Customer Centricity As The Essence Of Digital Transformation

by Abhijit Chakravarty

Digital Transformation may well be one of the most overused terms among the C-Suite, business consultants, and the industry overall. It is an axiom that increasingly falls in the category of being painfully cliché, but the fact of the matter is that the term isn’t about digital technology. It’s less to do with technology and more about organizational transformation and change management with human capital at its core.

The fourth industrial revolution is all things Meta with its blurring lines between the real and digital worlds. Characterized by augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), it has created a fundamental shift in the way we will conduct business. The power now is truly in the hands of the new-age customer, who decides when, where, and how they will transact.

While the “customer is king” moniker has always been around, thanks to new research, we are now able to see exactly which factors in a digital transformation correlate with being a financially successful company, and why indeed, companies should care about digital transformation.

Source: Harvard Business Review

A recent study by Deloitte found that more digitally mature companies see higher gains in customer satisfaction, gross margin as well as long-term gains. With customers at the center of the digital transformation, more digital maturity can lead to better net revenue and net profit margin, as seen in the graphic below:

Why is this? The answer is that digitally mature companies can add value for their customers. Deloitte identified seven digital pivots, listed below, which successful organizations made, with customers at their center. As a result, they were more agile when it came to responding to customer demands (products and services), improving customer relations (being culturally relevant and bringing diversity and inclusion), or enhancing customer experience (seamless transition between mobile and in-person experience and 24/7 support). These successful enterprises were also able to adapt their business model and boost innovation.

Pivot 1: Flexible, secure infrastructure

Pivot 2: Data Mastery

Pivot 3: Digitally savvy, open talent networks

Pivot 4: Ecosystem engagement

Pivot 5: Intelligent workflows

Pivot 6: Unified Customer Experience

Pivot 7: Business model adaptability

The business and financial impact of a digital transformation centered around the customer is not lost on the C-suite either. Companies with higher digital maturity see benefits across cost reduction, increased sales, and better customer lifetime value. According to this report by KPMG, as many as 67% of CEOs agree that the agility provided by digital transformation is “the new currency of business; if we’re too slow, we will be bankrupt.”

Digital transformation’s real purpose is about empowering the server (business) and the served (customer). In coming years, we will see businesses re-imagining, growing, and transforming themselves by placing the digitally empowered demi-gods, a.k.a the customer, at the epicenter. The alternative, unfortunately, is worse.

At Blanc Labs, we understand that every organization’s needs are different. This is why we offer advisory and consulting services to understand your unique issues and get you started with your digital transformation journey. Book a discovery call with us to learn more.


Challenges in Digital Lending

Digital lending has evolved over the last ten years and the pandemic has only exacerbated the need for intuitive, enjoyable, dynamic, and accessible lending systems for both lenders and borrowers. In the age of Apple and Amazon, borrowers demand a seamless experience that does not involve speaking to a human being or filling out paper forms.

While traditional banks and monoline lenders are overhauling their systems to address these challenges, FinTech companies are making use of the gaps left by the big banks.

Challenges in Digital Lending

The Era of Digital Lending

According to the Canada Banker’s Association, 49% of Canadians do their banking digitally, but more importantly, 75% of Canadians intend to maintain the digital banking habits they picked up during the pandemic. Compared to five years ago, FinTech companies in the US today account for more than 38% of the personal loan space. Traditional banks, on the other hand, saw a loss of 12% of the personal loan space during the same period.

Why is this? The reason is a lack of simplicity, speed, and accessibility.

Leading FinTechs today can provide multiple quotes within minutes and fund loans within a matter of day. Apart from speed, online lenders today offer a seamless, fully digital experience as well as advanced features including security and risk assessment that does not involve a long-drawn-out credit check process.

U.S. Digital Lending Platform Market Size

Digital Lending Challenges Faced by Lenders Today

Creating a fully automated, digital-first lending solution can be a complex process, especially if you don’t have the right tools and automation in place.

Automated self-service, compliance, fraud and cyber-security, document processing are just some of the many challenges that traditional financial institutions must overcome to match the experience offered by FinTechs today.

Here is our point of view on some of these key challenges:

1. Complicated and Slow Loan Origination Process

Can you think of living in a time before same-day delivery or tap payments? Neither can borrowers.

Companies that don’t offer instantaneous loan decisions run the risk of losing their customer to a FinTech that is faster and can provide quick decisions. Relying on antiquated loan origination processes that require filling multiple paper forms, visiting the bank in person, and taking days to evaluate risks and make funding decisions, will spell trouble. One study shows that 42% of respondents abandoned their applications because the process was too long and complicated, and 62% said they were unsatisfied with the digital experience, due to “too many touchpoints” and “the necessity of going to a physical location.”

Nimble FinTechs on the other hand are assessing credit risk and offering funds at the speed of light. One study by Smarter Loans found that 53% of respondents received their funds a mere 24 hours after applying for it, “suggesting that same-day-funding is becoming a standard in the industry.”

Thankfully, banks can implement digital native loan origination platforms that can automate the end to end loan origination process;  or they can address bottlenecks in it like underwriting, which will make the process more streamlined for both borrowers and lenders.

2. Partial measures instead of end-to-end solutions

Delivering an end-to-end solution is a mammoth task that needs significant resources and time.   The world of lending is full of large projects that took twelve to eighteen months to deliver value and this is not going to disrupt the FinTech community. Success for this is now measured in mere months.  Moreover, automating one part of the customer journey and ignoring the rest can cause more complications in the long run and can re-introduce manual intervention. Instead of a piecemeal approach, consider a unified lending solution with a modular structure that addresses all steps from information collection to underwriting, servicing, and reporting.  It is important to get the end state vision right first and then you can make incremental changes building towards your best customer journey if you elect to do things in recommended phases.

3. Document Intake and Data Storage

While traditional banks and brokers have been busy processing loans through paper-based or hardwired systems, FinTech companies are using automated processes to process loans faster and more transparently. Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) can automate the document intake process and apply AI (artificial intelligence) plus ML (machine learning) to extract data with more accuracy while converting unstructured data into structured data, making the data more useable. This can save you money and reduce human data entry error.  In most cases, this data can be prepopulated into origination and adjudication engines to drive faster straight-through processing and time to decisioning the loan.

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Productivity loss due to manual document management

4. Data Silos and Lack of Personalisation

During a digital transformation project, it is important to design the system in a way that the multiple components within that system can speak to each other and convey relevant data. If for some reason this does not happen, then it simply consumes more time—time that can be used for strategizing and planning. With so many systems in  silos, banks may not get a true 360-degree view of their business with a customer, therefore making it difficult to create personalized offers and recommendations for that customer. Ideally, banks should have a unified, transparent view of deposits, loans, and personal accounts if they want to keep the customer engaged and cross-sell new lending products over time to grow their share-of-wallet.

5. Regulations

Borrowers that come through the digital lending channel hand over a lot of sensitive information and so it makes good sense that lenders hardwire a regulatory compliance framework into their platform. Luckily, there are experts that can help business leaders stay on top of banking regulations and data privacy laws. The regulatory environment is rapidly changing and new industry driven changes around Open Banking are emerging as well. These dynamics are going to redefine and further embolden  FinTechs, drawing clear lines around how the participants in the banking ecosystem will work together.  Full assurance on regulatory reporting and compliance with industry standards is table stakes in any solution that meets this demand.

A Unified Lending Solution for Lenders

Blanc Labs provides a three-stage approach for digital lending which includes:

– Consulting assessment of your needs

– Streamlining processes and platforms

– Intelligent documentation processing (IDP)

Book a demo or discovery session with Blanc Labs to discover the impact of our digital lending solutions.


The Three Rs of Automation Discovery

By Saurabh Bhatia

Before you begin the process of automation at your company, you need to check for the Three Rs of Automation Discovery which will ensure the long-term success of automation implementation. In this article, we will look at:

Automation Discovery’s 1st R: Reimagine the vision

Automation Discovery’s 2nd R: Return on investment calculation

Automation Discovery’s 3rd R: Reusing Automation

Why are The Three Rs of Automation Discovery so important?

automation discovery

So you’ve decided that you want in on the automation game. Great! Now you’re in the all-encompassing process of discovery and implementation. This is where you, the organization that is looking to adopt automation, needs to articulate your business needs, asses how automation will impact your operations, and then determine a successful implementation roadmap with your tech partner. Here are three components, “The Three Rs”, that should guide your approach towards a successful discovery and automation implementation.

Automation Discovery’s 1st R: Reimagine the Vision

Begin by reinventing the way you look at your operations and its processes. It goes without saying that you should start with standard process automation first to demonstrate its value. But during the discovery phase, explore all tools that will compound the value of automation for your organization. For example, if you are looking to automate the mortgage lending process, take a step back and examine the added benefit your organization will get from adding power BI dashboards or analytics systems that provide more actionable insights or discovery tools which identify which other processes and tasks could be automated.

Keep in mind a vision of an organization fueled by hyperautomation as you explore various options in addition to standard process automation namely, intelligent document processing, business intelligence reporting, process mining, chatbots, etc. There is a full stack of options you can explore to heighten the benefits of technology and establish that future state of hyperautomation.

Automation Discovery’s 2nd R: Return on Investment Calculation

Understandably the most common driver in decision making is about the returns you will see with the option of automation (or any other technology solution). Determine how you will calculate ROI prior to beginning work on the solution. We recommend creating a business case with a very clear prioritization matrix and roadmap of automation and its benefits. This will determine the focus both long term and short term.

Pro Tips:

  • Determine which licenses and automation tools are most useful and cost effective for the overall solution
  • Adopt licenses and tools and build your infrastructure to support the scalability of automation (and sunset those that are no longer in use)
  • Don’t forget, to consider monetary metrics which deeply impact the business in your calculations

Automation Discovery’s 3rd R: Reusing Automation

Some organizations feel like they’re starting from scratch every time they introduce a bot to their processes. In reality, you reutilize some parts of your previous assets (from one bot to another) to make automation faster. For example, if you have multiple processes, teams and departments using the same application or program, we encourage you to create reusable assets with the first bot so when you introduce a second bot, you are reutilizing the same assets with the same application or program. This fuels enterprise scale adoption as a team or functional area and can demonstrate the value of automation to other departments, which will encourage further adoption of the technology.

Pro Tips:

  • Divide your projects into components and create reusable libraries, which makes it easier to reuse automation for further processes
  • When designing the bots, focus on smaller components within them but always keep in mind how this will affect future projects in a positive way

Why are The Three Rs of Automation Discovery so important?

  1. By reimaging your vision, you create a collective, growth oriented and collaborative mindset within the organization as it pertains to digital transformation
  2. The right ROI calculations help you determine which processes will garner better returns both short term and long term
  3. Reusing automations also makes your implementation scalable with faster adoption across teams and departments

Automation is transforming the way we run businesses, transact, and engage in the world. The key to achieving our vision and maximizing the possibilities of technology in our organizations is rooted in having the right approach. And the three Rs in automation is great place to start.

Find out more about enterprise automation, book a meeting with us today to see how we can accelerate your digital transformation journey.


People, Processes & Business Practices

By Samira Akbari

I’m a jack (or jill really) of all trades, an enabler of teams, the governance that limits risk exposure, the financial counsellor who ensures that goals are met, and the process and systems authority who enables agility and efficiency. It takes very specific skills to build to who I am today, and I am grateful for the journey and the lessons learned. I am Samira Akbari, Senior Director of Operations and Corporate Services at Blanc Labs, and this is my story.

Samira Akbari

The beginning

I was born and grew up in the city of Mashhad, in Iran and was fortunate with an enriching childhood and education. Mathematics was always a favourite subject for me. To me, it has always felt like a universal language that has very little complexity in it. Anyone can speak math!

My education path led me to my first move to Tehran to complete an undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics and then immigrate to Canada in 2010 to pursue a master’s degree with the same major at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. Canada was a new start, a rebirth in my mid-twenties. Though the place was new, with a language that wasn’t my own and culture that was different, it excited me.

Building on the career path

When I graduated, it took me some time to explore opportunities and find a career path that I cared for and that matched my core competencies. I always liked and enjoyed mathematics, however, I noticed, as universal a language as it is, it is not easily transmissible to the job market.

I started my career search with roles such as ‘Financial Analyst’ or ‘Risk Modeler’. However, my search was not successful. Unsurprising ‘Operations’ wasn’t even on my initial list! A very good friend who knows me and my skills very well introduced me to that career path. As the author, Simon Sinek says “If you want to find your ‘WHY’, ask your friends what it is they think you should do.” I listened to my friend and got my first job in operations.

For three years, I worked at a London-based retail company as an operations analyst and manager. It was my first job opportunity in Canada, and I worked hard at trying to prove myself. It was only after I joined that I understood why my friend suggested I take this career path. Operations was all about people, processes, and structure. I like working with people, am very process oriented with a structured mind! It was a great fit for me. I will always remember those years where I had the opportunity to bond with an amazing team and be mentored by the company’s general manager.

The general manager was a woman, and she was mindful in how she developed the culture of the company. She made it a point to have one on one bonds with every single employee (and there were more than a 100 people at the company). She created an environment that felt very collaborative and family oriented. It was so inspiring to see a women lead in such a mature and powerful way.

Looking back, a big lesson that I learned from her was that to succeed at operations, you need to be fierce and kind at the same time. These two words are not antonyms but people sometimes feel that you can only be one or the other.

In 2015, Blanc Labs’ CEO, reached out to me about an opportunity at Blanc Labs associated with operations management. I was apprehensive at first: I had never worked in tech before and Blanc Labs was a young company. But I was inspired by the mission of the company and the opportunity to work in a fast-growing business. 7 years later, I am thoroughly enjoying the dynamism and entrepreneurial nature of the corporate culture and the tech sector.

What does it take to lead operations?

I think the most rewarding aspect of being part of operations, is to see the entire cycle of the business end to end and work cross functionally with all the departments. Not every role gives you that opportunity. When I think about operations in a dynamic environment such as the one at Blanc Labs, I attribute the following things to my success:

  • Be a problem solver. Operations are the wheels of the company, and a business cannot be paused by unsolved problems!
  • The ability to adopt and learn the important factors of any new topic in a short amount of time is an invaluable skill. In this role, you will get exposed to a lot of areas from finance to HR, to Legal and even Tech – some of which may be foreign to you. You will not have the luxury of time to be an expert in everyone or even one of those functional areas. Be adaptable and learn how to navigate your way through all of it without being an expert in any of them.
  • Be a good listener and able to see beyond the words and ask the right questions to find the root cause of the issues. This is where the opportunity of improvement lies.
  • Be prepared to say no and risk being unpopular. As a business operations leader, you will deal with change management everyday. The fact of the matter is that not every decision is made by consensus and there may not even be enough time to get buy in. There will always be team members who don’t approve of your decisions or are unhappy with the change. You need to be decisive and willing to own it.
  • Be adaptive, open to feedback and always open to improvement. Operations is all about efficiency and improvement. It is like changing an old wooden wheel to a new automated one.
  • Connect the dots. As an operations executive, you need to know exactly how every function in the company builds synergies with each other and help enable them.
  • To be successful at this role or any other role I believe you need to have a sense of ownership. I usually say if it is there and no one is doing it, then it belongs the business operations to push it through.
Samira Akbari Blanc Labs

Women in Leadership

Being a woman and an immigrant, you may have more self-doubt, as I did. But if you want something, just go for it! My exploration of my identity hasn’t always been smooth. Have I been told that I am too direct and come across too strong and that I need to soften up in the past? Sadly, yes. I remember trying to change myself when I was younger to be the “softer” woman that resonated with people. Today, I see my directness as a strength that helps me be successful at what I do and it helps me add the most value to my team. I have also learned that if your intentions are good and you don’t make things personal, people see through to the heart of what you are working towards. I’m unafraid to take the bull by its horns, address the gap, learn everything I can about the challenge and help the team conquer the goal.

I think about my journey, the people who have added color, wisdom, growth, compassion and so much more to it, and I am grateful for the person I am today. I am thankful of being able to embrace my true self. To quote a woman I truly admire, Brené Brown, “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” This is where I am, and this is how I choose to grow.

Learn more about our company values or explore Sary Tolosa’s story of growth at Blanc Labs to learn more about how people are central to what we do every day.

Interested in hearing how we can accelerate your digital transformation?