RETAIL BANKING | Staff Reporter, India

How is HDFC Bank's Nitin Chugh retaining customer centricity in digitalisation?

He talks about creating a better banking ecosystem whilst providing customers convenient experiences.

Spearheading the digital transformation of HDFC Bank Ltd India, Nitin Chugh is currently the bank’s country head of digital banking. He heads the Digital Innovation Unit of the bank and is responsible for its inbound and outbound contact centres.

In this exclusive interview with Asian Banking & Finance, Nitin discusses new ideas, technologies, and solutions whilst still maintaining the bank’s core value of customer centricity.

What is the status of HDFC Bank’s digital transformation? What are your goals and how is the transformation carried out?
HDFC Bank has taken on the process of digital transformation fairly early. Whilst we have always been pioneers in our digital offerings, we have undertaken a structured digital transformation journey three years back. Within a span of a few years, we have been able to hit some exciting milestones that ride on the very cutting edge of technology. The emphasis on digital banking is keeping customers at the centre. Our digital banking journey now involves moving from providing convenience to an experience to our customers.

Along with digital innovations being a key focus of every business, we have a 30+ member dedicated digital transformation team. In three years, this team has evaluated more than 300+ innovation ideas, with 140+ ideas of various scale getting business approvals. The team has been able to establish a robust process for innovation management that is now allowing us to scale up innovation and digital projects across the organisation.

Our goal is to double the digital projects being undertaken by the digital transformation team as well as the business as a whole in the short to medium term. A large part of this is also being driven by our ecosystem approach, which focuses on a closer partnership with startups, academic institutions, as well as government and regulatory bodies.

How have customers’ experiences and banking operations changed since HDFC Bank started its digital transformation?
First core value of HDFC Bank is customer centricity and so our digital innovations are customer focussed. Some of the major initiatives in this area have been focussed around straight through processing (like our Digital Acquisition Platform and 10 Second Loan offerings). We have also devoted our efforts to revamp and refresh marquee digital channels, including internet banking and mobile banking that are being built from the ground up using the scientific principles of user experience and customer journeys. We have also launched digital product innovations like Missed Called Commerce, HDFC Bank on Chat (Social Media based ecommerce), and UPI/Aadhaar-based payments to make banking seamless for the customer.

We have also launched seminal projects using AI/chatbots to improve the level of customer support being offered by the bank. We are now successfully engaging more than 200,000 customers every month on their queries via our EVA Smart Assistant. The centralised cognitive services platform is also being used for robotic process automation of various back-end operations. The overall impact of these projects will result in a dramatic improvement of customer experience and satisfaction, reducing turnaround time, and improving bottom line.

What are the recent trends and challenges in the Indian digital banking sector?
Some of the areas that we have been closely working on include the following: mobile first/mobile only workflows; user experience & design thinking-based product design; rethinking banking from a digital-only perspective to reach out to newer segments and geographies; dynamic/adaptive security to protect our customers in an ever digitalising world; working closer with the government and regulators to build solutions around the India Stack; using AI/machine learning to improve the bottom line of the organisation; and deploying practical blockchain-based solutions that improve transaction experience for our customers and dramatically improve customer security, yet reduce operating costs for the bank.

In my mind, the core objective is a continued effort to understand our customers and designing products with security and regulations in place. The old rules of product design have to be replaced by new approaches. An increased focus has to be put on ensuring that consumer data is kept safer, and we are in a position to help customers and regulators create a better, more conducive digital banking ecosystem.

How do you see the future of HDFC Bank when it comes to digitalisation?
We see HDFC Bank consolidating its digital leadership in the future. With digital experiments happening across various emerging technologies like biometrics, IOT, AR/ VR, etc., there are many exciting solutions in the pipeline for our consumers. HDFC Bank is also operationalising the fruits of its collaborations with startups, academic institutions, and government agencies.

All of these will have far reaching, positive impact across our customer base, geographies, and across the socioeconomic pyramid. We want to be the first port of call for banking anywhere and for any need, powered by the most robust technology backbone. Understanding the complexities of branches allowed us to put the right mechanisms in place to aid awareness, trial, activation, and digital portfolio growth. 

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