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Innovation at the Forefront Equals Results

By Rachid Molinary, SVP of Digital Strategy and Innovation, Banco Popular de Puerto Rico

Rachid Molinary, SVP of Digital Strategy and Innovation, Banco Popular de Puerto Rico

As technology continues to evolve at neck-breaking speed, we hear a lot about concepts such as “customer centricity”, “disruption” and “digital transformation”, which might be trending buzzwords, but in fact have been at the core of the banking business for decades. Many years ago, the bank literally went to customers' homes by offering its services on wheels. Now, customers carry the bank with them on the palm of their hands through the new " mobile banking".

"Creating new things is easy, making things better is where the challenge lies"

Daily routines have shifted significantly as we have evolved into a digital world. Putting customers at the center of what we do has been crucial for continuous innovation and integration of new platforms that have revolutionized the way people behave, such as the Internet takeover, mobile devices and social media. As head of the Digital Strategy and Innovation division, I am committed to promoting the core values and spirit of constant evolution that has been part of our corporate culture from the very beginning that dates back over 120 years.

Our focus on innovation is not necessarily about being first to market but about adopting technologies that actually have an impact on our customers´ lives and the industry itself. Banking is not the most attractive thing to do but a necessary one. Our job is to make sure that our services are as efficient and effective as possible and, in accomplishing this, continuing to adapt our digital channels is vital. It is not about keeping up with tendencies but observing the interaction between people and the things they do throughout the day.

Technology has proven to be more than an expectation, but a way of life, and by default, the way of banking. Evolving form factors and emerging channels are in great part responsible for this. For example, just as easily as people are now able to request transportation or watch movies right from their phones, they also have the option to pay without using a card, making a deposit by simply taking a picture or configuring a withdrawal before reaching an ATM. These services are possible because we study how others adopt technology and how they offer their services so we can adapt relevant models within our industry. Customers expect to be able to manage their finances at the touch of a button and in just a few months we might be focusing on voice activated banking using devices installed in our intelligent homes.

In the case of Popular, out of our 1.3 million eligible customers, 938 thousand or 72 percent are registered in the Mi Banco online platform, with 69 percent using mobile devices to perform their financial transactions. That represents a 12 percent growth in the use of the platform during 2016 and it coincides with an increase in our customer satisfaction, which is constantly measured and is now at 87 percent.

In order for us to deliver on our customers' expectations and constantly changing daily routines, we have adopted methodologies that allow us to foster collaborative innovation, not only within our team, but with our partners as well, improving drastically our working relationships. Innovation weeks paired with agile methodologies have proven to be effective and faster through the design process. What we have found is that if we borrow a couple of people from our technology partner and a couple from our product design and strategy team and put them in the same room for one week, we can conceptualize and develop a full product within that short time frame. This compares to what would normally take months to put together and allows for a level of experimentation that was previously very hard to accomplish.

Just in the past year, we launched an iOS universal app that integrates ATH Móvil, a real-time person to person money transfer service; incorporated our credit cards into digital wallets; and started offering pre-staged ATM card-less withdrawals configured directly from mobile devices.

Applying new features that help mitigate fraud, such as biometrics to access accounts, also have a direct impact on our company’s finances and help build trust between our institution and our customers. That trust is an invaluable asset and it is also what allows us to continue with our work and vision.

When our team analyzes the potential implementation of new technological developments for our company, we look for its possible impact on tens or hundreds of thousands of users, not just a few, and in that mindset is that we put ourselves in the shoes of our customers.

Revamping the way we work and design solutions for our customers’ needs, is essential in maintaining and caring for our relationship with the customer. It is not enough to look at the way a client adopts a service, we also need to dive into the process that goes behind creating and supporting that service. It is an introspective look at the way we operate and how we can instill innovative strategies within our corporation and our team to deliver faster and better results.

Creating new things is easy, making things better is where the challenge lies. Innovation is finding ways to incorporate current and emerging trends in a way that they contribute to the delivery of results, whether it is transforming the customer experience, operational processes or business models. In our company, we found that researching, analyzing and adopting different techniques, allocating resources and fostering a culture of collaboration make up the formula of our success.