example of this. 

We need to meet the expectations of the customer, but the challenge is to look beyond that and deliver products and services which customers may not know yet know they need or will value.

FST Media: What is the ‘holy grail’ that is yet to be delivered in financial services?

Richtor: Consumers are increasingly showing an appetite for taking control of their finances, so any innovations which assist them in this regard – not just with day to day banking but also around more sophisticated investments, including superannuation – will add value. I think we will see more of personal modelling tools, which allow people to plan more effectively for the future, as well as organisations delivering tailored solutions to customers;  solutions which cater to individual nuances via greater understanding of what individual customers value. 

FST Media: What are your thoughts on the growing prominence of P2P lenders like RateSetter and SocietyOne and their intelligent use of data? Do they represent a threat to banking incumbents or an opportunity for innovation?

Richtor: I do not know which of the new models will be successful. What we have to watch is how customers respond to these innovators and develop our own responses quickly based upon customer preferences. 

FST Media: What does disruption mean to you?

Richtor: For me, disruption means improving the customer experience and making things easier for our customers to manage their money. There is always the risk, with the technology we have available, of doing things because we are able to. However, what we should be doing is using technology to deliver value. 

We have introduced very few products over the 15 years since we launched in Australia, because we do not believe in doing things for the sake of it. We only want to do something if we can do it differently, and for the benefit of our customers – making things better for them. Making things complicated is very easy; but it takes real skill to make things simple. 

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

Richtor: Everyone at ING Direct is encouraged to make improvements daily for the benefit of the customer, which means keeping the customer front of mind at all times. We encourage people to step outside of their comfort zones and explore ‘what could be’. 

Innovation implies that you are doing something that has never been attempted before, and failure is part and parcel of trying something new. As such, no one in our team is ever criticised for attempting something great, even if they do not get there first time. We accept failure as a stepping stone to success, just as we celebrate our successes overall. 

FST Media: Every leader has a legacy they wish to be remembered for. What is yours?

Richtor: I am passionate about people and development, and believe it is incumbent on leaders to get the best out of their people and help them achieve amazing things. People want to learn and be challenged; they want to contribute to the success of the organisation. I am borrowing a phrase from Isaac Newton when I say I want to ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’. I want to see the people I have worked with achieve their full potential by helping them learn, grow and succeed. 

Vaughn Richtor spoke at FST Media’s Technology & Innovation – the Future of Banking & Financial Services event in Sydney this week, in addition to a distinguished panel of executives across financial services. For more insights and information about the event, click here.