Embracing digital change at SunTrust

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In recent years, the financial services marketplace has been changing in a big way because of evolving client preferences, tighter regulations, and more challenging operating environments. Technology is an integral part of remaining competitive and delivering value. In my role, I see three major trends that are driving the need for digital transformation.

Why financial services needs digital transformation

People in the banking world have been talking about going mobile and what that entails for years, but the ability for our consumer base and our commercial clients to really interact with the bank in a self-service mode using modern technologies is truly evolving. It's happening now, and it's growing at an astronomical pace.

Another trend that we are watching closely in response to this shift is the emergence of new startups that are vying to own the customer experience. Customers increasingly want to bank when, where, and how they want, and they expect a seamless experience across devices. Startups have been able to move in to meet those demands quickly. But, while it’s important to be quick to market with new technologies, it’s equally important to make sure it does what it was intended to do, is reliable, and meets clients’ needs and expectations.

At the same time, we have to manage the expectations of our employees, who are used to accessing everything through their phone – from shopping on Amazon, to checking in on their fantasy football league. In an increasingly BYOD era, they expect our internal tools and processes to just work regardless of how they choose to access them. From our perspective within IT, there isn't much of a difference between our internal and our external clients in this regard, and we are radically shifting our full IT stack to respond to these trends.

Digital evolution at all levels of IT

This shift is apparent at all levels, starting with the conversations that we have with our business application leaders and how we talk to and interact with them. The traditional IT canned response to business problems, “I can build that for you,” is no longer going to cut it in the digital era. We are actively collaborating with our business partners to go out and search for the best tool. In some cases, that means we need to seek out an external provider. In other instances, we look at the level of capabilities needed and weigh them against the speed with which we can build those capabilities, and go from there.

When you go two or three levels down the stack, in terms of internal software and infrastructure, massive changes are apparent there as well. We’re now cloudifying that whole infrastructure. Because of the private nature of data in the financial services industry, we will not store our client information on the public cloud. But we are leveraging private cloud to make our infrastructure more variable, and that’s a huge amount of work with support benefits.

How we structure IT has also evolved in response to digital transformation. We found it necessary to create and integrate the role of teammate experience leader. This is someone who is facilitating change throughout the enterprise and tasked with better understanding how employees are using technology, whether it’s BYOD, tablets, or using external tools like Salesforce.com, Workday, or our own internal applications. They monitor and report on the ability to use those applications on a handheld device, the use of document management, e-signatures, imaging, workflow—you name it. There’s a lot of activity going on, and experience demands vary greatly depending on the line of business, so having a dedicated individual in this role is extremely helpful in driving enterprise-wide change.

As banking technology moves to client-facing, interactive self-serving channels, digital will remain a key strategic objective. These are just a few of the changes we are seeing and implementing as technology radically transforms the financial services industry.

Anil Cheriyan is Director/Deputy Commissioner, Technology Transformation Services for the U.S. Federal Government. Previously, he was managing partner of Phase IV Ventures, a consulting and advisory firm.

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