Innovation in Action Fostering Collaboration With Startups to Drive Financial Evolution

Zuzar Tinwalla

In the wake of every financial crisis, consumer and governmental scrutiny of banking has increased dramatically. Today, banks are being held to standards beyond financial stability to meet new requirements for the environments in which they work, shared Zuzar Tinwalla, Chief Technology and Operations Officer, India and South Asia, Standard Chartered Bank in an exclusive interaction with Srajan Agarwal of Elets News Network (ENN).

Could you share some key milestones and experiences from your remarkable 30-year career that have significantly shaped your approach to leadership and innovation within the financial industry?

While there have been multiple instances which have helped me shape my leadership skills with focus on Innovation and People development, however one such key instance was the development of the India Data Lake in 2013. SCB India was one of the pilotmarkets to set up the internal data lake. While there was a requirement of large investments upfront, however there was uncertainty in the direct benefits on ground at start. However,
it was evident in the environment that data would increasingly play a key role in all the business processes. We committed to the investment and democratisation of data to all our country stakeholders so that it could fuel further unprecedented growth in each
vertical and improve internal processes which eventually support and benefit our end clients.

You’ve been instrumental in Standard Chartered Bank’s ‘Fintech Program.’ Could you provide insights into the program’s goals and how it is fostering collaboration with startups and driving innovation within the organisation?

Banks and fintechs are combining their strengths for their mutual benefit. The positive impact of the partnership is helping to support new business models and better ways of doing business, with far-reaching implications for clients and markets. Banks, big technology companies and fintech can collaborate for better customer acquisition and use analytics for an informed credit decision.

Standard Chartered Bank has partnered with a lot of fintech companies that do a lot of analytics and helps it in onboarding new customers.

The India Fintech Program was an Innovation Program comprising of an accelerator program and other innovation engagements which deepened our engagement with fintech startups while providing exposure to disruptive technology and business models. It not only helped us foster POCs/Pilots/Partnerships to look for solutions around our strategic business objectives but also engaged the organisation in the innovation journey and helped build entrepreneurial culture.

Given your extensive experience in various aspects of banking, such as International Trade, Regulatory Aspects, and Cash Management Services, how do you stay updated on the rapidly evolving regulatory landscape and its implications on financial institutions?

In the wake of every financial crisis, consumer and governmental scrutiny of banking has increased dramatically. Today, banks are being held to standards beyond financial stability to meet new requirements for the environments in which they work.

Domestic and international regulatory bodies have put out separate guidance outlining their views on the nature of risk in the industry including areas like data privacy, cybersecurity, and cryptocurrency or digital assets.

I stay updated on the rapidly evolving regulatory landscape by staying vigilant, regularly monitoring regulatory updates, attending industry conferences, actively engaging with regulatory bodies and establishing networks with my peers in their industry. Staying informed through ongoing education and communication is essential.

Engaging with regulatory authorities helps provide valuable insights into upcoming changes and potential opportunities. Actively participating in industry associations and regulatory working groups can help shape future regulations in ways that benefit both the banking industry and our clients.

I also think relevant SMEs need to be identified within an organisation with an ability to scrutinise regulatory updates and determine whether they are applicable to the organisation.

Your expertise extends to project implementation and revenue generation. What strategies have you found most effective in ensuring successful project execution and driving revenue growth in the competitive banking industry?

Over the long term, banks will need to pursue new sources of value beyond product, industry, or business model boundaries. The new economic order that will likely emerge over the next few years will require bank leaders to forge ahead with conviction and remain true to their purpose as guardians and facilitators of capital flows.

Research also shows that it is no longer sufficient for banks to measure performance solely through the lens of financials and profitability and taking a broader view
on impact is highly relevant for sustained success. Increased growth has been observed in sustainability-focused institutions with increasing investor requirements and workforce expectations around holistic impact. Banks now also need to assess performance more holistically to ensure continuous and enduring value creation through operations, customers, employees, and environment and social aspects. Any material slippage or weakness in these can devolve into significant profit-and-loss and value-creation risks.

It is also important to build horizontal capabilities to optimise efficiency and experience. AI is at the cusp of creating a new revolution in banking and multiple use cases are being experimented upon and scaled up for production. Further, an AI driven reimagining of operations can help reduce human intervention in several areas, especially with repeatable, rules-based processes such as “Know Your Customer” (KYC), Anti-Money Laundering (AML), customer service requests, and even some decisioning activities. It is also important for banks to invest in scalable, secure technology and fundamentally shift how they find, attract, and develop talent.

Looking ahead, could you share your vision for the future of banking and financial services, particularly in the context of technology and customer- centric solutions, and how Standard Chartered Bank is positioning itself to thrive in this evolving landscape?

We are going where our clients want us to be and our vision is to be the bank for the new economy. We are collaborating across our network and with a wide variety of partners and introducing new ways to bank that boost financial inclusion, while also paving the way for long-term profitability.

Also Read | Unveiling the power of data analytics: Revolutionising customer engagement in fintech

As the world goes digital for good, we’re experimenting with disruptive business models to address unmet client needs while also creating optionality for the Bank. By marrying our capabilities with emerging technologies, we create solutions that can benefit clients across our global footprint.

We are also transforming our digital core and building out our platforms to provide clients with a best-in-class experience. We will continue to invest in and accelerate our digital offerings to seize opportunities.

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