Call it a case of out with the old and in with the new.
A leading commercial bank is on a path to digital transformation as it seeks to meet the growing demands of the technological age.
CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank recently opened its CIBC Warrens Great House, an agile workspace which the bank touts as a place for ideas to be constantly floated, tested and in some cases adopted.
The digital workspace was set up after years of contemplation and planning, says Chief Information Officer and Managing Director of Operations Esan Peters.
“The centre was really a brainchild that we kind of developed over three or four years ago. We realized that the way the world was going to be very much digital and the way that digital was evolving was around collaboration and agilities. So, I would say it has been a while in coming,” Peters told Barbados TODAY.
In this flexible workspace there can be as little as two to as many as 20 people working there on any given day, depending on what was required.
It was out of that centre that the bank recently rolled out its upgraded online banking platform and mobile banking app.
The state-of-the-art workspace was designed especially with current and prospective clients in mind, Peters explained.
“We are looking at the new technologies out there and how we can incorporate them into banking and how we do business and how we provide services and improve the client experience,” he said.
“It is no longer stepping into the branch and joining the queue. We are living in an age where everything is being done with a phone or tablet or online, and if it is not being done that way now, in a couple of years it will be done that way. So, with that recognition we are building for the next generation, that bank for the future. That is the genesis of what this is supposed to be, how do we build for that next generation,” he says.
While it is expected that the digital transformation might have replace some jobs in the future, such as that of bank tellers, officials said they saw the move creating new job opportunities especially for app developers and software engineers.
Head of Digital Transformation George Thomas told Barbados TODAY he was satisfied the bank was moving to an “easier, more user friendly and more customer friendly way of banking”.
“It is really the movement from bricks to clicks. Traditional banking you walk in a branch and you stand in the line for ten minutes, half an hour, an hour . . . you have bills to pay and you have to make a wire transfer and it is just choked up. You told the boss you will be out for half an hour and two hours later you are at the bank,” he said.
“So really, we are looking at giving persons the bank in their hand – going from having a brick and mortar edifice to having the mobile phone . . . using that to doing all of your financial transactions from origination,” added Thomas.
The agile centre is designed to help the financial institution keep abreast with international trends in banking and adopt them where necessary and make tweaks for the local and regional market.
“We have the agile space so that as innovative features come to bear we can rapidly investigate them, prototype them, have user groups that we investigate the uptake of them and then incorporate them within our structure,” he explained.
The workspace, he said, was set up in such a way that members of different departments of the bank could go in and give their feedback on products that were being developed and would impact on their department.
“It is not a case with the old structures where six months or nine months or a year past and then you realize this is not what I wanted. The collaboration is not only for developers but also for business people and end users to make sure that we provide a product that is relevant and give the best customer experience,” said Thomas.
Besides developing the digital footprint of the financial institution, the new hub also serves as a workspace for students studying banking and technology at the University of the West Indies (UWI).
As a result, the bank has deepened its partnership with the learning institution by providing internship opportunities.
CIBC FirstCaribbean, through its new digital workspace, was also working closely with officials in other countries including Jamaica and the Bahamas in an effort to “solve problems” that may arise from time to time, said Director of Digital and Client Experience Jason Kinch told Barbados TODAY.
Besides the online banking, the groups work closely other banking officials to ensure proper reporting and ensure regulatory requirements were adequately being met.
The institution has also formed partnerships with external entities as part of its innovation drive including block chain companies, said Kinch.
“This is about the customers at the end of the day and if we have a customer that wants to go into a branch then we need to have a branch for the customers to go into, but that doesn’t mean that if I am a customer that doesn’t ever want to ever go into a branch that I should be forced to go into a branch. So, it is really about meeting the customers where they want to do business with us – giving them the opportunity to have multiple channels to do business with us,” he explained.
From the moment you enter the Warrens location it is evident that it is not your typical office space.
Each of the spritely decorated room in the centre is given a name that reflects the “corporate behaviour” of the bank such as agility, ownership, collaboration, integrity and responsibility, officials explained.
The space was designed to create “an agile way of work and to build a culture of creativity and ideation”, said Director of Data Risk and Corporate Centre Technology Trevor Wood.
“It is purpose-built to drive a particular type of work,” he added.
“People underestimate the creative element for work that you think as technology and as developers that you just crank out small snippets of code but the value is in the ideas and how you solve the ideas,” Wood said.
Pointing out that the upgrade of the online banking platform and mobile banking app was done by local developers at the centre, Wood said they have been getting many positive reviews.