Craig Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for coming back. Today we are again supported by Stuart Ashby, say hello, Stuart.
Stuart: Hello, Craig, good to be here.
Craig And a new addition to the hosting team, we have Dr. Elizabeth Maxwell, who is here from our team to discuss her team and her role in this particular podcast episode. Say hello, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: Hi, Craig and Stuart.
Craig Great, Before we get into the meat of this particular session, which is an interesting one from one of our clients, NatWest. Elizabeth, why don’t you do an introduction with yourself, explain your role within Compuware and some of the features of your education that has enabled you and your team to work on more than just technical deployments.
Elizabeth: Okay, sure. My role within Compuware, I’m the technical director for EMEA and APAC. And what that means is that I own the technical specialisms across the region. So, from a Compuware perspective, we have certain areas where we really do focus. For example, data privacy, source code management, Topaz for Total Test and various things like that. So, the technical specialists for those areas report into myself, and actually, I’ve been at Compuware for a few decades—I won’t mention how many—and gone through various roles at the company. I actually came across from South Africa. I am British, but I lived in South Africa for many years, came across and joined Compuware.
I was a DBA for GM in South Africa, and I brought a lot of performance skills with me, so started off in Compuware in the performance space, supporting our classic products and moved to support the Strobe product when we bought it in ’99. And then thought to myself, tooling’s great, but really what we want to do is make some really positive impact with our customers in the performance space, so set up a consultancy team of performance experts within Compuware in those days, and for the next almost seven years, went around the world tuning mainframes with the specialists and creating huge amounts of efficiencies and cost savings for our customers. So, massively rewarding project to be doing for quite some time.
Craig Yeah, but great hands-on experience on various mainframe platforms around the world.
Elizabeth: Yeah, absolutely. And it is interesting how many of the problems are shared across various customers. We always comment on that when we did a performance project. My real training—well, obviously, I have training in IT—but my real training is in the field of anthropology and psychology. So, I’m very interested in assisting people and I actually am a trained counselor as well, and I do a lot of volunteer work for mental health charities. So, I’m very interested in helping people, but because I have a specialism in psychology and specialism in technology, I’m very interested in helping people adopt technology to improve their lives, whether that be in the workplace or their general experience of life outside the workplace. That’s a particular interest of mine.
Craig Excellent, and I think as we’ll hear from this coming session, that that experience that you’ve garnered across the decades by your own admission has really helped Compuware relate to customers in not just going on technical adoption, but changes in attitude, changes in culture within technology adoption. And so, we’re going to hear today from Chris Booth from NatWest, who we’ve been working with for over a year or so now in some major deployments, and we will tease out how your teams has managed to help him and we’ll ask some questions, as we go through. We’ll hear more from you guys in a short while.
Good afternoon, Chris Booth from RBS NatWest as it is now. Thank very much for joining us today.
Thank you for inviting me, Craig. I look forward to having a good chat.
Craig Great, and the reason for inviting you today, I’d really like you to share with the listeners today the quality center of excellence at RBS NatWest, and we’ll refer to it isn’t NatWest from here on in. But it’s a special team that you’re head of and I’d really like you to share the role and the function of that within the business and some of the journey that you’ve been on. But before we do that, if you could give us an introduction as to you and your role and how long you’ve been with the bank?
Chris: Sure, yeah. So, I’ve been with RBS for about 12 years or so, done a variety of roles across the bank. I spent the first maybe seven or eight of my years working for the investment bank; I joined, actually, as part of the ABN AMRO merger. I joined to help some of the integration that happened there. I did that for a number years and then ran some of the infrastructure that exists in NatWest markets, including their co-located trading infrastructure and the external facing infrastructure, as well. That also happened to include the payment infrastructure such as SWIFT and Trax and actually then RBS merged all their payments infrastructure into a single point, and I joined that single payments function, still running these payments infrastructures. I then moved to run, I guess what was a service, an internal service bus, a sort of classic kind of middleware piece of infrastructure, and ran that and then subsequently about a year ago or so, I joined the quality center of excellence, and I’ve been running that and developing that ever since.
Craig Great stuff. So, huge amount of experience within the bank and its processes around it, and I’m guessing you’ve seen a fair bit of change in your time.
Chris: Yeah, I have. I mean, I guess when I joined RBS whenever it was, 12 years ago, people were shaking my hand saying, “You’ve joined a great organization.” It then obviously fell off a cliff about three months later, and so I then had to… And actually the experience of that sort of, I guess, working our way through it actually, and how that’s changed the bank, not just from a technical perspective, but it’s philosophy, perhaps, and its approach, has actually been a really interesting learning journey. And actually, I think over the last maybe year or so, perhaps, the bank’s become much more forward-looking, and that’s probably where things like the center of excellence come in now, to help the bank move forward and actually look to take a journey forward rather than sort of fixing all the things that happened to it with the financial crisis and so on. It’s now moving forward. So yeah, it has been a very wide experience, both business and technical.
Craig We talked to many of your colleagues within the bank about new ways of working, it was always a term that I’d kind of heard first from the RBS NatWest community, and I guess there’s no better time to discuss ways of working than in a period where we’re in a global pandemic, so I’m sure in the last 12 weeks we’ve seen quite a variation in your methods of working.
Chris: Yes, we have. I suppose like everyone else, we’re working at home, and I think from a purely technical sense, the tools, Zoom and so on, which had actually already been implemented into the bank, they were implemented maybe 18 months ago, and I think in a sort of technical sense, that made the transition to remote working simpler because we’re already used to using Zoom, we’re used to having a diverse workforce, people in India, people in various locations, so in some ways that was quite straightforward. I think the areas that I, like a lot of people, have had to get used to, perhaps, is to every meeting being on Zoom and constantly being visible and so on. And actually what’s happened over time actually, is that people have now come the other way and are quite often now where it’s a one-to-one conversation, we’ll end up having a phone call rather than Zoom to give people a break and things like that. We’ve had to develop that, and I think one of the other areas is working hours, as well. I’m sure lots of people did lots of hours when they started, and now we’ve actually deliberately tried to look at how do you have a lot to manage time in a different way because you don’t have the community, you don’t have an excuse of leaving anymore, things like that. So, I think I’m sure like lots of organizations we’ve had to develop mechanisms to manage those kind challenges.
Craig We’ll touch on in just a while how that has evolved over the last few weeks, but the main reason for kind of getting you on today was to talk about that quality center of excellence, and really the role that it plays within NatWest and why it’s function exists and really what it delivers to the business and kind of supporting those changes. Can you give us a bit of background on that, and I guess the function that it provides to the business?
Chris: Sure, so it’s a bank-wide function, it exists across the bank and it exists because RBS has, NatWest has, sort of divided itself into what are called domains and then centers of excellence. So, domains are business functions, but they’re end-to-end functions and they have sort of names that reflect their function. There’s one about home buying, for example, here’s one about everyday banking, for example, and so on. And those are end-to-end functions, so they have technology, they have business, they have operational staff, they have front customer-facing staff, and so all in the same function, and therefore they are tasked with various customer outcomes to support growth in mortgages, for example. Where the centers of excellence fit in is that they are horizontal functions and they are designed to improve the delivery mechanisms of these domains. And the quality center of excellence is, I guess the clue is in the name, it’s about the quality of the deliveries; how people deliver their outcomes with a better cadence, how they deliver it with fewer defects, and particularly around testing, really how they make their testing more efficient, can they make their test runs quicker, and so on.
Where I fit in, really, is working with specific areas, almost a bit like a consultancy, so I have people who have specialisms in automation testing, people who have specialisms in performance testing, people who have a specialty in how you can use the technology to get your outcomes or how you link your monitoring tools to your testing tools so you can see the outcome, and also sort of more generic testing practices like defect management, how you manage the change governance process, how you use test data. So that all those sort of function, I suppose to avoid teams necessarily reinventing the wheel, going through it again and using the knowledge that exists across the bank, because I have links across the bank to act as sort of a knowledge broker to say, “Well, other people have done this, and so this problem with that,” and help projects like that. So, my outcomes are the project to deliver better, quicker, faster if you like, it’s not… I don’t… I exist to support the delivery of those of those projects.
Craig There we hear from Chris, talking about reinventing the wheel and ultimately trying to get the most from his teams by re-using some of that valuable experience. Elizabeth, we spoke about experience earlier, could you share with us how we’ve managed to do that at Compuware and share some of those experiences across multiple customers?
Elizabeth: Yeah, sure. So, when I was in industry myself, practicing as a DBA for 10 years, I always found it very, very enlightening when I had an external consultant come into our IT shop and talk to us. It was almost like going to a mini-conference because these specialists had gone around to many other customers, and I knew that were in speaking to them, I could really get a condensed view of what was happening in the market, some of the challenges that these customers had overcome and what I should really be doing within my own management of my database systems, in that case.
So, I think engaging with the computer staff is a fantastic opportunity to really ask questions about what other customers are doing, and obviously all information is confidential about these customers, of course, but it really allows our customers such as NatWest to really say what has worked and what should we really avoid, and to blend the answers to that question with their own culture. Because changing a whole culture in one big bite, eating the elephant in a bite, is not a great thing to try and do. So, it is more of a journey, as Chris mentions, and it is more something that we can facilitate with a lot of coaching and encouragement.
Craig Sure, and Stuart, obviously, you have some past experience of that, of being on the other side of the fence, and do you confirm what Elizabeth is saying there in terms of the experience that we can bring around the table helps our customers?
Stuart: Absolutely, Craig. Someone who has seen more than the view that I have is enlightening and informative, and there’s always recommendations, such as, “I’ve seen this in a customer of your size in your industry vertical, and they solve this problem by something, something, something.” There’s never any disclosure on the actual detail, but there is an element of, “I don’t have to start from a blank piece of paper. Maybe there’s a tip or a trick or a resource on the Compuware website that I can refer to.”
Elizabeth: And there’s something else, Craig, perhaps that’s important. A customer said to me, and I’ll never forget this, they said, “You guys come in and look at the world from afresh. And you’re not afraid to ask facilitating and supporting questions, and some of the questions that you ask us, we might never have thought of asking those questions of ourselves.” They said, “You come in with a fresh view with lots of experience, and you’re also free of the political shackles that some of our staff may be under within our own culture. You come in and you just ask things openly.” And customers, I think, really appreciate that.
Craig Sure. Well, let’s hear a bit more from Chris. What’s your perspective on that, what is it that’s kind of pushing NatWest to drive these horizontal delivery capabilities?
Chris: So, I think it’s probably similar to a lot of banks, it’s how the nature of the consumers, the consumers have changed their demands into sort of digital interaction, mobile interaction, fewer brand interactions, those kind of things. It’s the consequence of that demand on NatWest is that we have to operate in a different way and ensure that we can service those demands. And that led to domains being created, because they’re set up there so they’re closer to actually the customers and they have all the pieces that you might need to solve that problem for the customer or improve that service for the customer. So that, rather than multiple teams having to think, agree amongst themselves there’s all those pieces. And I think that where the centers of excellence fit in is that the domains are all about, “Let’s get this out, done quicker, faster, etc.” And where the center of excellence fits in is that at the backdrop of all this, we’re NatWest and we have 18 million customers, we still have a responsibility to be safe, be secure, manage the risk and so on. And so, the centers of excellence are a way of ensuring that we meet the customer demand that’s coming from the domains, but also in a way that allows us to ensure that we’re running safely, securely, and so on.
And so, we look at how you improve your testing, but also still meet the requirements of regulatory demands around testing and so on. And so, we help bridge the gap between the, “Let’s do as much as we can as quick as we can,” versus the underlying implications of NatWest infrastructure, and its importance to people’s lives and so on.
Craig And you spoke there, Chris, about the mobile platform and you reference the middle tier, and we’re pretty familiar with hearing on testing processes and things like that in that environment, but obviously we… Mainframe is a backend, kind of running the core banking platform, how have you looked at trying to drive modern processes around the mainframe?
Chris: Okay, yeah, that’s quite an interesting thing because I think initially the bank, the bank’s approach exactly as you’ve been, we need to do mobile, we need to get APIs, we need to do microservices, etc. And what actually, the core of the bank, whatever happens in those services, microservices, all of them eventually need to go and talk to the mainframe, because that’s where the transactions live, that’s where the customer information is, that’s where the account information is, and so on. So, actually that relationship always, always has to be there, and I guess where we… Where the centers of excellence fitted in is driving the mainframe applications and mainframe infrastructure not to think of itself as special or different, but to think of itself, “How can I operate as far as possible in the same way that some of the digital interactions do. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t do continuous integration, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t use automated testing and all all those tools and actually enabling, if you like, the main frame teams to operate in that style and supporting them in the tooling that does that, and the processes that do that.
Craig Sure. And I guess a reason for doing that is trying to embrace new talent and bringing people into the NatWest environment and not having an archaic green screen environment. And so, having something that’s going to help you modernize that experience from start to finish is going to be important, right?
Chris: Absolutely. And I think there’s two aspects. There is definitely the persons of it and there’s also the, frankly, the sunk investment that NatWest has in these products. We have huge data, amounts of data of huge products and systems, and they run very efficiently, so the cost of shifting that all to, I don’t know, another system, and the risk and so on is a big step, whereas actually, if we can reuse that and make it more efficient, bring on the talent, as you say, and then actually make the access to that information accessible in the way that the digital developers want… So, if you can have a service that just provides information, show me the transactions to person X, I don’t really care how, just give it to me, and if we can develop those services and how they operate, and so on. That’s how we see the mainframe, and where I see the centers of excellence being key is that moving the mainframe towards that service interface and operating in that style to avoid the need to go down the millions of pounds, the risk-averse of rebuilding the entire thing from scratch, but still allowing the developers, the frontend people to develop at the pace they want to develop.
Craig Sure. So, bringing that mainframe experience into a modern way of working, what are the things that you’ve found that work as expected, and what are the things that you’ve found to be a challenge within some of those transitions?
Craig So, what works as expected is probably the tools, I guess. By which I mean there is nothing that we wanted to do that we found you couldn’t do, on the mainframe. So, you can get continuous integration tools, you can get automated testing tools, you can get continuous deployment tools, you can get scripts in a virtual environment, all those things that you might want to do, that you might think would be a challenge on the mainframe, are all feasible. So, all the tools are there and they all work, it is just as of setting them up in a new environment, and so on. And so, that’s been really refreshing, actually, and really positive, I think, from my perspective.
I think what’s been the biggest challenge, which is probably not a surprise, is the general—not… and I don’t just mean the internal developers here of the mainframe, I mean the bank as a whole—perception of the mainframe away from, “Well, it’s just a big box that churns,” into, “Well, actually, I can use it as a service-based solution, I can get this in, I can get this pace,” and that hasn’t just been, “Goss, it’s these guys who have been writing COBOL for 40 years is the problem,” it’s actually the bank as a whole and treat… and rather than going for shining new things, that think they need it, persuading them actually, with this work and this kind of evolution, if you like to the mainframe, we can get to a point where actually you can service it to the pace and the style, and so on that people want. And that bit, I guess, has been probably the biggest journey, I guess. I assumed it would much be much more the mainframe people would struggle with that, but actually it was much wider than that. The bank as a whole needed to be educated, if you like, that they can operate in this style.
Craig It’s interesting, especially when you say that you acknowledge that the tools work, you kind of… You’d normally point the finger towards the tools not working in that instance, right, but that sounds more of a cultural challenge than anything else.
Chris: Yeah, I’ve… And it’s the enablement of people to use those tools, that’s where there will be technical changes, like there always are, in the tools. But fundamentally, they just worked and we fitted them together. It’s much more being the enablement of people to use them. And actually people recognizing, I guess the potential of the tools, perhaps, is a way of putting it; that using these tools, they can actually operate in this style and they can be confident that they can operate in this style, and that’s been the ongoing journey, I guess the center of excellence is on, to get people to take advantage.
Craig So, that sounds like you’ve learned an awful lot along the way, Chris, even though you’ve been in this particular role just a year. Could you share with our listeners, what are those lessons that you’ve learned, by you and the team and can kind of share outside, but also just share within the bank?
Craig Yeah, yeah, so I think that one of them, if we did it again kind of thing, I think I would have spent as much time, if you like, or certainly almost a parallel project on the enablement piece of the usage of the tool. So, we went in it in almost a very traditional style with the quality of tools than how people used them. When actually we probably could have spent, we should have spent longer in how people are going to enable them and what our process is and bring them along that journey. We did a proof of concept with a team and that’s fine, but actually on the much larger scale, how to be able to take advantage of that, so. And also, I think we approached it from a very… Which is the danger of technologists, a very technology approach, whereas I think we looked at maybe the outcomes, we want a service-based solution or we want a, I don’t know, a virtual environment that we can set and looked at it in that point of view, that that’s actually what we the users need from us then I don’t think necessarily would have come up with a different solution, but I think we might have got there quicker because we wouldn’t have had to change things as requirements and merge and talk to people. I think we didn’t do enough. We approached it by sort of saying, “Well, these tools must be the right answer, let’s just implement them,” rather than necessarily saying, we’re actually… we’re doing them from this outcome, outcome-based approach.
Craig So, that we have some more details from Chris on some of the things that have worked and some of the challenge that he faces, and surprisingly, the tools, it seemed, do just work and it’s that education and culture thing, which is actually quite a challenge.
Elizabeth: Chris makes an excellent point in saying that as technologists, the first tool that we reach for in the box is a technology tool, but we have to remember that technology is here to improve how we are as humans and how we work, and that’s the whole reason behind technology and automations.
So, I think something that’s really important and close to my heart is being able to encourage and empower people to use the tools to assist them in their daily work. And that’s really important that we take this cultural view of what we’re trying to achieve with all of our customers, because we have found that if measurement exists for the sake of measurement, and I think Reg mentioned this in his podcast, we want any encouragement and any reflection through analytics to be helpful to the person that we’re assisting.
So, this is very important that we have this standpoint in mind, so that we don’t reach just for the tool and we put the tool in for the sake of the tool, but we really look at the why we are putting the tool and we assist the person to that end. So, one of the things that we do, which people find very useful, is to collect some information about tool usage, for example, to see are they increasing their ability to be an excellent developer through the adoption of the tools and to give them constant feedback. “You could be using this, you could be approaching this in a slightly different way, how are you doing that, and doing all these great kinds of things.”
Now, this type of feedback can exist at a developer level, and then when we understand the developer’s efficiency, velocity, quality, and we assist them, it obviously will then drive up to a business analytics level that really impacts the division silo that they’re existing in, and then ultimately the business. So, the product that we have to do that is called zAdviser, and I think it’s a very useful reflection on how as an individual you’re working, how your team’s working and how the IT shop could be working you.
So, that was very important, but of course, if there’s better ways to do things, then you have to know how you should be doing those things in and encourage an open-mindedness to explore the different features of the particular product. So, we don’t need to know all the buttons on the remote control, but we need to know the ones that really help us change the channel the quickest.
So, we have a program in place that we’ve gone through with NatWest, and this program was started off by identifying the different types of roles in that NatWest had. So, for example, a person who specializes in testing, developer, a manager-type person. And what we did was we looked at the toolset that we had and we looked at what they were trying to achieve, and we built a number of curriculums around these various roles, and we put it into our learning platform called zIQ, and we assigned people, got them to registered up, and encouraged them to use this platform.
Now, one of the key things I think about today’s knowledge society is that we want to participate in knowledge in very short, sharp chunks. We don’t want to sit in a classroom anymore, we want to sit and we want to watch something, we want to know how to do it within a couple of minutes and then we are off and we’re actually practicing what we’ve learned, and we develop ourselves in that way. So, the whole idea of the zIQ platform is that we have short modules that a developer or a different roll can participate with in their own time, and they can stop and start and they’re all quite quick, so that I can learn that skill as quick as possible. So, this has been something that we’ve gone through with great success at NatWest. There’s been a massive engagement with this platform.
And then also what we did, you have to obviously learn the skill and then you have to do it because otherwise it’s just an information graveyard, isn’t it? So, we taught them through the zIQ platform, and then we have gone through an accreditation program. Now, accreditation programs can be quite scary, but this was a very supportive hand-holding type accreditation program we did. And what we found when we went into the program was the level of knowledge was, I would say, quite minimal in NatWest when we started off this program, and we were expecting we may have to do a lot of encouragement and supporting of the staff to get them through the accreditation, but what we found was actually quite remarkable.
We had people coming into their accreditations, and we used Zoom to do this, which is the platform the bank uses, we had them in a queue outside of our accreditation virtual room. They would pop in, they would do their 20-minute accreditation, and man did they shine. It was absolutely fantastic. And what we saw as a result of that is some real champions developing within the development community, and they could then inculturate and send the message across to other developers. And our plan is to put a little accreditation ribbon on the email signature so that their peers know that they are accredited and they are a person they can go and ask any questions of. But we were so refreshed with the amount of engagement that we experienced from Chris’s team on this topic, and we’re going to continue to do this accreditation with other organizations into the future.
Craig Great stuff. Let’s hear a little bit more from Chris on how that manifests itself in terms of how are we enabling, I guess, new products to market. In terms of your next steps, obviously we don’t want you to reveal your project plan, but what are the key milestones that you feel as though are kind of the next iteration to this journey in the quality center of excellence?
Chris: Yeah, so I think it’s completely an element piece, I think as I said, not every team using it yet, that aspect, but I think it’s… For me, it’s pushing the potential, I guess, and what I mean by that is, how do we really take full advantage of the tools we build and therefore getting into the business outcomes. Because, actually, the outcome isn’t that the tool runs or that I can get data, the outcome is that the mobile can retrieve its transactions in half a second or whatever, that’s the outcome were really after, and so it’s actually focusing more on those outcomes and then seeing how the tools allow us to get there, away from just, “We’ve got the tool up and running, now we’re good. And turning that, I guess my team and also the users of those services into that mindset, and that’s almost becoming almost a product owner perhaps, if that’s the right word, of the… Not the tools per say, but the outcomes and the usage and the concepts. And it’s moving people into that mindset, I guess, is actually the bit I would see as the real success of this. The tool’s up and running, that’s brilliant, but it’s the actual achieving the outcome that would be the real outcome.
Craig So, yes, that leads very nicely to my next question, Chris, because we’ve been asking our guests each week, some of their recommended reading, and one of those particular books that’s come up is Project to Product by Mik Kersten. It talks about that journey of moving from having a project and throwing it over the wall to actually having an ongoing journey that will see it through the lifecycle of that particular solution right the way into the hands of the customer. And so, could I ask you for a particular material that you’ve referenced, just lately?
Chris: The book I thought actually about was that… And this is something I read a long time ago and I have revisited and I went on a course is actually, How to Win Friends and Influence People. And the reason I say that is that this is not… This is partly a technical problem, but it is a lot of it is about the approach and the mindset, and getting people to think about how they approach things in a number of ways. And actually the techniques and the approaches for doing that and how you… the empathizing and working with different people and how they challenge is for me, is quite important here because otherwise you end up building a technical solution, which is very interesting, but if nobody uses it or it doesn’t do what people want, you haven’t really achieved anything. And unless you get to understand where people are coming from, why they see this is a challenge, how they win out of this as well, then it’s hard to then get that product correct, because you kind of… Again, “Well I built a product, it must be what people want.” Rather than actually, what you’re really saying is, “Well, what you need, I think it needs to do this, but what do you think is actually what you need to do, to need to evolve,” and so on. And therefore, that kind of interaction is critical to actually making this work, and I think increasingly, the concept of that going to a product style approach is that the skills and the approach people will need to develop to do that, because that’s not a technical approach per se, or maybe it is, but also a link that you need the ability to have those empathetic kind of interactive conversations with your consumers or customers.
Craig One of the classics, I think. Dale Carnegie, you could say that it kind of straddles technology and your own personal life and getting people bought into a journey and having that emotional connection with any solution is part of that journey. I think it’s an excellent choice. Something that you touched earlier on, Chris, and we talked about this crazy world that we’ve been living in, in and around the COVID world, one of the things that really impressed me was what NatWest was able to deliver during the COVID period, and I refer here to the actual Companion card. Talk to us a little bit about the NatWest Companion card, and I’m sure the value of it will kind of come flubbing through.
Chris: The Companion card is for carers in a generic sense. So, where people are shielding themselves or self-isolating inside, it allowed someone to register a person to go and buy food and medicine and anything else that was required on behalf of that individual, but having their own card, so they didn’t need to go into there and take the card and learn the pin, or whatever, all those kind of things. And it allowed people to be much more protected, I guess, because they could be shielded at home or inert care, or whatever, but actually someone else, a relative or friend were able to A. do the shopping and the essential things like food, but also allowed that person to have some kind of interaction with another person. Because I think one of the big changes, obviously, is potentially the loneliness situation you could find if you were stranded somewhere, or shielded somewhere. You only had a sort of very impersonal interface, so it became a much more personal thing. So, I think it’s one of the things that RBS NatWest, as an organization, is proud of. That you can offer, you can set those things up and actually now internally, there’s lots of discussions about what actually, there’s probably lots of other use cases for that that we can do that we actually, can we start making this much more of a regular feature of our accounts and our services? That yes, we set it up and it was for a particular purpose, but actually, now we’ve got it and we’ve really, really seen the value. Where else, what opportunities that does in terms of allowing people to operate their account at a slightly different style because, we all know, we don’t quite know where we’re going to end up in six months, so there may be all sorts of needs with that.
Craig And it’s my understanding that was only announced kind of third week of April, in direct response, and what a fantastic turnaround to be able to take a real-world challenge and a real-world problem and have a multi-tiered, highly complex IT environment to be able to respond and to deliver some intangible to the market. That’s amazing.
Chris: Yeah, and it is, and obviously lots of people do lots of very hard work to do that, but I think that sort of goes back to, as we said earlier on, about, yes, it is complex infrastructure, but actually, all the pieces are there.
We have the ability to run, we have the ability to process large numbers of transactions very quickly, we have the ability to construct a card, and actually it’s more about how do you put them together in the right place. Very little new stuff is being built here. Lots of these things already existed, and it’s actually using them in multiple places. There are other examples of that around how we released the funds for some of the loans, overnight rather than, some of the other banks took much longer. And again, that was because actually, we had mechanisms to do that, it’s just that they were used for something else. Well actually, if we re-use this one, we can release that money extremely quickly.
So, it shows the power, I think, of having a specific outcome and then the right… the sort of feature team concept. If you bring the right people together, give them a specific outcome and say, “Right, guys, how would you do this?” It’s actually incredibly powerful. We are now, perhaps, not under the pressure that we were under a few weeks ago or months ago—how do you continue to work in that style and say, “Well, actually all it really took was the right people in the right place, so how do we make sure those people can come together again for similar problems and are the right people, not sort of the same individuals and operate in that style?” Which I think goes back to the ways of working, think of the outcomes rather than technical problems. If you think of the outcomes and then bring the people who have some of the technical information together and just say, “Well, this is your outcome,” then actually, you end up with a very rich, rich solution.
Craig I think the world will see COVID-19 is probably the biggest initiator of IT projects, certainly since the millennium bug, right? But it’s proven that people can accelerate their development cycles and when there is a need, things can happen. So, I think it’s a fantastic story. Just finally kind of concluding, do you have any anecdotes as to how your new ways of working… we’ve heard certain stories of the Muppet Show being on Zoom calls and things like that. Do you have anything?
Chris: One that springs to mind is we, across my team, we were running a similar sort of seminars and so on, and how do we promote it? And we could send out an email, we send out this and then one of my team said, “Well, let me take it away,” and then he turned out to have sent a video of him and his daughter while he was reciting a poem, while his daughter was chucking the football, trying to head it at the same time, discussing this series of seminars. It was in Scotland, somewhere. It was slightly bizarre, but because you can do these things at home, and people are around and stuff. It was actually really a nice thing, because I think one of the things that we found about this is that it’s personalized everybody in the sense that you see them at work and now you see them at home, and this was in his back yard with his daughter, obviously having fun, doing this kind of thing. And I think that kind of personalizing people and actually understanding who they are and how they operate better is again, you say when people look back at COVID, I think that’s one of the things that will be as well, is that particularly work colleagues who you only saw in a certain style, you may now have a very different appreciation of them or different understanding of them and so on. Which actually, for me, personally, I think it’s a really nice thing, and actually it helps you work with people, particularly now, as we may not see them physically as regularly. I think that is very positive.
Craig And anything that we can drag a positive of this whole situation is only seen as a golden nugget, so that’s a fantastic story. Chris, we’ve come to the time. Thank you very much for sharing that with us. I can’t wait to get it out to our community and get some feedback. Best of luck with the rollout and ultimately, we’ll hopefully see you again soon.
Chris: Sure, thank you for having me.
Craig Well, there we go. Chris Booth explaining how new products and services have been driven to market in the time of a global pandemic coming into the country. And Stuart, we’ve seen this elsewhere, as well, in as much as this driving force of compelling events that none of us really could have predicted. So, what is it that you’ve seen elsewhere, and what do you think of the Companion card?
Stuart: I think the Companion card is amazing. As an individual with elderly parents that are shielding, they’re very concerned that people are buying things on their behalf and having the ability to not get into debt by funding a Companion card is absolutely amazing as an innovation, especially when organizations are invoking business continuity, creating a new product or service, the innovation required, and to have the confidence to release it to their customers is wonderful. It’s a wonderful story in a very difficult time.
Craig Elizabeth, Stuart talks there of a difficult time, people have had to both entertain and keep morale up in various ways. Is there anything that you’ve seen with your team other customers that has made you smile throughout this lockdown period?
Elizabeth: Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the things which has a level of irony to it is I think we’re actually all more real people to each other, even although we’re working across the digital forum. So, and I know that sounds crazy, but being able to sit almost in someone’s lounge or in their office with them on a virtual link and see their surroundings, and see what they’re wearing and seeing their pets coming in and out is absolutely amazing. I think my whole team now knows and half my customers that I have a couple of cats and cats are wonderful to talk to and work through your problems, which they listen very well, and it is hilarious actually, that now and again, you would just see this tail going in front of my face and everyone just is quiet, and then suddenly everyone just starts laughing. Then my team, I think have had a competition to grow the longest beard, actually, which has been hilarious.
Craig Guys, thank you again for your time. The interview there from Chris was really inspiring, and a good example is the how we are trying to help our valued customers not just through COVID, but get the most value deliver and deliver to their customers. So, thank you both. Elizabeth, we’ll be hearing from you next week, where we have an education special. We’re going to be talking to Herb Daly from the education community in the UK to help us understand how we’re going to support the aging workforce. So, we’ll hear from you next week, Elizabeth, and Stuart, thank you for the last few weeks.
Elizabeth: Thank very much.
Stuart: Thanks, Craig. It’s been a pleasure.