Mongolian bank’s chief information officer Sachin Nair on the goal of becoming fully digital bank by 2023 and its plans for a complete IT infrastructure modernisation programme.

Sachin Nair main

Mongolia is the second largest landlocked country, with herders and nomads making up half of its 3.2 million population. It has a very high social media and mobile penetration — unsurprising with so many living in remote areas. According to We Are Social and Hootsuite’s ‘Digital 2020: Mongolia’ report, social media penetration reached 68% in January 2020, and the number of mobile connections was equivalent to 136% of the total population.

This situation has driven domestic institutions to ramp up their digital transformation efforts. “This is our main focus,” says Sachin Nair, chief information officer at Khan Bank, Mongolia’s largest lender by assets and customers.

Career history: Sachin Nair  

2018 Khan Bank, chief information officer

2015 Arges Global, partner

2013 Thakral One, senior vice-president

2011 Omnitech (Hong Kong), head, global banking, financial services and insurance infrastructure services practice

Khan Bank has 550 branches and almost 1300 ATMs; the branches vary in size from five employees in remote provinces to 45–50 in city branches. “Through our ‘Online Branch Programme’, we want to deliver optimal self-service with the ability to do everything at the kiosk,” says Mr Nair.

Within this framework, the bank launched its ‘Omnichannel Project’ to enable multiple banking services through internet and mobile channels. “Customers will be able to use their mobile phone to access various services for which a visit to branch is currently necessary, and many of these will be a first in the Mongolian market,” he says.

The bank is also implementing a centralised customer relationship management system, which will be fully functional by end of the year. Mr Nair says, “Our relationship managers will be able to access all the customer details from different databases and channels, which will help them cross-sell products.”

Covid-19 has accelerated the bank’s pace of transformation, as many customers are apprehensive about visiting branches. Until 2019, only a quarter of Khan Bank’s customer services were digitised, he reports; today, this number has reached 50%. “The remaining half still require customers to come to the branch. But now our digital programme is moving much faster, with the goal of being a fully digital bank by 2023,” he says.

Modern tech

Underpinning the Khan Bank’s digital aspirations is an overhaul of its IT infrastructure. “We are replacing our legacy environment with a state-of-the-art environment,” says Mr Nair.

For example, Khan Bank has built a data lake, in partnership with data management company DataStax, to cope with the 70% year-on-year growth in the volume of data it holds. He says: “We have a lot of data sitting in different databases and are now bringing it together in a centralised data warehouse, so that we can analyse it, deliver the intelligence to our business lines and customise products.

“[DataStax] were the right people with the right skillset and the right attitude to come and help us in Mongolia,” he adds, reporting that few of the big players service the banks in Mongolia because it is a small market.

Data is critical to the future of banking, according to Mr Nair. “We are pulling together customer data from many different systems — retail banking, core banking, card services and loan origination — and using artificial intelligence and machine learning to create products that customers want to use on a day-to-day basis,” he explains.

Khan Bank has introduced behavioural scoring in consumer banking, for example, for car and house loan applications. The behavioural score is based on the credit profile of the customer, including whether they pay their bills on time, keep their salary account at the bank and so on.

“Before it was all manual, but now the data is pulled from multiple systems into a centralised environment where it is run through an in-house developed algorithm, and then goes into a separate loan-origination system. When a customer comes in, the relationship manager can access the automatically generated score,” he says. “This is the efficiency we are bringing into the environment — previously, it took days to generate this information.”

Agile mindset

Mr Nair joined Khan Bank in August 2019. Previously, he spent a long time in the banking world, including almost 14 years at JPMorgan before going into the IT services industry. “From outside the banking industry, I could see all the technology changes and digital transformation happening inside the banks. I reasoned that being inside the bank would give me the opportunity to drive the transformation journey with a technologist background,” he says.

His role has changed over the past year. For example, he has become a mentor and advisor to the executive team of the bank, bringing his international experience to the table. But his main task is to transform the 200-strong IT team through a DevOps programme.

“It is all about how to run agile programmes, how to be flexible, how to work as a group and execute on these digital programmes,” he says. “My role is to bring people together, encourage them to collaborate more and facilitate a mindset change. And ensure that the team is ready for 2021.”


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