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Digital Everywhere - The Next Leap Forward

By: Sangy Vatsa, EVP & Chief Information Officer, Comerica Bank

Sangy Vatsa, EVP & Chief Information Officer, Comerica Bank

The Technology team at Comerica is driven by its guiding principle to deliver customer-centric products and services with speed and agility, and with embedded security and architecture, at an optimal cost by developing and leveraging our talent eco-system.

The digital transformation journey began in 2016 through transforming the bank’s product delivery approach, uplifting its technology assets, and most importantly, investing in its employees to become a leading digital provider of choice for employees and customers. A comprehensive technology strategy, TechVision 2020, was established, and a comprehensive roadmap was laid out that was executed with speed and agility over a two-and-a-half-year period. The two key pillars of TechVision 2020 were to strengthen the core and transform our future. Within strengthening our core, key priorities included areas like high systems integrity, industrial-strength cybersecurity, and competitive talent management program. Within transforming our future, key priorities included areas like enterprise-scale omnichannel digital capabilities, secure cloud computing, and advanced analytics.

"Technology’s strategic goal at Comerica Bank is to become a fully digitally-enabled, data-driven relationship bank with a reputation for exceptional quality and reliability that will drive extraordinary colleague and customer experiences"

As the first steps, in 2016, we rolled out Two-in-a Box (2iB) product co-creation methodology. 2iB fundamentally changed how digital capabilities were delivered to employees and customers. Both the technology teams and business teams had joint accountability and shared goals. This approach ensured that for every critical product that was launched, there was a technology-savvy business product leader and a business-savvy technology leader co-shaping and co-creating these products. Even though this could have been perceived to prolong the development process, it was, in fact, a strong illustration of how through building partnerships and timely collaboration, we can raise performance expectations and facilitate innovative business outcomes.

During this time, Agile Lean Execution (ALeX) was launched as our new technology delivery methodology, which codifies 2iB principles and cultivates digital dexterity across product teams.  ALeX is comprised of four industry best practices – Design Thinking, Lean Startup, Agile and DevSecOps.

The new digital technology introductions and ALeX drove ‘fail fast, learn fast’ approach much like at any start-up.  Teams began delivering proof of concepts and minimum viable products instead of full product rollouts so that they could learn swiftly, address critical issues upfront, and provide value quickly. This was a significant change moment for the organization.  Both the technology and business teams had to learn to deliver products in smaller chunks, challenge the process, test those ideas, and go back to the drawing board if needed. 

Another major transformative effort we led at the bank was the “cloud-first” strategy. Migrating the majority of our applications and services to the cloud disrupted traditional ways of thinking and transformed the way we viewed applications and infrastructure. We have been recognized in the industry for building a unique scalable cloud computing model. In the past, we were limited by each application’s architecture and it was challenging to manage, scale, and integrate with other applications.  Through moving to secure and integrated cloud computing, we have improved speed, agility and efficiency. Further, strong alignment between business, technical and finance teams helped us move from an application- and projects-centric approach to a product- and platform-centric approach. This has given the bank the much-needed agility and on-demand scalability, thereby allowing new digital banking capabilities to be launched at a rapid pace.

These transformative efforts have yielded measurable and impactful business outcomes. Over the past three years, we have revamped the core company processes like credit and commercial loan management, customer relationship management, treasury management, fraud management and case management through the introduction of over 40 new digital technologies and platforms that include microservices and over 375 APIs to drive agility and standardization.  We have also implemented real-time payments for both consumers and commercial customers. With the introduction of these modern digital platforms, we have seen customer acquisitions and speed to deposit metrics drop from days to minutes.  We have also extensively leveraged artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve customer retention and loyalty and virtual reality capabilities to strengthen training and real estate management. Finally, a complete overhaul of hardware, connectivity and software used in the contact centers and banking centers has enabled digitally-oriented omnichannels.  The launch of Conversational AI-based Voice automation has resulted in over 85% containment rate driving high net-promoter scores and the recently deployed voice biometric service for customers is driving over 90% adoption rate.

Transformational changes are never easy, and they also teach many lessons that drive new improvements. While two transformation principles “excellence over perfection” and “fast fail and learn fast” were applied, the fast pace of change needed to launch new digital capabilities and reduce operational risk caused fatigue and pockets of user-experience issues. Admittedly, we could have been more sensitive to change management and the rollout of new approaches.  The team worked collaboratively with various stakeholders, including technology suppliers, to undertake several improvements. These actions were implemented with a long-term focus to sustain progress in the coming years. With proper planning, active use of the 2iB co-creation model and regular communications, we aspire to continue delivering on significant growth opportunities.

While Tech Vision 2020 has enabled the bank’s digital transformation journey, we are further evolving our strategy with an eye on 2025.  There are three major factors we have considered as we develop our strategy. First, elevated digital expectations. Today’s customers and colleagues expect the same experience as they have with technology in their personal lives. Secondly, the cybersecurity threats and the changing aspect of the cyber landscape require us to stay ahead by continuously evolving cyber threat trends and increased data privacy and compliance regulations. Third step is the emerging technologies and the consequential impact on banking. We want to be ready to seize the opportunities that these new emerging technologies will present and usher a new era of innovation at the bank.

To realize our vision of becoming a fully digitally-enabled, data-driven relationship bank, we are introducing third mode of digital delivery, Constructive Disrupt.  This mode in addition to other two modes of digital delivery, Strengthen the Core and Transform the Future, will allow us to look at ways to constructively disrupt and replace stale business models with innovative models.  Reflecting on the Tech Vision 2020 performance, our tri-modal pillars, and the digital centricity of our new strategic goal, we have named the evolving technology strategy of the bank, Digital 2025 and plan to launch it broadly in 2020.

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