“Banking has changed tremendously. Granted, the products and services people and businesses are using are still the same. But the way they shop for them isn’t anything we’ve seen before,” explains Iryna Arzner, Head of Retail Customer Growth at Raiffeisen Bank International, or RBI Group for short. In 2018, her team found themselves looking for a way to tackle this shift head-on and reconnect with customers in the digital space.

That’s when they reached out to us.

The goal that the bank group laid out was as straightforward as it was ambitious: to implement a group-wide solution to drive customer engagement, personalise interactions and boost sales through digital channels – and emerge as a leader in the CEE region in doing so. Four years on, 2 million Finshape-powered campaigns are sent out annually with an average conversion uplift of 68%, but in some cases, as high as 150%.

Here are four lessons we’ve learnt since we embarked on this journey together, as told by project managers Éva Tóth-Zsámboki and Csaba Czeglédi. Want the full story? Download our case study.

1. Go agile or go home

Since 2018, nine RBI Group members have joined the project across Europe, including Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Kosovo, Romania and Serbia, with a customer base of 5,200,000 between them. Nine branches, of course, mean nine different markets and wildly different business needs and objectives. Not to mention varying degrees of data maturity and infrastructure.

“One of the biggest challenges we faced were the inconsistencies in data input between systems,” explains Csaba. “Some branches have supplied data directly from card networks, while others have extracted it from their backend systems or a data warehouse.” The personalisation solutions deployed had to accommodate both the availability and granularity of each bank’s data assets and their business goals.

“There was a high level of customisation involved from country to country. Catering to this many requirements at the same time is only possible with an agile mindset,” says Éva. Sprints are planned for each branch separately and aligned with locally defined priorities. “The goal is to deliver a working application with the required functionality in as short a timeframe as possible and improve it during the next iterations.”

2. Explain the whats and whys – and be specific

The bank group’s vision has been clear from the beginning: to become a bank that’s digital-powered but human-led. And a leading one at that. To turn this vision into reality, Éva says, you must translate it into specific and measurable project goals. “Is it digital sales that you’re looking to boost or is it app user engagement? It’s key to have a roadmap with a starting point, a destination and all the stops between them.”

RBI Group caught on to this early in the collaboration. Not only have the project milestones been clearly defined and monitored, moving between them has been aided by transparent communication of needs and wants on both sides. Csaba explains: “Me and my team are solution-focused to a fault. But a shared understanding of what outcome will best serve a client to move toward and how we can tackle it is a must.”

3. Find a project sponsor (who’s a salesman at heart)

“During the implementation of this project, we focused on reusability by design. So whatever we built for one market had to be reusable in all other markets. This allowed us to scale faster and tap into new opportunities as well,” says Jalal Douame, Product Owner of Personalization at RBI. It was also his responsibility to increase stakeholder buy-in for the bank group’s personalisation efforts and promote its strategic significance as well as to make sure that all participants deliver what’s asked of them.

Although the role of project sponsors is often overlooked, according to researchers Timothy J. Kloppenborg and Debbie Tesch, there are key executive sponsor behaviours for every stage across the project lifecycle that can make or break project outcomes. In fact, the Project Management Institute has found that lacklustre executive sponsorship is both the root cause of about 43% of project failures and the reason why low-performing organisations waste 10 times more money on projects than high-fliers.

4. Cloud computing: move on from blue-sky thinking

A long-prophesied cloud-based future is becoming a cloud-based present for more and more financial institutions. Once staunch cloud-sceptics due to compliance and security concerns, they’re now recognising the huge cost, agility and productivity benefits the technology offers – and finding ways to make the most of it. RBI Group very much included. A few years back, the bank group decided to pivot and adopted a cloud-first approach, running its personalisation capabilities entirely on Amazon AWS.

“Over the past few decades, banks have become pretty comfortable with technology—that is, with the familiar, in-house technology they can touch and own. Moving functions to the cloud means they have to transition from something they know extremely well to something entirely new to them,” explains Accenture’s Nicole Lanza. “Despite this challenge, most banks have at least begun their journey to cloud, and many are accelerating their adoption as they start to see promising results.”

Case in point: RBI Group’s personalisation efforts have greatly benefited from a best-in-class technology stack combining a multi-tenant cloud environment, group integration tools and an always-on infrastructure, Csaba confirms. Not to mention robust, reusable components that allowed RBI Group to complete the deployment across all the participating branches in just 18 months, shorten time-to-market and cut operating costs.

Intrigued? Check out our case study and learn how our advanced data analytics and personalisation tools have helped the 130-year-old bank group win over digitally empowered customers and unlock new opportunities for growth.


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