Interview with R. Yuvakumar- Managing Director and Chief Consultant, Centre for Awakened Learning & Management FZ LLC., Dubai, U.A.E.

Debashish: You have been at a senior leadership role and have served several large multinationals across various countries in the world. We are now seeing the fourth industrial revolution characterized by digitization and digital revolution. Please share your thoughts on the transformation in the world of business that you have witnessed in your long and illustrious career.

Yuvakumar: Digitalization is picking up pace world over and is now transforming and disrupting businesses across all industry verticals. It has become the single most important factor in ensuring the survival and growth of the business. We have clearly seen a transition in the expectations of customers relating to response and interactivity. People and the marketplace need continuous connection by which companies and suppliers interact 24 / 7. This needed a change in the mindset of running business, based on redefined business frameworks. Without expecting customers to knock their doors for their wants, companies have a choice to address their needs and feelings almost on a transactional (moment they emerge) or even being predictable. Technology through customised digital interactions has helped to build enhanced relationship and bonding with customers, overall it is helping in reduction of wasteful energies that customers expend to get their services delivered through earlier delivery methods. The impact of digitalization on business and people is multi-faceted and growing in significance.

We have seen that companies and governmental systems which do not respond to these trends and do not innovate, have often got evaporated. Of-course this tool has its two-edged dimension, with its benefits, concerns and consequences.

Debashish: You have been in the Banking Industry for long. Most BIFS institutions have created digital bank for millennials that undoubtedly is a revolutionary thought and altogether another paradigm of digital banking transformation. How did this idea evolve? How were these products differentiated from the general services that Banks offers to its customers?

Yuvakumar: BFSI sector has been open in embracing technology for many years now, with varying degrees of seriousness and success. This industry being a monolith took its time to adopt to the reality of changed customer needs for connectivity and emerging technology infusions and interruptions. Partly the hard infrastructural and regulatory walls and mechanisms have contributed to a rather slow start. This may be understandable considering that these institutions are wired around strong beliefs of safety and security and being a custodian of people’s money. In-fact many fintech companies because of their intrinsic adaptiveness and nimbleness, have fast tracked themselves vis-à-vis traditional banking systems.   The advent of contemporary technologies and increased penetration of technology in our daily lives have now accelerated the pace of technology adoption in banking and financial systems also.

The rise of Fintechs and an increase in Millennium population has influenced product development and marketing strategies of the banks. We now see many banks offering a digital only proposition targeted towards the Millennials, catering to their familiarity with and bias towards using technology to fulfilling their everyday needs. From paying bills to ordering food and groceries, the Millennials have shown an inclination to use digital platforms. This has compelled banks to offer digital channels and products to this segment of their customer base. The fact that digital channels significantly reduce the bottom line of the banks is an added incentive. Digital banking products are differentiated from the general services primarily by increasing the flexibility and reducing the TAT for fulfilling the services requested by the bank customers. These products are built around the following corner stones of:

  • Give them, i.e. the growing youth customer population, the products and services that they request and not what you have
  • Truly respond to this need
  • Customised service / product offerings
  • Co- actively working with customers, hand holding them in this transition, trust and mutual information exchange in making this connectivity work and sustain.

Debashish: Many BIFS institutions have started digitizing most other traditional banking processes, products and services. Please highlight how digital transformation is embraced in banking activities. How has it benefited the customers and the bank?

Yuvakumar: Digitalization of banking processes is essentially driven by three key aspects namely, the need to provide a differentiated customer experience, increasing operational efficiency to reduce cost per transaction and to participate in the digital market places and ecosystems being developed by Fintechs and big technology companies. During the initial phase of digital transformation, banks are focused on digitizing processes, products and services to increase efficiency and reduce transaction costs. As the practice matures, the focus shifts to developing new methods of doing business and increasing the scope and reach of their products and services to their ever-demanding customers. The banks have benefited by being able to exponentially increase their market reach without incurring a proportionate increase in their expenses. For customers, it has increased the ease in doing transactions and the ability to personalize their banking experience. Overall even in the immediate terms the digitalization shift that is underway is helping customers more frequent and significantly improved banking experience while for these institutions it has lead to shrinkage of brick and mortar space, reduced costs and faster just-in-time or even ahead deliveries, with operational efficiency and optimisation of efforts.

Debashish: Learning and development is at the heart of such transformational changes in any organization. As a key  learning and development influencer  how did you rise upto this challenge of digital transformation and changing set of consumers to enable organizational readiness for change.

Yuvakumar: Change management is an important aspect of successful digital transformation. This provides both an opportunity and a challenge for the learning and development professionals. As with the other professions, digitalization has influenced the change in skills and competencies of learning and development professionals. The fundamentals of change management have not changed drastically. By continuously upskilling myself and the team, having more frequent conversations with businesses and by promoting Agile L&D practices, we have been able to surmount the challenge of digital transformation and contribute to the organizational readiness for change.

There is yet another dimension of L&D, which is training and coaching customers for their preparedness. It is the sanguine responsibility of institutions who are embracing or engineering digitalization to educate their customers in a timely manner. Otherwise these strategies will drop down on the way. The role of relationship manager and account managers centers around educating, coaching and seeking feedback from customers. Every reliable two way communication through user friendly updates, especially on avoiding risks and feedback and improvements made on their experiences, will help the customer sustained and retained on tracked in the digital path.

Debashish: At a time when many banks across Asia are struggling with bank frauds, online frauds, embezzlements of funds, phishing, what are the security issues related with digitization of banking services? Are banks safer with digitization?

Yuvakumar: Cyber security is an important part of digital banking. There is a growing science and a profession of internal security in BIFS industry. As with any business, the fraudsters try to stay one step ahead of the banks in order to ply their trade. The banks are investing extensively in strengthening processes and educating their staff to mitigate and defeat the nefarious designs of the fraudsters. Educational efforts around customers especially around millennials and youth are being done. However, this needs to be further strengthened using different media, including social, school and college curriculums as this could be a vulnerable point, for fraudsters entry. The regulators are also trying to fight the menace by strengthening the regulations on KYC, Fraud Prevention and Compliance. International regulatory regimes such as GDPR are also working towards ensuring data privacy and fighting identity theft. Attributing the increase in cybercrimes to digitalization is like blaming faster cars for accidental deaths.

Debashish: Other than banking, most industries are at the cusp of a digital transformation. Yet we see a hesitation by many organizations including banks to take brave steps towards embracing the same. What is your message to such organizations and their leadership?

Yuvakumar: Digitalization is reality, whether we accept it or not. For organizations, it is a matter of survival. Resisting digital transformation will only accelerate their speed towards the oblivion. A better strategy would be to embrace the change and ride the digitalization wave to transform business. Leadership plays a crucial role in setting the right culture required to adopt digitalization in their organization. The transformation is more likely to succeed when it is driven top down. Thanks to such leadership visioning, many organisations are getting into the digital mode, accepting them as opportunities for improvement in their customer’s life and not just as disruptions. We have many such examples not only in product manufacturing, BIFS and other services sector companies.

 We have global examples like Walt Disney through its technology magic / wristbands, which redefined customer experience as a WOW engagement. Closer to home I would like to quote a unique local UAE example CAFU inspired by its visioning leadership. This company has redefined the way of fuel delivery mechanism by reaching out specified fuel to its customer’s place. User friendly apps downloaded effectively supports their tagline “REFUELING REINVENTED”

Debashish: Presently as a consultant, trainer and entrepreneur you are heling several C-suit leaders to embrace the new era of digitally transformed business environment. Please highlight your experiences.

Yuvakumar: In my experience, as a leadership and executive coach, changing the mindset to adopt digital is the bigger challenge. Peter Drucker had famously said that culture eats strategy for breakfast. This is more apt in the era of digital transformation. The other significant challenge is of finding the talent to drive digital transformation. This talent being scarce in the market a lot of organisations need to re-skill and up-skill their workforce. This requires patience, persistence and a significant investment of time and resources to build the required talent pipeline to support digital transformation. I work with a few leading digital practitioners, in creating awareness and implementing the digital way culture. It needs faith, patience and perseverance. But I think we have very little choice other than to embrace the wave of change and ride on it to the best of our abilities. While external preparedness, through timely and responsive services to customers is one aspect, internal preparedness, through employee mindset change, motivation and lifecycle engagement systems became critical. It may sound as a cliché that “external service quality is linked to internal service quality” but this is very true.

My company CALM FZ LLC. has few unique digital offerings developed by our international HR technology associates and represent them in this region. I.e. HONO HR- Humanising Technology is an end-to-end employee lifecycle online engagement platform. Through digitalization it enables highly transactional on the go, low friction, WOW employee user experience through various customised modules.

Valuing feedback as a “Breakfast for Champions” we also represent Nidharshana Technologies a very transformative 360 online feedback portal OPPTIMISE. The outputs from this transformative tool is valuable for professional skills, change management and leadership competency development. Both these digital resources are available on cloud.

About R. YUVAKUMAR, M.A., PCC, CPCC

R. Yuvakumar

Managing Director & Chief Consultant of Centre for Awakened Learning & Management FZ LLC a boutique Training services, executive coaching and HR consulting firm; As a L & D Advisor and Corporate Mentor his commitment is to enhance the consciousness in people decisions and  foster awakened practices through  HR technology, training and co-active coaching; He has served  formerly as Head of  Learning & Development  Mashreq Bank & Subsidiaries (Mashreq Bank has been a pioneer in embracing and trendsetting digitalization practices in the region, including designing a Millennial focused successful product Mashreq NEO); UAE Nationals Development Programmes Manager with Emirates Airlines Group- Dubai – U.A.E. (A leading global aviation player, driven by a passion for enriching the fusion of technology and people) and as Deputy Director – National Training Institute Muscat -Sultanate of Oman (GCC regions long standing skills and mindset change organisation for development of local talent).

He has four decades of HRD – Learning & Development strategy and tactical implementation experience in a wide range of industries viz. Banking & Finance, Education & HR Consultancy, Oil and Gas, IT & Technology, Power & Automation and Aviation/Airline.

He is an active public and professional forum speaker. Has passion for inculcating values and enhancing consciousness levels in People Development Policies and L&D Practices in organisations. Additionally, he is actively engaged in voluntary social service aimed at developing community consciousness and human awakening. He has received several awards recognizing his contribution to organisations as well as community. Significant engagement areas are GCC National Development, Building Learning Capabilities and Community Service. Has been a Team Leader in Human Development and Emiratisation Awards of Dubai Economic Department and Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. He can be reached at yuva@calmconsultancy.com.