Andy Schmidt

Andy Schmidt

Vice-President & Global Industry Lead for Banking

Have you ever set out to accomplish something – big or small – and suddenly realize that you have no idea even where to start? Honestly, I’ve found myself in these situations more than once, and each time I’ve learned that taking a step back, assessing my goals, and asking for help was the best way to not only get started, but to ultimately succeed.

For instance, I’m no mountaineer. And, it would be unrealistic - and quite frankly, dangerous - to attempt to summit Everest on my first climb. Success could come eventually, but I’m a planner, so goal setting would/should include first studying the sport, analyzing the traits of successful climbers, developing a training plan, and soliciting the help of an expert to guide me along my journey. 

In a similar way, I work with clients every day who develop ideas, set goals, yet never fully achieve them because they are not equipped to take the first step towards fulfilling them. In banking, the road to digital transformation and IT modernization can be long and steep with many obstacles along the way. Like mountaineering, our financial institutions should think about their digital goals, assess the tools and support needed to achieve them, and seek out the help of their digital expert to guide them up the proverbial transformation mountain. While this is easier said than done in today’s banking environment, exploration and bold digital journeys are not out of the question. (In fact, they are more necessary than ever!)

Find your digital Everest

Each banking institution may have slightly different goals, whether they focus on retail, corporate, capital markets, or all of the above, yet their similarities lie in their need to develop faster, digital processes to streamline operations and provide better services, solutions and outcomes for customers and employees. For many in banking, this means simply making existing processes faster, which is certainly a first step towards digital transformation, but it is certainly not the summit of what can be achieved.

Identifying how you can accomplish these goals can be tricky and, in the risk-averse environment of the banking industry, possibly a non-starter. How often have we seen ideas die on the vine at the first signs of “that’s not the way we do things” or “that’s not who we are” or the ever-dreaded “that’s too risky”?

The key to identifying your digital Everest is clearly identifying what you’re setting out to achieve, assessing the current situation and processes, and then being willing to disrupt your own, often institutionalized, way of thinking. Ask yourself – “Can our current processes be streamlined? Can we institute new solutions to work smarter?” Understanding what questions should be asked and who they should be asked of will set you on the path towards achieving major breakthroughs in digital transformation. 

Assemble your team

After you’ve identified your goals, it’s important to assemble the right team of experts to help guide and support the process. Having the right people at your basecamp when goals are set can help you not only avoid pitfalls, but also break down barriers that can often lead the stalemates in innovation that can occur when plans are made in silos.

At CGI we’re focused on helping clients optimize their end-to-end digital value chain. In doing so, we help or clients understand the importance of building strong, diversified teams to maximize the impact and value of the digital journey. The simple act of bringing together different departments – business, operations, and IT – to discuss and agree on your core mission and the experience you want to deliver can be transformational in and of itself.

In banking, the ideal team needed to reach full summit potential includes representatives from the business, IT and risk divisions. This collection of experts can help you better define your short and long-term goals, while also identifying the best path to take to get there, assessing the risks along the route, and course-correcting as you inevitably run into obstacles along the way. This bevy of experts creates a sort of dream team that allows for more innovation and a drive to try new things, be open to failure and learn from past challenges.

This approach is often overlooked in the process because teams focus solely on their own objectives without realizing the good of the whole. While risk and compliance teams are charged with understanding and identifying risks in an effort to protect the business, they often get a reputation for being wary of taking the unfamiliar path. Being risk averse can be beneficial in many ways, but it can also be a barrier to innovation. Assembling different members of the business around the table can provide insights to a path forward that could get you well on your way to reaching your goals.

For example, a particular project may show that the identified path towards reaching your digital goals would lead to increased risks and compliance issues. Instead of halting the project before it even starts, the project team comes together in an agile manner to assess the situation and determine whether or not there are options to move forward. As a result, the risk and compliance teams work to find a way to mitigate the risk through process and technology, thereby allowing IT to implement a solution that both mitigates the identified risk and creates a path forward for the business opportunity. 

Without the business, IT, and risk and compliance teams working together to tackle these roadblocks, the project could have been stalled or abandoned altogether. This collaborative approach provides greater insights that not only strengthens the business, but also provides better outcomes for the customer.

Build your roadmap

With your goal identified and your team assembled, it’s time to start climbing your transformation mountain. Getting started on your journey means you’ve created and are working within a strict roadmap or governance model that gives you access and insights into the resources needed to reach your goal, the ability to identify obstacles along the path, and just enough flexibility to assess and course-correct if the current path is no longer navigable.

This strong governance model helps ensure you are focused on your end goal and your resources are being utilized properly. This also provides strict parameters around the project, reducing scope creep and keeping teams focused on the tasks at hand.

Reach the summit

I understand that this idea of bold exploration is not something that all financial services institutions are accustomed to. But encouraging banks to think about their entire value chain by viewing it through the lens of digital change management can help build and strengthen the end-to-end digital ecosystem that opens the door to more innovative products, services, and processes – all of which is good for business.

Reaching the transformation summit is not a solo mission, it takes partnership, it takes vision, and it takes knowing what you want to do, building your plan and giving yourself the permission to take risks along the way.

To learn more about how CGI is helping enterprises maximize their digital value chain and rethink their approach to digital, download our new viewpoint: Getting Unstuck: Accelerating results from digital transformation.

About this author

Andy Schmidt

Andy Schmidt

Vice-President & Global Industry Lead for Banking

Andy Schmidt is a former banker and industry analyst who helps drive CGI’s strategy across the company’s global financial services vertical. Andy has more than 25 years of experience in guiding financial business and technology decisions. His primary expertise spans current and emerging payment types, ...