BFSI sector to make proactive digital leap in 2021: Ajayan M G, EVP-Operations, ESAF Small Finance Bank

Ajayan M G, EVP Operations, ESAF Small Finance Bank

Digitalization is not new to the banking sector. The industry has always been enthusiastic about innovative implementation to match the customer needs. However, with the outbreak of covid pandemic, the need to speed up the digital deployments and practices has become extensive and digital technologies have now become a strong focus to ensure growth and maintain scalability. To understand the dynamically changing industry in sync with the pandemic induced digital force and frequently changing customer needs, we spoke to Ajayan M G, EVP-Operations, ESAF Small Finance Bank. During the exclusive interaction, he spoke on the role of disruptive technologies like cloud, AI, Blockchain and more with respect to the BFSI sector.

Excerpts of the interaction:

1. The outbreak of Covid-19 accelerated the digital transformation plans for several organizations. Apart from the challenges, what opportunities did you uncover?

The onset of the pandemic served as a wake-up call for companies that were slow to embrace digital transformation. Those organizations that were fairly advanced in their digital journey were able to better cope with the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic.

At ESAF Small Finance Bank, we have had a digital-first approach to business from day one. With a strong focus on digital technologies, we are better prepared to grow and sustain our business in the digital economy. Weuse cutting-edge technology in all our operations: from digital on-boarding of customers to loan origination systems for Microfinance and Retail lending, for instance.

We are uncovering a number of opportunities to continuously enhance the value we deliver to our customers. For instance, deeper analytics is helping us get accurate insights on customer preferences and buying behaviour. Our front-line staff tap into these insights to better personalize the experience when interacting with customers and have intelligent conversations with them, leading to a consistent customer experience delivery.

2. How are cloud and emerging technologies transforming the BFSI sector in India?

The BFSI sector has been one of the early adopters of cloud and digital technologies for both internal transformation as well as external go-to-market initiatives. We are seeing more and more organizations embracing Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Blockchain, Robotics (RPA) and Digital Assistants (Chatbots).

To lower the cost of onboarding and assessing consumers, BFSI companies are also adopting AI and analytics capabilities offered by the cloud at scale. Cloud and AI are assisting banks in making faster and more informed decisions for their clients by allowing them to do a rapid risk analysis. Customers’ credit and risk assessments are automated, loan processing is automated using video and image analytics, and loan restructuring are speedier utilising sophisticated analytics.

2021 will be the year when our sector will make the digital leap more proactively.

Also Read: Business Growth in the BFSI Sector is Driven by Improved Digital Customer Experience

3. Have you invested in the cloud for ensuring resilience? Is it helping you innovate for growth acceleration?

Digital technologies are core to our business growth, so we’ll continue to make investments as apt. Some of our solutions are already hosted on the cloud. Cloud offers us the tremendous potential to streamline processes and enhance business efficiencies, leading to faster growth.

We are looking to take a cloud-first approach for many of our future strategic IT initiatives. In addition to cloud, we will continue to invest in the right set of digital tools to digitalize and automate more business processes and accelerate innovation. This will help us quickly introduce new products and services to the market and enhance the customer experience.

4. How has the bank benefited by using Oracle Cloud Analytics portfolio? How will it impact your customers?

We assessed a a number of offerings in the market, and realized that the process of change requests factored in by almost all analytics offerings are often cumbersome and the turnaround time is often too long for the business to make a quick decision. With Oracle’s Autonomous Data Warehouse (ADW) and Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC) services, the customization requirements and segmentation of data for users of different nature within the bank and outside – which is unique for our Bank with a combination of Business Correspondents and Branch model – was readily available. We were able to create a segmented view of the database to extract insights sought by internal users (within the bank) as well as external users. It was possible to quickly and easily integrate the Oracle Analytical dashboard views in our internal customized application via single sign-on access. Additionally, we don’t have to worry about software updates as Oracle will ensure automatic version upgrades. Last but not the least, we have gained an added advantage with the ‘pay as you go’ model, leading to better value realization from our cloud investments.

From a capabilities and ease of use perspective, we’ve been able to quickly put to use Oracle’s ADW Analytical dashboard views, in less than 3 months. I think the time would otherwise have easily doubled if we had gone in for another analytics solution in the market. So we’ve saved both on time, as well as capital costs to the tune of 3 to 4 times.

We’ve been helping our internal decision-makers with access to core business analytics on a t+1 basis. UsingOracle’s cloud analytics portfolio, we’re working towards delivering mid-day status updates to the business w.r.t. collections in the field. Additionally, we are working on better-integrating industry data, so we can correlate customer behaviour and preferences better. This will help us assess and adjust our business targets, while fine-tuning our products and services.

Also Read: Automation in the BFSI sector amid COVID-19

5. Would you like to tell us about the bank’s technology innovation roadmap and growth plans for the next 12 months?

Some of the current initiatives we are focusing on include: online account opening using Digital KYC, White label Payment gateway for Merchant payment transactions, BBPS billers, Digital POS acquiring through UPI, Device agnostic solutioning for offering all collection and payment services.

Cognitive AI, Blockchain, NLP, OCR plus NLP to do Intelligent Data processing, Robotic Process Automation are some of the areas we are planning to explore in the next few months.

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