INTERVIEW OF THE MONTH
INTERVIEW WITH Mr. R R. Belle,
Founder MD and Ex CEO,
SBI General Insurance Co. Ltd.
“R R Belle is an Independent Director on Board of Karnataka Bank Ltd. He was the Founder MD & CEO of SBI General Insurance Co Ltd and a Chief General Manager at SBI. He was also a member of the team that set up CIBIL, India’s first credit information bureau. He is a mentor of a Calgary (Alberta, Canada) based IT start up called Catyeus. Mr Belle has post graduate qualifications from IIT, Madras and IIM,Bangalore.
What are some of the key principles, do’s and don’ts that enterprises should take cognizance of as they put together new revenue models with digital?
Digital has resulted in low entry barriers across industries causing long established boundaries to get narrower. New entrants often have low costs and also scale quite fast. As a result of better user experiences that they could potentially offer, they are also able to attract customers early. It is imperative for enterprises today to become agile, nimble and be able to identify and quickly respond to change. This requires a fundamental shift in mindset, where the senior leadership teams need to accept, sponsor and drive this change throughout the enterprise. A think tank comprising of cross functional people needs to be put together who work with the senior management to identify and execute new business models, while at the same time act as champions to lead and execute this change within their functions. Half the battle is won by appointing the right champions, who are not only passionate and truly believe in making this change happen, but also continuously demonstrate this in action by building credibility for themselves via continuous learning, experience sharing and getting their functional teams on-boarded for this change.
This is about running a marathon and not about just a few sprints. The execution plan needs to reflect this ideology – and should be distinctly devised to allow taking a new approach to the way business is conducted vs. executing a large project. Hence it requires commitment in the long run in terms of time, attention, ideas and appropriate investments. Quite often, goals and objectives from digital is a moving target and can possibly never be constant. The success metric therefore needs to be aligned accordingly to get a continuous stream of long term small wins vs. targeting a big bang approach.
While a lot has been written on creating new digital revenue streams, end of the day it is about change and how an enterprise brings along its people in putting together and executing the digital vision. In your experience, how can enterprises best manage the people element in managing change?
Typically resistance from people is quite common, as people don’t like change. Digital means constant change. This means that the “champions” will face a lot of resistance and it can get quite frustrating. The fundamental reason for such resistance is due to the fact that not everyone understands what is happening and why it is important. It is rare for everyone to want to be intentionally difficult. Communication plays a very critical role in the process of change management. The champions need to collectively work out a strategy and create a channel of effective communication across their functional and cross-functional teams. Here is when data and statistics play a very important role together with the ‘self-credibility build’ that these champions will have to work upon. In some enterprises, it is more difficult than some others – perhaps accruing as a result of a very long legacy of a certain culture. Sometimes people only want to stall initiatives. In such cases, rather than dismissing them, it becomes all the more important to get them on board, by effectively communicating why this change is imperative for staying relevant in the long run. End of day, everyone wants to be a part of a win, and demonstrating quick even if small wins is essential to the long term success of this change. People must feel that they are a key component in making these quick wins happen and adequate credit must be given where due on a constant basis.
How have investments in digital, helped enterprises in the Banking and Insurance segment drive business growth and a stronger P&L?
Banks are the backbone of any economy and have done significant innovations in the area of digital. Internet banking and mobile banking initiatives started about ten and five years ago, respectively and innovations in this area are progressing at a feverish pace. Cheque books, demand drafts and clearing houses may soon become part of banking history. Smartphone and mobile phone users have increased and the new generation millennial expectations are pushing service providers to constantly innovate.
Customer experience with digital has seen many transformations. We’re now in an era where something like payments itself has seen significant innovations with digital both in the B2B and B2C space. With the new SWIFT SLA rule book, banks can look forward to better collaboration and support corporates to grow their international business, have better visibility for cross border payments and achieve greater treasury efficiencies. Billions of people have no bank account but use a mobile phone. Most of them will gain access to financial services for the first time using a mobile phone. Thanks to open standards and API’s, new innovations on top of existing structures are now possible. From location based marketing, big data, social analytics, biometrics on mobile, innovation in payments, the list is quite long in terms of the kind of innovations banks are doing with technology.
As tempting as it may be to adopt new opportunities, it is important to recognize, that these opportunities do carry several risks including network failures, hacking etc. It is important for banks to recognize and address these risks effectively even while launching of these solutions. Fortunately, the Indian banking regulator, RBI has recently issued detailed guidelines to manage risks relating to cyber security in banks.
What are some of the challenges in this journey and how should enterprises overcome these challenges?
As much as focus on digital is paramount, it is also fraught with several challenges and risks. It is not only about understand technology but its real relevance to business and how it is going to impact business in the long run. Such kind of initiatives go beyond just the marketing department, and must involve all key business functions – as it has an impact on supply chain, delivery, HR, finance and so on. Such large scale transformations have to be executed very carefully, and after considering all associated risks and mitigation plans. The first challenge is about having a sound and comprehensive strategy therefore incorporating both the direction and risks. The next big challenge is to ensure effective execution in the light of strict regulatory and compliance requirements as well as within a tight budget, while also keeping in mind customer expectations and demands. This is a really tight rope and requires discipline in going through the finer details with a high powered lens. Getting the right people who are equipped to do the job is far easier said than done, and enterprises must recognize that it is a continuous process where they will have to keep improving their scores and not necessarily aiming for getting a full score.
Gazing into the crystal ball, what are your predictions about the future of digital business initiatives and its impact on businesses and consumers?
Digital will be the center of corporate strategy in the next 3-5 years. Corporate boards will focus on integrating the various digital initiatives and drive a unified digital vision. The phone for instance will be an all-in-one device for authentication with biometrics, customer experience with location based services, payments and to conduct all banking transactions. Embedded banking will be more prevalent with a more comprehensive solutions to plug regulatory risks and frauds. Advanced data analytics and insights will support in further innovating the customer experience, together with unprecedented agility in business processes. IoT and AI will further drive and serve as the growth engine for digital transformation. The future of business will be digital and it will be exciting to see how enterprises respond to this while ensuring complete protection in terms of risks, privacy and frauds.