by George Nott

CIO50 2018 #11: Ani Paul, ING Australia

Nov 22, 2018
Technology Industry

Innovation is an integral part of ING’s DNA, says its chief information officer Ani Paul.

Whether in the form of its business strategy, pioneering a branch-free, direct approach to retail banking since 1999; or its products and services such as IFTTT and Siri Banking – ING has earned its reputation as Australia’s first fintech.

Even its technology suite and culture, its ‘Bank-in-the-box’ approach, zero touch and Agile One Way of Working are truly innovative. Indeed, ING was name-checked by ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott as inspiration for the bank’s own agile shake-uplast year.

The company – which has more than 2 million customers and is Australia’s most recommended bank – views innovation on ‘three horizons’, namely: disrupting the core, re-imagine ING’s banking as a platform that co-exists with other platforms, and those innovations that enable ING to address customer needs not covered by existing banking propositions.

Over the last year, ING has been leading the Australian marketplace on all three fronts. It needs to be, given its customers are “the most digitally engaged of any bank in Australia”.

“The ultimate purpose of innovation for ING is superior customer service and experience,” says Paul, whohas been with ING since 2007 and joined ING Bank Australia in 2017.

Take, for example, Everyday round up (ERU), which launched in September 2017.

With ERU, card and mobile-pay purchases made through ING’s Orange Everyday account are rounded up to the nearest $1 or $5, with the rounded up amount automatically shifted into an ING Savings Maximiser account where it earns interest.

Setting it up is easy, it comes with no fees and can easily be toggled on or off as the customer desires.

More than 45,000 customers activated ERU in the first three weeks and it now has over 140,000 users.

“The exceptional response to ERU shows that it’s not just innovative, but adds real value to customers’ lives. It taps into an appetite amongst Australians to adopt positive financial habits and links strongly to ING’s purpose of empowering customers to stay a step ahead. ERU was so successful that in October 2018 we launched an extension of the savings feature – Everyday round up for home loans, designed to help our customers pay down their ING home loan. In its first month 2,500 customers enabled Everyday round up for home loans.” Paul says.

There’s also been the launch, in June, of ING’s IFTTT (If This Then That) function. IFTTT is a free app with which users can create chains of simple conditional statements, and connect many of their everyday apps like Facebook, Instagram or Gmail.

“IFTTT allows different apps and devices to work together to create new experiences – such as being able to save $5 every time the customer’s favourite celebrity tweets,” Paul explains.

The compatibility with IFTTT was made possible by ING opening its APIs to a third party. This means ING, at the discretion of its customers, gives IFTTT limited access to some of ING’s technology so that new experiences can be created.

“By securely opening our APIs to third parties we’re able to help meet the ever changing banking needs of Australians. This partnership opens up new possibilities for our customers to save,” Paul says.

The innovations have come about following Paul’s transformation of ING to adopt an Agile Delivery approach, which then moved to, and beyond a Biz-Dev-Ops model.

The result is products and services are delivered faster than ever before with speed-to-market up 50 per cent. New features can be delivered within five weeks of conceptualisation.

There’s also been the establishment of ING’s Innovation Council, which includes Paul as CIO, the head of retail banking, head of architecture and head of innovation.

“It provides the ideal oversight mechanism for our PACE Innovation process, that combines design thinking, lean start-up, and agile delivery,” Paul says.

Clear head for success

Paul says the biggest lesson he has learned as a CIO, was from his time working in India at ING Vysya, at that time the country’s sixth largest bank.

The bank was working with a start-up focused on real-time fraud monitoring.

“After about a year and a half of operations we realised that things were starting to lose steam. The start-up couldn’t find other clients, and their cash-flow was highly dependent on us. We didn’t want to lose the investment so we had been propping them up, and it became a situation where we couldn’t realise any benefits unless we kept investing, but we couldn’t invest more without starting to see some results,” Paul remembers.

“We finally had to pull the plug but by then we had a material impact to our business plans and had to roll back some of our services to our customers.”

The lesson learned was that of diminishing returns, best known today as ‘failing fast’.

“In order to fail fast, it’s important to clearly define what success looks like, not just in terms of a final product but also in terms of interim minimum viable products,” Paul says.

“Today, we continue to work with companies big and small – from Fortune 50 partners to really small start-ups. In every partnership, my abiding philosophy is now to clearly define success criteria, exit strategies, interim MVPs and be clear headed about success and failure,” he adds.