Javier Chavez Ruíz
Head of Innovation
Santander has a wide-ranging approach to embracing innovation and the fintech ecosystem. Can you share some of the initiatives?
The client is the jumping-off point for innovation at Santander, as our President said: “we have to be relevant with our clients’ daily lives”. People and Companies, Students and Housewives, SMBs and people with business activity, etc. This is a profound concept with many implications for innovation. Our initiatives range from a) innovating in terms of the efficiency in which we attract, assist and link our customers, using digital media connected with the rest of our bank’s channels of Communication, b) continuing to make the most of Santander’s clients’ experience, or creating new banking experiences for our clients, expanding the traditional concept of a bank, up to the point in which our client has an enquiry or a need to acquire, for example, a car, or save to buy goods, or even make an International money transfer; c) to expanding our scope of work as a bank together with our partners, in different scenarios of collaboration, that translate into new valuable projects.
What are the biggest areas of opportunities for banks in this era of digital transformation?
The digital revolution can be seen in three big sectors: 1) a new infrastructure that allows for new ways of Communication with the client, from using biometric technology to identify and authenticate clients, cyber security to make the most of our digital channels, “Big Data” and Analytics to design Credit Scoring models, etc.; 2) the possibility to create brand new markets to buy and pay using social networks, and 3) the different opportunities to design, build and work with platforms/ecosystems that link “offer” and “demand”, in a unique way, for the benefit of our clients. Think of the automotive industry, for example.
As head of Innovation, what are the challenges you face?
The biggest challenge anyone in Innovation faces is related to culture and business transformation. And it is not only about changing the capabilities of those who work at the bank, but also a change in behavior, and working as a team, with multi-functional and multi-tasking, all focused in trying to create solutions the customer needs, instead of focusing on designing a “great product”. First comes the enormous challenge of breaking down the silos, etc., because what we have “belongs to the bank” and not a specific area. Also, we cannot forget that the bank needs to continue operating. This dilemma of “explore” vs. “explode” is key in managing innovation and is at the heart of the challenge of cultural change.
What areas in the bank are more ready for disruption or transformation?
That really depends on each bank, and ranges from how to attract and assist Millenials, to transforming the way in which we tend to small businesses, or the way we make it easier for big businesses to work with their liquid assets within a region in Latin America, for example. The technological change does not make a difference between products, or if we are talking about a segment of individuals or businesses, or if the channel is digital, physical (modern branches) or remote (contact center). Every sector of the bank prioritizes its initiatives according to its impact and the difficulty in its implementation, always aided by Innovation Department.
Fintechs: Friends or Enemies?
Fintechs are our best allies, and that’s the philosophy with which innovation deals with agile, fast and technologically pioneering players. Before becoming Head of Innovation for Santander Mexico, I was DG at Yellowpepper in Mexico -a Fintech that brought Wallets into Latin America, with HCE/ NFC technologies and integrating marketing platforms into telephones. Communication with Banks was a real challenge: mostly because of the envy than the bank’s bureaucracy. I experienced how personal issues get in the way of something that could benefit the bank. We are very serious about forming alliances with Fintechs, that’s in everybody’s favor, especially now that the Fintech Law is about to pass in Mexico. It’s groundbreaking and we are very excited about it.
You wrote a piece about “Payment Experience” and how this is the new paradigm with customers, what does it entail?
The topic of payments is truly fascinating. It went from being a mere money transaction in Exchange for goods or services, to becoming new purchasing experiences. I am a firm believer that the “Payment Experience” is the bank’s new signature strategy to design and define its relationship with the client in the long run, just like it happened with “checking accounts,” the Payment Experience puts the bank to the test in terms of knowing when, and how, to interact with the customer, making his or her routine a more pleasant and efficient one.
In México we have achieved more than one million digitalized clients, which opens a spectrum to innovate in new ways of tending to our clients contextually – in time, form and place- according to their preferences and habits. What’s more, Santander + is a new and unique product in the Mexican Market that rewards you for saving. This is a first in Mexico. The product integrates different partners, like Starbucks, California Pizza Chicken, Burger King, etc. so as to offer something valuable to our payroll and savings account clients. This is the only product that rewards you for your savings and your loyalty to the Mexican market. And finally, I can mention, there is an article that recently came up in the Financial Times about Santander´s involvement and leadership in topics related to Blockchain, which are groundbreaking.
a) How can we tend to your needs better within a new digital and regulatory environment and with a view of the future? We are talking about helping our clients go digital, finding a link between them and the bank beyond the mere contractual relationship, with various structures and processes so that our service and assistance models fit with the different needs our different clients may have. b) How can we improve our customers’ experience with banking, including the way they make one or more transactions?