The online magazine of the Swiss Bankers Association
September 24, 2015


Running after the fintech trend is not enough

Running after the fintech trend is not enough

Digital Private Banking is one of Credit Suisse´s key initiatives and is shaping the future of financial services. The transformation process requires a change of thinking in all areas. Holger Spielberg, Head of Innovation for Digital Private Banking, explains what the initiative aims to achieve.

Credit Suisse´s Digital Private Banking app has been available in
Asia since mid-March 2015. In addition to providing customers with
a comprehensive overview of their assets, they can also trade all standard financial products directly, oversee their portfolio performance in real time, and use the digital interface to interact with bank employees on a flexible basis. But Digital Private Banking is far more than just an app. It is a strategic initiative launched by Credit Suisse that aims to define the banking of the future.

Holger Spielberg, what exactly does the Digital Private Banking initiative consist of?

We want to use digital technologies and approaches to reconceptualise and further develop banking services and the customer experience. The objective is to create a brand experience and build a long-term relationship with the customer based on important key elements such as trust, added value and the availability of services.

Digital Private Banking wants to define the banking of the future.

The customer is given the freedom of communicating with the bank by means of a wide variety of channels. Digitalisation is not just about creating one additional channel for interaction with the customer. Instead, it is much more a far-reaching redesign of the banking business. Simply running after the fintech trend by developing a new app is not going to cut it in terms of the future of banking.

How should we imagine the Credit Suisse of the future?

Credit Suisse will continue to be globally oriented with a focus on private banking. As a basis, we have to develop a technical infrastructure that allows us to incorporate new trends and developments very flexibly. The new infrastructure, combined with social networks and data mining, will give us a deeper understanding of customer needs. We will also be able to use and assess existing customer data more effectively. The customer is the clear focal point and the point of departure for our developments.

What does this mean for customers?

Banking of the future should revolve around the life of the customer. We want to be the trusted and long-term partner for the customers´ financial matters and planning. Regardless of whether we are talking about a push notification on a smart watch, the community, an information platform or a personal discussion: we will help customers to reach or validate decisions.

The relationship manager is as a central pillar of our business.

As part of this process, we see the banker, or relationship manager, as a central pillar of our business. This individual assists and supports the customer at the relevant point in time in a relevant way using the relevant channels. What if we could offer an intelligent platform that automatically supplies useful additional information related to a customer search? For example, if you are looking for real estate in the Zurich area. Would it not be practical to receive further relevant information relating to financing, if so desired?

What kind of role will be left for a client advisor to play at a digital bank?

We are not a pure digital player. There are still many customers who want personal advice when planning the various phases of their lives: wealth management, building a home, pension planning, and retirement. The technology supports relationship managers by better filtering the existing customer data and evaluating it, with the end result of being able to offer more effective and relevant advice. Relationship managers are a key part of the brand experience and become partners to the customers. They offer their expertise or find ways to channel expertise for the customers, for example by facilitating the exchange with other customers in impartial communities. New technologies help in that they can take over routine tasks, therefore leaving more time and scope for providing personal advice.

So far you´ve spoken only about private banking. What´s happening in the retail business?

Credit Suisse´s strategic focus remains private banking. But with the Digital Private Banking initiative, we are starting to integrate the Credit Suisse brand experience much earlier on in the customer relationship.

For customers the offering could potentially become much broader.

There is also a whole range of innovative ways to apply digitalisation in retail and investment banking. It is conceivable that in future, not all links of the value chain relating to services will be handled in-house. Some segments and components may be taken over by partners. Similar to the car industry, these would then be tied into a recognisable brand experience. For customers, the offering remains in place and could potentially become much broader: the trust-based relationship and added value for customers remain the focus, even if not all products or components of the offer are produced in-house.

The digital transformation requires a change of thinking. How do you ensure that this change also carries over to your employees?

We are not only changing what we are doing, but also how we approach things, by breaking up internal processes. This is not always easy and on the one hand requires time. On the other hand, it also requires a change of thinking in terms of planned approaches, which may not lead to the desired result. To put it in concrete terms: we are using the innovative abilities of our employees and involving them early on in processes by means of internal innovation challenges.

We are also pursuing new paths for the implementation of innovative ideas.

We are also pursuing new paths for the implementation of innovative ideas, which would otherwise not be possible due to the existing structures, which can be restrictive. For example, as part of our international innovation strategy, we have become a Corporate Partner of the NEXT Impact Hub in Zurich, which will officially open on 18 September this year. In a so-called co-lab environment, we will offer interfaces between the worlds of start ups, innovation, and bank employees, so that they can work together on projects in an innovative environment. On the one hand, results can be achieved quickly thanks to this approach; while on the other hand, it also encourages employees´ motivation to support this change.

What are the biggest challenges to be overcome in order to accomplish this digital transformation in Switzerland?

Large companies of course face their own individual challenges. But one large hurdle comes in the form of immigration possibilities with regard to experts. It is still quite difficult to bring people with a digital background to Switzerland. Further to this, the banks are very interested in seeing the regulatory authorities think and act in a more innovative manner. For example, the competent financial supervisory authority in Singapore has founded its own fintech lab in order to better understand the structural change that is underway. On this front, Switzerland as a financial centre needs a higher degree of innovative strength.

Holger Spielberg is Managing Director and Head of Innovation at Digital Private Banking Credit Suisse. He has been an Innovation and new venture professional throughout his career, covering business areas like automotive R&D, corporate development, corporate venture capital. Mobile Resource Management, consulting for strategy & innovation, and more recently in leadership positions in digital businesses such as PayPal. Holger Spielberg spent 16 years in Silicon Valley and is shareholder of various start-ups. He currently serves on the Board of Seedmatch and