Exclusive: Banks must aim at deploying ‘Technology with a Human Touch’, says Arif Khan, CDO, NPCI

Arif Khan

In the age of digitisation, when you are talking to your customers on WhatsApp and mobile banking, we have lost the human touch of relationship somewhere. Human relationship is all about trust and emotions. It may sound very crude but I don’t remember any bank sending me a Whatsapp message that has a smiley or any other emoticon on it. On a regular conversation, I will use thumbs up or a smiley, Arif Khan, Chief Digital Officer, National Payments Corporation of India.

Arif Khan

During a panel discussion at a recently organised webinar by Elets Technomedia about Co-operative Banks, Khan from NPCI said, “We have drawn boundaries for ourselves. Especially for Co-operative banks relationships are their forte. So, I think that factor should be included.  Sometimes we get carried away by technology and start talking about Machine Learning, Blockchain but at the end of the day it is supposed to make life simple.  Gamification and simplification go hand in hand.  We must now get rid of the pre-conceived notion that technology driven products cannot be used by the elderly people. Take example of WhatsApp or TikTok, its users are not limited to any age group.  So, the emphasis should be given on how to use technology to make lives simpler.”

Talking about the initiatives taken by NPCI in popularising digital banking for Co-operative bank, he said, “I do agree on the point that technology keeps shifting and often it requires huge capex and that’s the idea we are running through at NPCI that what can we do to heavylift on the technology side. Some of our recent products pertaining to e-commerce and risk management are on behalf hosted services Your set of rules of risk management and payments are run by others and it does not come at any cost and the information comes to you rather than you individually investing in early stages in technologies.

“Obviously it’s a process and it takes time. So, the journey has started for us.  What we have also realised and took a step forward to make this journey of ASPs, which co-operative banks use heavily, where if they certified with us once and the second time if they come with the partner bank make their life easier, reduce the turnaround time by reducing the cost and effort.  So, a lot of efforts are gone behind that but it is a start of a journey and we will get there. “

Also Read: NPCI to consider blockchain to boost digital transactions

Commenting on the adaptations of technology at Co-op banks, he states, “I strongly believe that co-operative banks should now seriously look at technology deployments for rebuilding the trust factor.  For me, technology is first. And at NPCI we are building better technologies to make lives easier. Besides, we need to go back and rethink our design mechanisms to deal with crisis like covid-19.”

“We work with around 1, 100 co-operative banks and we have seen adoption picking up in the last few years at a much more rapid pace. As far as the ATMs and the debit cards are concerned, we have really seen the graph going up. The numbers are quite flattering, I would say.  We have seen the cost is picking up at the purchase side, which is indeed a good sign. As a matter of fact, e-commerce had been traditionally low in this segment but that is also gradually picking up. Essentially the customer needs are always changing. They always want great experience and simplicity. It is true that most of the Co-operative bank customers are from the senior citizen category but I would like to mention something on a lighter side that every family has a Chief Technology Officer who is the granddaughter or the grandson, the third generation to be specific, who can help in managing technology better. So, this is the space where we need to work.”

“If we talk about India, it is a very content-hungry country and it is extremely heavy on mobile use.  A lot of our products such as Aadhaar, BHIM, UPI are designed to cater to this need.  We now don’t necessarily differentiate between the segments of customers of the segment of banks. Co-operative Banks contribute to 14-15 percent of our volumes anyway and thus are  crucial contributors. However, there are certain areas where we can work more closely and some of them are picking up. For example,  it may sound a bit niche, recently when I was talking to a young executive from a Co-operative bank our decision was focus on tokenization and he was explaining the dominance of the segment in Mandis.  So, in my view, we need to come together with a find solution to edges and that is significant for both co-operative banks and NPCI,” said Khan.

“Earlier to my mind, co-operative banks were friendly neighborhood banks but these days the friendly neighbours are gone. So, the world is increasingly becoming global,” he said.

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