The chief digital officer at US Bank outlines the bank’s response to the new working environment brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Derek White

Derek White

US Bank’s digital strategy is based on the recognition of the shift in customer traffic in a digital-first world. “Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, customers walked into a bank branch perhaps 10 times per year, but they made 300 visits to the mobile app or digital banking environment, and 3000 visits to digital ecosystems. Obviously, a business model based on 3,000 interactions versus 10 interactions is very different,” says the bank’s chief digital officer, Derek White.

The strategy is also based on data and how analytics can be surfaced at the interaction level. “We want to bring intelligence to those interactions to help our customers better navigate their environments and help our employees deliver enjoyable, frictionless experiences. If customers feel that they are being recognised and appreciated, then they will return,” he says.

Career history: Derek White  

2019 US Bank, chief digital officer

2016 BBVA, global head of client solutions

2013 Barclays, chief design and digital officer

2011 Barclays, chief customer experience officer, global retail and business banking

And it is focused on monetising those interactions. “This relates to how many sales are going through the digital sales channel versus assisted sales, as well as driving efficiencies in these processes,” says Mr White. “Technologies, which we refer to as ‘below the glass’ versus ‘above the glass’ experiences, enable a monetisation model that is completely different to what many banks have traditionally been built on. By leveraging the cloud and the power of data to enhance interactions and increase operational efficiency, we will change the face of banking.”

Excellence in digital

In June 2019, Mr White joined US Bank in a newly created enterprise-wide digital role, “not just within the consumer business, but across every business line and interface”. His team was pulled together from across the bank, including the core digital creation team, the innovation team and agile studios, and has since expanded to encompass the core digital capabilities within each business line. “We want to turn every business ‘node’ into excellent digital businesses,” he says.

Digital experiences can be divided in two interaction models, according to Mr White. “One model is do-it-yourself (DIY), which allows the customer to sit at home on their mobile app and move money through Zelle, check their balance or financial health, or pay a bill, all in a matter of taps,” he says, adding that the model can also be applied in the institutional space.

The second is a shared or ‘do-it-together’ model, which Mr White believes has come to the fore during the Covid-19 pandemic, when many of the bank’s clients and most of its 70,000 employees moved to working from home. “Even the laggard businesses that still operate with paper and wet signatures have moved quickly to provide eSign and secure digital document management, in addition to co-browse technology,” he says.

For example, the bank has used co-browsing to help its small business customers apply for the US Paycheque Protection Programme (PPP), which is a specific loan to help small businesses keep their workers on the payroll during the crisis. Small businesses faced a time crunch in securing funding from the Small Business Administration, and were worried it could run out before they got their applications in.

“They had to complete the complex application online, which required information and documentation, which then had to be verified and certified to the penny that what they were submitting was true and accurate,” he says. “This was stressful for our customers, so we used our co-browsing solution that allowed our staff to screenshare and literally talk the customer through the PPP application.”

Maintaining momentum

Working remotely has thrown up countless challenges for banks, particularly around motivating teams and fostering innovation. Mr White’s advice is to stay in regular contact and keep communication channels open across all organisation levels.

“My team has calls two to three times per week, checking in on how they are doing and their progress. We also reserve time for horizon two and horizon three discussions, to ensure that our short-term decisions tie into our long-term strategy and how that longer-term strategy is evolving.” He encourages video meetings, in order to “see the whites of people’s eyes and their facial expressions, as well as their kids walking in on them”.

This ties into his second piece of advice: be human. “We need to recognise that Covid-19 has changed everything for everyone. We need to be encouraging our employees to take breaks, because it has been a pretty intense and stressful time for many – they’ve changed their environment, working from home and schooling kids, and trying to balance that while also working long hours to create new solutions,” he says.

In the coming year, US Bank plans to continue with its digital strategy focused on human-centred design, creating digital DIY-able experiences and making them increasingly intelligent, says Mr White.

“One of the greatest assets that US Bank has is customer trust – and we aim to build that trust in a digital environment to the point where they trust us to help them with their financials in an autonomous banking way,” he says. He believes there is a “massive opportunity” in the institutional arena and predicts a vast transformation in this space within the next 18 months.


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