by James Henderson

The tech foundations supporting financial services in Asia

Mar 04, 2020
Collaboration SoftwareDigital TransformationIT Leadership

Lea Angelin-Linker, director of Bank Solutions and Workspace across Asia Pacific at Credit Suisse, outlines how the financial services giant is approaching digitalisation in the region.

Lea Angelin-Linker (Credit Suisse)
Credit: Credit Suisse

Drawing on a legacy stretching back to 1856 – when pioneer Alfred Escher founded ‘Schweizerische Kreditanstalt’ – Credit Suisse operates as a titan of the financial services market.

From humble roots in Switzerland, the business goes to market through three regionally focused divisions: Swiss Universal Bank, International Wealth Management and Asia Pacific. In this region alone, the organisation has more than 7400 employees.

As director of Bank Solutions and Workspace across Asia Pacific, Lea Angelin-Linker is tasked with managing the end-to-end service of all end-user technologies in the region, including collaboration, desktop, media services, Office suites and printer offerings.

Central to this is helping the business understand the internal technology service offering while helping broker services between various technology groups and the business.

In short, Angelin-Linker and her team are building the internal technology foundations capable of supporting Credit Suisse’s growth strategy in Asia Pacific.

“I’m excited about the integration between future of work, workplace design and the technologies that enable this,” said Angelin-Linker, who joined Credit Suisse in June 2014. “Technology leaders need to focus on designing the infrastructure capable of supporting organisations when introducing more flexibility and mobility to end-users.”

For Singapore-based Angelin-Linker, this approach means investing in stable infrastructure services, security platforms, artificial intelligence (AI) and self-service, backed up by modern collaboration tools.

“The way we worked 20 years ago is no longer applicable,” Angelin-Linker added. “If we take into account human-centric design, technology leaders really need to support an innovative and collaborative place to work.”

In light of such a market shift, three priorities are shaping Angelin-Linker’s strategy in 2020, starting with enhancing user experience through seamless multi-channel support offerings.

Stability and risk management feature next, through “ensuring that we are constantly focusing on the unexpected and increasing our cyber security frameworks”.

“Thirdly, we are prioritising workplace of the future, ensuring that our technology meets the changing landscape of our workforce in a way that introduces work life balance,” Angelin-Linker added.

Angelin-Linker’s priorities align with 2020 State of the CIO research, conducted by IDG, which highlights increased focus on cyber security and customer experience in Asia Pacific.

During the next three years, 33 percent of Asian CIOs will also increase efforts to cultivate IT and business partnerships, alongside leading change efforts (28 percent) and aligning IT initiatives with business goals (28 percent) – all of which are key responsibilities for Angelin-Linker and her team.

“We measure our success based on our contribution to the overall strategy of the organisation,” Angelin-Linker explained. “This is achieved either through the introduction of automation, digitalisation or simply by providing effective solutions to allow our customers and staff to be productive.

“Consumers will have a very different expectation on how they do their banking and how they want to get access to their financial information.

“Business initiatives will be centred around mobility, flexibility and accessibility of services so our focus will be on how we can provide the information our customers want quickly and securely to help them make right decisions.”

Angelin-Linker also emphasised the importance of investing in process improvements to deliver significant productivity improvements within the business, a task which will require a great deal of prioritisation.

“Simplifying complex operations to improve customer experience remains a priority and certainly investing in technologies where the risk and cost of maintaining aging infrastructures also comes up on top of the agenda,” she said.

From a technology perspective, Angelin-Linker said the business is currently assessing the merits of cloud, without specifically identifying platform, as a way of providing the flexibility to “scale up and down” as required.

Likewise, she said, digital banking is a “passionate” project within the corridors of power at Credit Suisse, amid plans to target a new client base in Asia Pacific.

“Digitalisation is becoming the new norm – we need to keep pace, but at the same time ensure that it is monitored and regulated,” Angelin-Linker said.

“Our customers want the flexibility and accessibility digitalisation offers. However, if we do not manage and secure our infrastructure, more time and money is spent on remediating issues that may arise by the lack of regulation.”

Despite accepting that technology will “always be disruptive” as a force for change within the industry, Angelin-Linker cited the misuse of data as a cause for concern among business leaders.

“The most concerning is not about the technology, but the impact of the information age, the misuse of data is a highly critical topic,” she added. “The world will be connected through the use or misuse of data and access to this data.

“It’s also incredibly challenging to keep up with cutting edge technologies being introduced across different sectors. With these new technologies come the concern around cyber security issues and regulatory issues.”

Making a modern-day leader

In outlining the role of a modern-day technology executive, Angelin-Linker cited three attributes which are critical to success: flexibility, communication and adaptability.

“With new technologies and varying business priorities you need to be able to adapt and strategise to keep pace,” she advised. “Technology has many different paths but choose the one that’s right for you, one that interests you.

“As new technologies enter the market my role has absolutely changed, and it needs to. I started out as a pure infrastructure technologist. Now I find myself spending more time understanding and measuring the risk of introducing certain technologies to market.”

Aligning to the philosophy that technology is hard coded, but your career is not, Angelin-Linker brings more than 25 years of IT management experience to her current role at Credit Suisse, in a career spanning Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia and Australia.

“I’ve taken risks with my roles – I’ve expanded coverage, I’ve failed at projects but at the end of the day, technology provides a great learning curve,” she said. “It’s all about having a growth mindset. I think I’m still achieving that.

“There’s going to be good days and bad days, don’t give up easily because that’s the easy way out. Hard work will always pay off.”

While a career in technology was always on the horizon for Angelin-Linker, her early years were spent studying the legalities and humanities side of IT, rather than technology itself.

“It was not until I completed my degree that I wanted to fully work in the engineering side,” she recalled. “I went straight in, starting my career with General Electric as an analyst and working my way towards management. I knew what I liked doing and I just kept doing it.”

According to 2020 State of the CIO findings, businesses in Asia Pacific are struggling to source talent in the areas of data science and analytics (43 percent); cyber security (40 percent) and new technologies such as AI, machine learning and robotic process automation (36 percent).

For Angelin-Linker and Credit Suisse however, finding a balance between technical skills and customer focus is the overriding priority.

“Having an understanding of what customers need vs. want and having good emotional intelligence to work with the business to provide a solution is often the most difficult skill to find,” she observed. “I also like to ensure there is a certain element of diversity across my organisation. Cultivating a strong team where we all have the same ethos based on growth mindset is important.”