In 2022, for the first time, we launched a special award for the best North American innovation submitted to the 2022 Qorus-Accenture Banking Innovation Awards. A group of key executives from the Qorus Digital Reinvention Community deliberated over this and selected “Using Platform Thinking to Disrupt Marketing” by Ally Financial. Arvy Rajasekaran, Ally's CIO-Enterprise Architecture, who championed this project and helped bring it to fruition, answered our questions.
Can you introduce yourself and tell me more about your role at Ally?
I’m Arvy Rajasekaran, CIO-Enterprise Architecture at Ally Financial. When Ally was first created, I had the privilege of building the team that launched the digital bank. Thirteen years later, we are the largest online bank in the United States and one of the top 25 financial holding companies in the US. We have close to 11 million customers and 11,000 employees.
In my current role, I lead the enterprise architecture team and our technology labs. The enterprise architecture team drives technology architecture for all our product lines as well as business architecture, platform strategy, data, infrastructure, and security architecture. The technology labs team demonstrates the art of the possible with practical, cutting edge and innovative projects. It is a small group of full stack engineers who use the principle of concept, design, and scale to build working applications that eventually become part of our product offerings.
Innovation Radar: Banking Innovation Awards 2022 winners
What made you most proud of this project? What was your greatest achievement in making it happen?
In addition to solving complex technical problems, we also ask the technology labs team to push our thinking with new ways of working. With that in mind, we partnered with Ally’s marketing organization to create an internal startup to take over our disruptor marketing campaigns, previously managed by external agencies. Within a short time, the team demonstrated that not only can they deliver cutting edge projects at a rapid pace, but they can also ensure they are leveraging Ally’s best security and DevOps practices. They were also able to reduce the cost of these campaigns significantly (Members of Qorus can read the case study)
What role did Ally tech labs play in this project? Was it a full in-house project or did you also call upon external service providers? And if so which ones?
The marketing campaigns used to be managed by external agencies. With our new startup model, they are fully managed by the Ally tech labs team.
Which technologies and innovations do you expect to impact the banking industry powerfully in the next five years?
Concepts like superapps, digital human and human centered design will advance banks from a utility to a lifestyle companion. The lines between banks and fintech apps will also blur as banks provide better planning, budgeting, shopping, and payment features. Banks will learn from the rapid innovation in decentralized finance to identify new business models that comply with regulation. I’m also excited that advanced machine learning and generative AI will unlock opportunities for banks to operate more efficiently.
Banks do not have major product or price differentiation, so I see two potential futures for banks. They either embrace being the utility and consolidate with other banks for efficiency of operation. Or they become a lifestyle companion, the center of the customer’s financial universe and offer all related services. We prefer the latter.
Some banks tend to take big techs as their model and main competitors. What is your vision of Ally? And how do you see the future of banks?
The fundamentals of building a good product are universal. For a bank to be top-tier, best practices from all industries must be implemented. From manufacturing to big tech, they all have something to offer. Banks do not have major product or price differentiation, so I see two potential futures for banks. They either embrace being the utility and consolidate with other banks for efficiency of operation. Or they become a lifestyle companion, the center of the customer’s financial universe and offer all related services. We prefer the latter.
What would you say to companies that might consider entering the 2023 Banking Innovation Awards?
There is incredible innovation happening in banking and competition for the award is fierce. The keys to success are to focus on the customer, have a product-centric mindset and fail fast. Our best ideas come from all parts of the organization. We constantly partner with other business areas and functions to understand their pain points and use that to create our backlog.
What does this award mean to you and your innovation team?
First, on behalf of Ally and the tech labs team, I want to thank Qorus for the opportunity. We formed the tech labs two years ago and it’s a small team that punches well above their weight class. They have formed great relationships with the business lines and with universities such as UNC Chapel Hill and Michigan State University. Industry recognition, such as Qorus, provides the fuel for us to be even better.
You can already submit your innovative projects for the 2023 awards. If you have any questions, please contact us at email@example.com