Saturday, April 4, 2015

Nathan's dilemma

Nathan worked with his team and got the proposal ready. Well, submitting a proposal during a formal tender process is a different ball game, where you submit a lot of hard copies and a lot more. However, this one was a bit different, as the prospect wanted Nathan to make the submission in soft copy over email. One may think that to be an easy game. However, it comes with its own challenges. Preparing the soft copy proposal was easy for Nathan, as he was writing it in MS word and then saving it in pdf file, all looked easy. All was ready, he sent it to his manager to review and approve.

And then came the biggest dilemma so far in Nathan’s career. His bossed tossed a question so pertinent that he felt for long confused with the response he made. Given that the proposal was to be submitted in soft copy over email, the dilemma was whether to submit it in this fashion or not. Soft format, gives you ease, however, it opens up possible problems due to blatant sharing of such emails across the organisation and probable leakages of sensitive techno-commercial information. You don’t usually know who will lay their hands on such emails and information and when all these eventually come into the public domain.

All these were very logical questions and doubts and they came to Nathan’s mind, only when his boss asked him – should we share such information on email and risk it becoming a public property? They even discussed doing the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), for which they didn't really have time, hence, doesn't work now. Nathan thought for a moment and replied that we as a vendor now and a partner in future should believe in our potential customer and give them the benefit of the doubt and take this risk. Not that submitting in person was not an option, it was always open and Nathan could have easily travelled to the prospect’s office and submitted the proposal in person. But then, Nathan’s idea was not only to showcase their belief in the prospect and her process but also give them the confidence that they are ready to abide by their process. He said that if we cannot believe in our customer, then, how can they believe in us? Nathan’s boss really liked it and agreed to move ahead and submit the proposal on email.

Though Nathan made the decision and his boss also agreed to it...but deep inside, he was quite confused. Confused, because this could potentially create more market problems, where their sensitive information changes hands just like that. He was scared too, as it was his belief in doing so, which his boss too agreed to, and if their fears come true, he lands himself in potentially bigger soup. All such thoughts kept going through his mind. He thought again and decided in favour of his previous decision. And believed if something bad happens, he will stick to his decision. And will fight, if the need arose. Nathan finally and rightfully submitted the proposal...on email :)

What lay ahead was a series of discussions and calls with the prospect on the proposal and days full of anxiety, as Nathan wanted to seek ‘real feedback’ from the prospect. After a few days post submission, he called up his point of contact at the customer’s place and sought feedback. He was told that it’s under review and with the sr. management to consider. He also sought some competition related information, as he learnt that there are 2 more vendors who submitted their proposals – one incumbent and one, a new like Nathan.

Nathan discussed this feedback with his boss and learnt that this may not be the real feedback and there might be something cropping up behind the scenes that we are not privy of and may not learn that ever. He understood that all this is not because they are against us and don’t want to share this information, but, because that’s how things will always be. To gather such information, we need to develop some good relationships and good connects who can always share such information with you on and off. And you need at least 2-3 such connects, so that you can gather more information and cross check each other, to be sure.

This was sooner than later becoming a much needed learning for Nathan, as after a few more days he learnt that the incumbent vendor has been asked to review his proposal, as the evaluation team felt the need to do so. That was quite baffling, to say the least, as at least Nathan was sure, he wasn't asked to review his proposal. His mind was full of a few more doubts – why would anyone do that? Probably, they want his to match my proposal or may be even better it. Or the third one was the best and the incumbent has been asked to review it. Sounded a bit confusing, but, in sales, anything is possible. Nathan had heard stories of people being smug about the deal getting through, while, the competition enjoying a luxury resort and signed the contract, and the former is not even aware. These were stories which were heard of and in sales folklore, such stories were aplenty. But, this time, Nathan was experiencing such things all by himself.

Here was a situation where Nathan thought he had worked up the relationship and connects quite fast and he stood a fair chance to give a tough fight. But suddenly, he is met with a situation which he hadn’t experienced thus far and was a bit stuck on how to get more information and validate this piece. He decided to travel to the customer place, stay there for a few days and try and meet more people to access more information. He discussed with his boss and they agreed and off went in search of more information...or probably learning the ropes of enterprise sales.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Nathan’s tryst with Enterprise solution sales

Nathan is trying hard to break the shackles and get through with his first deal in some time. He gets a lead for a solution where his organisation is not a very strong player; in fact, they are one of the many solution providers in the market. To make it even worse, they are late in the game and the competition has already got their set pieces in place. Nevertheless, Nathan throws his hat in the middle and wants to give it a shot.

The opportunity is qualified as there is a sure shot need for the solution. The prospect is eagerly evaluating the vendors and Nathan carries a solution that should fit in the prospect’s needs. Now he tries to sort out his pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, called Sales process and its requirements. On one hand, Nathan is aware; their story for that solution is not great, even though, their solution meets the prospects needs and requirements. On the other, his relationship in the account is still at its infancy. 2 basic ingredients for the sales process were weak as Nathan decided to get into the game.

To overcome these challenges, Nathan decided to stay in the prospect’s place, spend some quality time with them. This would not only give him a chance to build rapport with the prospect, but also allow him to get hold of so much quality information. Be it, key requirements from the solution to competitive landscape to the prospect’s thought process and views on Nathan, his solution and his company, and last but not the least the list of key decision makers, all were the gold mine of information that would help Nathan in his sales pursuit.

Now came the hardest part. As Nathan decided to stay put and continue his struggle, he tried to meet up with some relevant folks at the prospect’s organisation. He called them up, sent some emails, requesting to catch up at their office or for a cup of coffee nearby. But nothing materialised. Each time he called, either they would say they are busy or they have nothing much or new to share. His quest to gather information that could help in the pursuit was going nowhere.

Nathan was completely disheartened. His idea of staying back to get the relationship going was not working at all. To a typical sales guy, he got all the more doubtful of this whole engagement. There were questions in his mind, all of a different nature. Is this selection stage managed and there is a vendor who is already selected (at least unofficially)? Do they not like us? What is the problem? What hinders their willingness (or not?) to meet me? Where is the problem? Questions were many, but answers none. 2 days had already gone by and nothing really had happened. To make matters worse, Nathan’s response to the prospect’s requirements in terms of a proposal has to go out in a few days time. This lack of time compounded the problems around him.

Nathan continued his struggle against the indifferent behaviour of the prospect. And finally, on the 4th day of being continuously bombarded by calls and emails, the mid management guy from the prospect agreed to oblige Nathan. They met over a cup of coffee and Nathan got going. They spent close to an hour together and Nathan made notes as he spoke. At the end of it, Nathan was a happy man and could figure out some pieces of the jigsaw puzzle he was trying to solve. A more confident Nathan came out of the coffee shop.

Better armed, Nathan called up his team and shared the information. They decided to use that information in their proposal and draft their responses accordingly. The proposal was to go out in 5 days. Nathan and team started to work on the proposal. And meanwhile, Nathan continued his push to meet more people from the prospect’s side. To his good luck, he could meet another important person the next day. After being able to gloss over some important information over the last 2 days, Nathan decided to go back to his place and get the proposal ready.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Team India we are proud of you!! We will be there with you, always!!

Well, the title of this post would have set the record straight; however, I want to put in a disclaimer, right at the start. The thoughts are abound in my mind, however, they all still say the same – Team India, I am proud of you! I am really happy at the way you fought during the CWC15 and will continue to cheer you and myself the moment you land on the ground in India colours.

When we started the CWC15, no one gave India an iota of chance to reach the Semis, leave alone the fascinating things they did on the way (may be for some, beating Pakistan was a given ).

Well, I always believed Team India would do good, but not the way they did. Topping the Pool looked difficult for sure, when you have supremely talented South Africa and ever unpredictable Pakistan for company.

Let’s talk about some pre-CWC form, while Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane had an excellent Australian summer with some exquisite innings in tests, they struggled to carry the same form into the triangular ODI series just before the CWC. And to add to this misery, none of the other batsmen had a good time in Australia, be it the tests or the ODIs. Everyone believed in the Indian batting line-up for their talent always. However, the real problem for MS Dhoni was his bowling ammunition. His strike bowlers were neither able to hunt wickets nor able to control the run flow. And then, his key strike bowler (whom he has always believed in), R. Ashwin, seemed to have lost faith in his own abilities and struggled in most of the matches he played in Australia until the CWC.

With this baggage and poor pre-CWC form, it does look tremendous how Team India had performed throughout the CWC15. Scoring back-to-back 300+ scores against the Pakistani and South African attack was as equally worthy as taking wickets regularly all throughout, until the Semis. Taking all wickets on offer continuously for 7 matches took everyone by a pleasant surprise and made the 7-0 score line possible that we die-hard Team India fans would always cherish.

As a fan, I can’t comment on what made this turnaround happen. Was it some mental coaching? Or Was it playing so long in Australia that worked to India’s advantage? Or was it playing in the CWC that lifted the game of Team India suddenly? I don’t have an answer. Experts, ex-players, all may have their own reasoning behind this resurgence and performance in the CWC...but for a fan, I was so happy to see those performances coming through and always proud of those wins! Here, I must give credit to the team management (MS Dhoni, Ravi Shastri, Duncan Fletcher) and selectors (more to the team management), for believing in the team they had and taking them to the CWC, in spite of their poor form. One may say, thats the best they had...but they still believed in them. It’s so easy to react and change when the chips are down.

I don’t remember an Indian match during this CWC, which I didn’t watch throughout, or I didn’t have fun tweeting or commenting about on Facebook. It was my team which was performing and it was them and me having fun alike. For my team, it was fun giving those performances and winning, and for me, it was fun for me enjoying those performances on the TV and social media alike. It all worked like a charm. Oh it went to the extent, that my friends started making fun of me, for my such regular tweets and hashtags (some called me hashtag Gandhi ). Guys, I enjoyed every bit of it :)

The question now is to each one of you, who call themselves, the followers of, fans of Team India and those who were so proud of their team reaching the Semis of CWC15 – what suddenly changed with one match that we lost, that led to the outrage that we have seen over the last few days? Yes, we lost, but we lost to the better team. Yes, that ended our CWC15 journey, but it would end for all but 1 team anyway. Just that, ours ended a few days earlier. Its sports, and one wins and the other loses.

The other day, when Pakistan lost to us, there was equally bad outrage by Pakistan fans in Pakistan. There was media coverage and reports of people burning Pakistan players’ effigies and thrashing their TV sets. And we Indian laughed at them, made fun (at least on social media) at such foolishness. Some of us also criticised such behaviour. And now, we are doing the same thing to our own team. I am sure; there would be many a Pakistani who would be laughing at our expense. Well, leave that for a moment, thats their problem.

Team India needs support of its fans. We fans need them equally too. This is some sort of a symbiotic relationship that we have. Team needs their fans to support them always, pep them to perform better. And fans need their teams’ performances which they can cherish and at times, also have some fun amongst themselves on social media, like I and many of my ilk had during the CWC15. It is this time, they need us the most, and we must do the needful.

As a fan, I am at pains reading news articles which say security has been beefed up outside MS Dhoni's house or Rohit Sharma's house or for that matter, social media's toast (or roast, since that sounds familiar to many :)) since he played that fateful pull shot to Mitchel Johnson, Virat Kohli. We as a society should introscept, should reflect upon ourselves and see, is this we want to give back to our team who fights, not for themselves, but for ourselves, for our country.

All said and done, we lost to a better team on the 26th. Look at the way they batted all through out, especially in the last 7-8 overs. Those, Faulkner shots, Johnshon cameo made the difference in the first innings. Not only that, the way they bowled, just superb. Some of the best death bowling one would ever see, and when the rules of the game are simply not in your favour. None of our middle over batsmen were able to get singles, let alone score freely. It feels bad to lose and more so to the Aussies in a CWC Semis, however, we lost to a better team. And overall, we should be proud of the Team India's, our team's performance all throughout CWC15.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Are the best 4 in the semis?

Are the 4 semi finalists the best teams in the CWC15? If you look on paper and at pre-tournament form, probably Not. In fact, there would have been many eyebrows raised if someone would have predicted India to be amongst the Top 4. Though, 2 of the world’s best batsmen ever, predicted this list of Top 4.

Now, looking at the performance of the teams in the CWC15 so far, these 4 are by far the best teams. Very predictable and more or less consistent performances from them and no wonder, the batsmen and bowlers from these teams are holding the top few slots in all the statistics charts for the CWC15. Even some of the best catches are from these teams only. How can one forget the acrobatic Baz at the boundary or Rilee Rossouw and AB catching some beauties, or MS Dhoni taking a diving catch behind the stumps or may be the excellent slip catching by the Aussies.

While, South Africa was the first team to reach the Semis, they have been a bit off-shade when put under pressure. Consider the India match, when, their bowlers were taken to task and their batsmen were made to chase 300+. Or their match against Pakistan, where up against a quality bowling attack, chasing a modest total, they lost the game. Take Amla, and AB out of the equation, their batting line-up looks easy to get. They can buckle down under continuous pressure. They have a bowling unit, who can win you matches from nowhere. And their fielding always adds 20-30 additional runs.

India was the second team to partner South Africa in the Semis line-up. No one would have given India a chance for CWC15 before the world cup – all because of their woeful form. Famed batting line-up was not cracking at all and Virat Kohli who was in a purple patch in the Aussie Test series, suddenly lost touch in the Triangular ODI series against Australia and England. And then, their bowling, everyone lambasted them right, left and centre. But cometh the CWC and cometh the best performances from this team. They have hunted in packs. All batsmen have scored and scored together. All bowlers have bowled superbly and again together. They have gotten 70 wickets from 7 matches and none of their bowlers have ripped through the opposition. All have gelled together to hunt down the opposition. And to top it all with some brilliant ground fielding and catching, India are on a roll, with 7 out of 7 in CWC15. Their biggest problem still is their bowling. Can this bowling attack taken on the Aussie juggernaut?

Aussies, are one of the per-tournament favourites and they have lived to that billing so far. They have produced, some ruthless performances, except against their Trans-Taman rivals, New Zealand. That game was anybody’s and the lucky one scraped through. Their batting had not really clicked big thus far, especially, they top 2. Though, Aron Finch and David Warner have a century each in CWC15, however, they haven’t done anything worthwhile by their lofty standards. Its been mostly the middle order and the last middle order which has worked for them beautifully. Their bowling attack is excellent, which has worked marvellously for them so far, with Mitchel Starc at the top of the ladder for CWC15 with 18 wickets so far. Other bowlers have been contributing regularly too. The only problem they might face, especially at SCG is the lack of a quality spinner. So far, they have worked with Glenn Maxwell, who is not a regular bowler. Their attack looks one dimensional in that sense and much would depend upon the pitch for the March 26th game.

The New Zealanders are also having a ball. Unusual pre-tournament favourites, and not being the dark horse like during the previous CWCs, the Kiwis have played some good cricket. But I believe, they can also falter under pressure, as was visible during their match against Australia. Other than that match, they have not really been tested too so far in the CWC15. Whats been working from them are the starts that Baz has been able to give them. And with Williamson also in excellent form, they marched past during the initial league phase. And then Guptill rose to the occasion and scored a century and a double century in the QF. Their bowling has been too good, with Boult and Southee knocking everyone over. And Daniel Vettori has been magnificent as always.

In the first semi-final between New Zealand and South Africa at the smallish Eden Park at Auckland, it will be fun to see how the Kiwi bowlers who have been fabulous so far in CWC15 rise up to the challenge posed by AB and Hashim Amla. And how the arguably the best bowler in the world, Dale Steyn work against the Baz onslaught. For me the result of these duels will decide how this match progresses. And of course, how they handle such pressure. For NZ, it should be to apply continuous pressure at all times, as the team from the Rainbow nation is known to not handle pressure well.

The second semi-final between the hot favourites and home team Australia and team with the momentum, India should be a spectacle to watch. A lot will depend on how the laid in pitch behaves at the marvellous SCG. Already, there are calls for a local team supportive pitch suited for fast bowlers. Traditionally, SCG pitch supports spin bowling and let’s see how the curator acts on the 26th. It is a 50-50 game, with Aussies having a slight advantage due to home conditions and a lethal bowling team. A lot will also depend on how Indian new ball bowlers handle the attacking Warner and co upfront. I believe it has to be the same approach, as so far, for Indian bowlers in the CWC15 –take wickets regularly. And the same approach for the batsmen – don’t give too many wickets at the start, settle down and one batsmen out of the top 3 should bat through. For Australia, it should be the same too, else, this match can go out of your hands anytime. India has a great momentum by their side. Let’s see a full house on Thursday.

For me, this CWC dominated by the batsmen, with so many 300+ scores, 400+ 6s hit and 2 double centuries already, the fate of the semi-finals and then the finals will be decided by the bowlers. And that’s the irony of the CWC15. Or may be that says it all – sports is a great leveller. There will always be a balance somewhere and that’s so interesting and heartening to see.

All in all, a stupendous semi-final line-up, which should live up to the expectations of the fans. Crunch times for equals. From here on, it’s only about performing on that day. Who handles and manages the pressure of the CWC semi-final will come out trumps. And may the best teams win.

The world lost another Shining Soul, a True Leader today!

“This is not a game of cards. This is your life and mine.” He thundered at a rally – really? But then, he needed that to raise a sense of ownership amongst the people who were reeling under the onslaught that separation from the then Malaysia had led them into. And he profoundly did so. Such was his fierce sense of duty to the people he served selflessly until the last days of his life. A duty steadfastly led by a desire to build an equal and just Singapore, a tiny island with no natural resources or military power for that matter.

Against near impossible circumstances, he led a fledgling fishing village from third world to first, a place where the original flag bearers of the first world, throng to and be part of the glory today.  While his wisdom, thoughts, knowledge on everything about Singapore is well documented, it was his sheer determination that made things happen. He often stated that the only thing Singapore has is people and its strong work ethic and the Singapore of today is an absolute testimony of the same belief and ideology.

A statesman to the core, he was always consulted by the global leaders, on any Asian matter. From Henry Kissinger to Richard Nixon to Margaret Thatcher, all had praises for his clarity of thought and leadership acumen.

He was a true visionary that made Singapore, one of the best places to live in...I as a proud resident of Singapore, who has lived the Singaporean way for the past 6 years and been to many places across the globe, can vouch for.

As a fellow Singapore resident, I bid farewell to this extraordinary man, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. In the shimmering landscape of Singapore, we remember not just a remarkable world leader, but the man who gave a tiny sea hamlet an identity to be proud of. And that will forever be his legacy. Rest in Peace, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Revenue Management & Business Assurance is strategic to success at all times

How often do we hear from the banks that business climate is tough and hence, lack of growth? How often we see the central banks commenting on the liquidity situation locally and globally? You may ask, why globally for a central bank? Well, no economy today is separated from what is happening in the Middle East or how the US or the Euro zone react to the interest rates and affect the financial markets globally. Some Arab Spring in the Middle East may lead to a regional turmoil, which affects the global crude oil output, thus, pushing the crude oil prices to unprecedented levels. Or the US Fed announcing the pruning of the QE program, sending the global financial markets into a tizzy. And locally, of course, there are multiple factors at work, which may put financial markets at risk of losing control and growth.

Top up these challenges with the most critical of them all – customer. The customer expectations of a bank have completely changed and they are increasingly being compared with other organisations they interact with – retail, telecom, for example. The ease with which a customer can change banks has increased tremendously. With just a click of a mouse or a phone call, everything can be done. It has become as simple as that. In such a challenging environment, increasing customer value is not only the key to growth, but for survival too.

Again, keeping the customer at the fulcrum of all decision making is becoming essential. For banks and financial services organisations, increasing customer centricity means creating and offering innovative products and pricing strategies – the ones that suit the customer needs and keep him to bank with you.

Convergence of business domains, business models, brings in another complexity to the banking world. Today, telecom operators are also providing banking services, albeit very basic ones. But, it will be only time that they start behaving and offering what a universal bank will. Consumer retail is another example which is tinkering with offering banking services like payments, etc Then convergence of technology is also happening these days, the technology used for high speed phone networks is being used as a core feature in banking infrastructure. Banks are also increasingly becoming real-time, gradually, reaching a stage where they see other industries being already there.

Consumers whether in banking or otherwise, are increasingly demanding remote channels to transact. This digitisation produces disruptive business models that require swift responses. This also means capturing new revenue streams and optimising these digital channels. And all this is to be done in tandem with proactively managing risk, maximising operational agility and maintaining the margin controls.

All this can be achieved by putting in place a comprehensive Revenue Management & Business Assurance solution. A solution which not allows you to managed and get the best revenues, but also helps you to manage your business risk, maintaining compliance and managing operational risks alike. This solution should be seen as something which will help increase enterprise profitability, promote sustainability and meet the challenges of a demanding business environment.

Revenue Management is a holistic and strategic approach to product management and optimisation of revenue, profit and customer value.  It involves accurate, timely and effective pricing of products and services and Omni-channel delivery of customer experience.

It encompasses a set of core business and system processes, from increasing the wallet share through customer retention and loyalty programmes and product cross-selling and up-selling, to capturing of new revenue streams through quick roll-out of product variations and offers.

It is essentially customer centricity – generating and selling personalised offers. An offer with right product at right price through right channel, at the right time, and all at the optimal / right profit margin, thereby, leading to enhanced customer experience leading to better engagement and loyalty.

It also entails using the entire value chain within the customer ecosystem to capture the full possibilities from it. It could be proving flexible settlement structures to facilitate revenue sharing and transfer pricing, or delivering the capability to determine the exact value contribution of the partners.

It is the way to look at offering a package to the customer at an optimised price to meet all his and your requirements at the same time.  It is a way to incentivise your customer and drive his behaviour accordingly. Discounts can be given on deposit fees during off-peak hours and this helps you to manage risk and load at the same time. Similarly, interest rate discounts on home loans can be offered based on the relationship of the customer, his total product usage, risk profile, etc. All such offerings, go a long way in driving customer delight and helping you maintain your margins at the same time.

Revenue Management is a way to be customer centric and be inside-out, rather than being outside-in. Offer what the customer needs, instead of selling to him something from outside, which he may or may not need. This approach improves the customer experience extensively and leads to customer stickiness and increased wallet share.

On the same lines, Business Assurance becomes another key component for sustainability, growth and performance. A comprehensive business assurance in a nut shell is management of enterprise wide risk by a comprehensive single customer views, product profitability and potential risks.

Business Assurance is a set of systems and processes to ensure structures, processes, systems for revenue management work together to manage risks, eliminate revenue leakage, maximise margins and deliver analytics to meet regulatory and compliance requirements. It allows data collection at individual transactions, helping to manage compliance to regulatory controls such as anti-money laundering.

It offers the capability for smooth integration of internal external systems, driving complete transparency, leading to operational optimisation and agility to drive informed decision making at all organisational levels. It can also allow managing the margins by allowing threshold pricing to achieve the margin targets.

Such a comprehensive Revenue Management & Business Assurance has to be a part of the strategic plans of the banks and financial institutions to maximise returns in such a complex and demanding environment.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How do banks compete in today’s disruptive environment? (Part 2)

As banks continue to jostle around for growth and some even for their existence, you may ask, if things are so bad, is there really a way out? Yes, there is definitely a good way to work these out. Well, there are so many banks from around the globe, which have successfully been able to figure out this Holy Grail. But these banks need to start thinking and get going right now.

We spoke about Product Bundling being one of the ways to remain customer centric and generate more revenue per customer and increase customer stickiness.  But will the traditional product bundling (only banking products & services) serve the purpose? Will they not become commoditized over a period of time? Yes, they will. However, a point to note is that this concept is still picking up with the banks and financial institutions. They are slowly gravitating towards this. So there is a long way to go. However, what happens next, how do you still innovate and remain customer centric? To find an answer to this, it might be useful to think like a retail super mart – bundle banking products & services with luxury items or services or lifestyle services, like a lounge access or a spa voucher. This aloud, what your target customer would like / prefer / need. Like, for an expat student, it might be beneficial to bundle a checking account with foreign inward remittances and top it up with a mobile sim card. Again, we have to think what our customers want. With changing lifestyles, customers are looking for these lifestyle defining services. It might be a good idea to bundle a credit card with a Formula 1 lounge party access coupons and behave like the Godfather – make him an offer, he can’t refuse. Well, make it enticing enough, for sure.

Today’s customer wants to be recognized for the overall value he brings to the bank – not only in his own capacity to use bank’s products & services, but, also through referrals. He wants to be given due credit (either monetarily or otherwise) for additional customers he brings. Not only this, today banks want to have a system which integrates with the facebook data feed and customer enjoy benefits for any recommendations they give to their friends to use the bank. This is another innovation around customer centricity that banks are planning to target across the globe. And why not, with more than a billion users, facebook is a ready pool of potential customers.

This eventually becomes the story of value chain banking (a step up of supply chain financing, which is a subset of value chain banking). You want to target the complete value chain – whether it is a household or a traditional corporate supply chain or a corporate and its employees. You want to give benefits to the employees of the corporate which has a good relationship with you. You want to allow loyalty points transfer across the household or you want to give some benefits on the mortgage, based on the overall credit card spend the household has. In the SME side of the things, the Director of the SME is a SME customer as well as a High Net Worth customer in his personal capacity. You want to target both of them together and give him some benefits to garner both sides of the business.

These kinds of pricing or loyalty benefits can be used to drive customer behaviour. You want to incentivise the use of a particular channel in which you have invested a lot; you may want to give pricing benefits to the customers who use that channel. Similarly, you want to force your customers not to do transactions during a certain time of the day, say, for fund transfers at branch, you want to desist your customers from performing these transactions during lunch hours, as the load increases considerably during this period. Or you want to charge cheque pickup for interior locations at different rates when compared to near locations. These kinds of pricing innovations to drive customer behaviour become essential to be competitive and remain relevant and creative.

With the widespread advanced mobile technologies, customers have access to everything on their palms 24 X 7, hence, they expect actions in real-time as well. The moment they act, a reaction should happen from the bank. However, traditionally, all bank systems are designed to work in batch mode – end-of-the-day batches typically, and in certain cases, even end-of-the-month ones. Then how as a bank you meet this expectation, becomes another question which needs answer and quickly. This can be addressed with a system which is capable of handling transactions in real-time and dynamically. This can be moving the customer dynamically from one offer or pricing to the other, as his business parameters or expectations or experience changes. All this will be equally complemented by getting all insights on the customer behaviour and transactions in real-time.

There is another way to look at complexity in product offerings at a bank. A savings account is a traditional deposit account and you top it with certain services, you call it Silver Savings Account; you give certain additional services to Silver, you call it a Gold Savings Account and similarly, a Platinum Savings Accounts comes with certain additional benefits and services. And as a bank, you market them as 3 different products. Well, for marketing, this is fine and works well. However, when it comes to systems, where these products lie, it becomes very tough to manage and control. Imagine, what happens when you have 5-7 different variations to each basic product and the total goes beyond 1,000 in a small bank. For the base product processors and core banking systems, it is an operational nightmare to maintain these products. And with the needs of the market, this number is ever increasing by the day. You need an efficient product management system – a system which will house all the variations to all the base products. A system where all the benefits, all service variations and definitions will be stored. This will encapsulate everything from the core systems and make them light and allow them to do what is required of them, to process the transactions. You need product management, which is quick and responsive - speed to delivery / execution becomes critical.

Essentially, in today’s ever changing market dynamics, to compete and grow at the same time, the need of the hour is an “Agile3” Strategy – Agile Systems, Agile Product Management and Agile Processes. All these in tandem will manage the customer experience and help orchestrating it across all delivery channels seamlessly. And this will drive customer centricity, as we say.

This the second and the final part in this series.