The perception of the brand is going to be shaped increasingly by the perception of its digital capabilityStephen Bowe, Bank of New ZealandWhen it comes to choosing your role, \u201cbe careful with what you wish for,\u201d says Stephen Bowe, head of digital at Bank of New Zealand.Bowe moved to New Zealand from BNZ\u2019s parent company National Australia Bank (NAB). He was head of user experience and digital media at UBank, which was backed by NAB.Bowe started his career at Accenture in the UK, working mainly with telco clients. In 2006, he felt he needed a \u201cnew challenge\u201d and moved to Accenture in Australia.He went to four banks, trying to open a local account.\u201cOne of them was linked with my bank in the UK. I thought, there may be a synergy having my bank account in Australia and the UK.\u201cIt was a waste of time,\u201d says Bowe, who ended up opening three accounts.\u201cI remember distinctly in every single situation, the experience was awful.How can you have so little respect for the customer?\u201dWalking on George Street in Sydney, he thought, \u201cIf I ever got a chance to set up a bank, I will just focus on the customer. I will show them how to do it.\u201dWell, he got his wish. He joined the startup team at NAB that developed UBank.From there, he took on the next challenge - head of digital at BNZ across the Tasman.No captionPeople think digital is just about the front end. To have impact, you can't just have cosmetic front end changes.Stephen Bowe, Bank of New Zealand\u201cI look after all our customer facing online channels and so that is the website, internet banking and mobile apps across both retail channels and the business channels.\u201d\u201cI really believe banking is \u2018broken\u2019 from a customer perspective,\u201d he states. \u201cAnd what gets me out of bed in the morning is the opportunity to make it a bit better at BNZ.\u201cWhat I do care about are, did we create a product that made customers lives better? That is number one. \u201cSecondly, did we create an environment for our people where they love coming to work?\u201dEvery week, he says, they run usability sessions with customers. \u201cThis involves customers coming into our offices but other times it involves going out to our customers\u2019 homes or offices so we understand how our banking platforms get used in real life context.\u201d\u201cWe have this idea of helping you to begood with money,\u201d he states. \u201cIt is a great platform for me and my team.\u201cWe are about creating stunning customer experiences that people love,\u201d he says. \u201cWe care about the design more than other organisations.\u201cIt is a bit like Xero,\u201d he says of this approach.\u201cThey have got beautiful accounting software. Dare I say it? It [accounting] is not beautiful, it is boring. But Xero said, \u2018We are going to change the dynamic, we are going to make it beautiful and totally different to the competition.\u2019\u201dAt BNZ, he says, \u201cWhat we are trying to do, is moving past transactional relations and moving towards real engaging relationships with customers.\u201d In theinaugural New Zealand Digital Experience Report by SAP, BNZ was among three of the top performing brands in providing digital experience.Of eight industries ranked in the report, banking was likewise the best performing industry, with 92 per cent of consumers interacting with banks online. The report says the positive digital-experience score shows banks are getting it right, and that other industries should follow their lead to build delightful services.For Bowe, the survey shows the work the team is doing is having an impact on their customers.\u201cI confidently believe we have the best digital channel in the market. The new internet banking platform is as good as any banking platform anywhere in the world.\u201dFor him, this is critical to the hyper-competitive digital world.\u201cThe perception of the brand is going to be shaped increasingly by the perception of its digital capability,\u201d he says. \u201cWe are making sure we are not just building beautiful products, we will make sure we tell our customers.\u201cDigital has become this arms race as to who has got the first widget,\u201d he says. \u201cThat is absolutely the wrong dynamic.\u201d\u201cIn this widget-building philosophy anyone can copy you,\u201d he says. \u201cThe only competitive advantage [you have] is in how well you execute\u201d the projects.\u201cThe most value that we can create with our customers is not building a new widget, and I can say this across the industry,\u201d he states.\u201cThe most value we can create is to help customers use capability. If we have 100 per cent utilisation of all our capabilities and have maximum impact, we would create far more benefits than any new widget we are trying to release.\u201dTeamwork and transformationsBowe says the BNZ digital team is around 200 people. \u201cWe have an empowered design team that leads our product development,\u201d he says.We will have a product team, product management design team, delivery team and an operations team, he says. \u201cWhen they come to work, the teams don\u2019t see themselves that way. They operate vertically.\u201cThere is a combination of people from the different teams and you are just a person in the team, trying to move the channel to where it needs to be.\u201d\u201cYou just can\u2019t divorce digital from technology,\u201d he states. \u201cThese technologies are having an impact on the the world in which customers operate.\u201cThe single biggest, the flagship Bank of New Zealand store is not on Queen Street. It is our website,\u201d he states.\u201cThat is where we have traffic on a large scale,\u201d he says. \u201cThat is the impression most of our customers will get at Bank of New Zealand.\u201dBNZ\u2019s digital channels handle over 12 million sessions per month - with 88 per cent of total transactions being done through these channels. Mobile banking, meanwhile, has grown 37 per cent year on year.\u201cOur mobile app has become our \u2018flagship\u2019 store,\u201d he states.People are not giving up on desktop, he explains. \u201cTo me it is contextual, mobile is the everyday channel. The average desktop users check internet banking once or twice a week, with some visiting it less than once a week or maybe once a month.The average customer is checking the mobile site every day or every other day. \u201cFor high transactional users, it is easily six or seven times a day."The branch remains important, he says, but at this point, the website and online channels are the main touch points for their customers.Digital has become this arms race as to who has got the first widget...That is absolutely the wrong dynamic.Stephen Bowe, Bank of New ZealandDigital is not just the front endBowe is based in Auckland, but travels to Wellington every week.He reports to David Bullock, director - products and technology.Bowe has technologists in his team right down to infrastructure design.\u201cOne of my frustrations is the way people they think digital is just about the front end,\u201d says Bowe. \u201cTo have impact, you can't just have cosmetic front end [changes].\u201cActually, it is the experience you create for customers. You have got to reach down all the way to the back. You have to change the processes, platforms and policies and procedures. Thus, the digital team works closely withAaron Toatelegese, BNZ head of technology. He explains Toatelegese and his team look after the whole of the bank\u2019s technology footprint.Aaron Toatelegese, Bank of New ZealandToatelegese runs the underlying infrastructure, he states. This means the digital team works with the technology team as mobile banking experiences year on year growth. In a recent work survey within BNZ, he reveals that the number one motivation in the digital team was that the work was stimulating.\u201cThe number one thing in digital is the opportunity to work in interesting work.\u201cIf you can give people the opportunity to have an impact on that, you can get some pretty motivated people,\u201d he says.\u201cThat is interesting because even if digital is about technology, it is actually about people.\u201dHe tells his staff his only request is for them to do the best work. \u201cI will remove all the reasons, the excuses that you can\u2019t do the best work of your career.\u201dHe speaks with pride about some of the social concernshis staff is involved in. The team, for instance, is now working with the New Zealand Blind Foundation on how technology can work for the visually impaired.The aim was to better understand how BNZ\u2019s online banking platform works for visually impaired customers. \u201cIt\u2019s about doing more than just ensuring our software is fully accessible and ensuring that all our customers are able to use it effectively to help them achieve their goals." Data-drivenAnalytics is a key part of their decision making.\u201cWhat I want you to do is to look at the data,\u201d he tells his team members. \u201cUse the data to justify you are making informed decisions, that you are thinking of the impact on the segments that are most important.\u201dBNZ has adopted Agile methodology for the digital teams, he says. Some team members are \u2018co-located\u2019.They have staff in Dunedin and Kapiti, for instance.''We provide them work-life balance and this allows us a bigger pool of talent.''This, he says, is also how some startups work.These startups have a core team that is based in a particular location, but have people working from disparate areas and different countries.\u201cThen the world is your talent booth,\u201d says Bowe. \u201cWhat that means is you have got to have the tools to allow effective collaboration.\u201dAs for building a career, he says, \u201cWhatever career anyone follows, do something you care about.\u201dHe says people who work in the digital space must likewise have a passion for technology.\u201cYou have got to care about how these technologies are changing the world we live. Someone who cares, will always do a better job.\u201dHe looks further ahead, and thinks of his daughter, aged three and his son, aged nine months.\u201cThey are going to have to know technology. You have to, if you want to contribute to the digital economy. If they can not code, it is like saying \u2018I could not write my name\u2019.\u201dStephen Bowe, head of digital, Bank of New Zealand: "Use the data to justify you are making informed decisions, that you are thinking of the impact on the segments that are most important."Send news tips and comments to email@example.comFollow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinapFollow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nzSign up for CIO newsletters for regular updates on CIO news, views and events.Join us on Facebook.