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Robyn King is part of a globally nomadic workforce at RMB. Picture: SUPPLIED/RMB
Robyn King is part of a globally nomadic workforce at RMB. Picture: SUPPLIED/RMB

Technology and people are big drivers in digital evolvement. Even though it’s a powerful enabler, technology requires people to build it, maintain it, and, most importantly, build a business around it. It is in and of itself not a solution.

Making the tech work for the people who use it, both clients and employees, is a critical aspect for RMB. The bank’s strong relationships with its clients are one of its defining hallmarks.

“Human capital is as critical as any other form of capital investment. It’s important to invest in, and develop young talent,” says Robyn King, the head of structuring for RMB’s markets division. “You can’t put out an advert for young, highly technical recruits that come with the experience and context you need. They don’t exist.”

Instead, the crucial skill set for developers is often learnt on the job. “Developing our own technically adroit employees is of strategic importance. You must bring young talent in and train them up. Ensuring a pipeline of skilled young people who are set up for success is a big commitment.”

This is one of the RMB’s important lessons. Another is that banks, which have traditionally built technology in-house, simply cannot build the rails themselves. “In a similar vein to our young talent development, how we apply those rails in our context is important,” says King. 

Technology has changed profoundly in the past decade, with large cloud suppliers offering hosted services, and trading platforms becoming readily available. There has also been the emergence of fintech start-ups with specific offerings.

“This has created an industry where partnerships have become an essential ingredient in any tech or business process strategy. We can’t do everything ourselves,” says King. “It’s about getting our partnerships right and getting to market quickly. We have to put these pieces together and add the critical ingredients that only we can create, to form a holistic, distinctive product and service offering.”

“With the right partners in place, we didn’t have to construct all the capabilities from scratch,” says colleague Stephen Linnell, RMB’s chief technology and operating officer for the markets business. “For the commoditised enablers of our business, we use best-in-class service scale players such as Sernova, a cloud-based derivative clearing provider; and a cross-asset trading and risk management service; or FIS ACBS, a loans management platform.”

As they look to the future, RMB is incorporating new niche players and ensuring that their ecosystem — both the tech stack and the people involved — can support them. “Then we can focus on how to differentiate ourselves in specific areas that will affect a client’s experience and outcomes,” Linnell adds.

Another insight, says King, is when to say no to requests from various business units within the bank. “If you’re going to build out new technology capabilities, you need to be ruthless in what you leave out. You can’t be Google, Amazon and Instagram.”

Keeping in mind that these technology projects involve multiyear processes, it requires a clear decision-making framework. “It takes courage to say no,” says King. “And a vision. If you have a clear vision, you don’t have to worry about missing out, because you know where you are heading. Being everything to everyone has never been RMB’s game. We aim for authentic ingenuity in the areas in which we play.”

Running through the digital transformation process and its lessons like a golden thread is people matter. And relationships matter. Even as the world adopts digital ways of communicating, the reality is you always have somebody at the end of the screen,” says Yolande Steyn, the bank’s head of digital interactions. 

A digital banking pioneer who helped created FNB’s cellphone banking service and later built its eWallet, Steyn knows from her many years in retail banking that “you can create an emotional connection with the person on the other side of the screen through great experience”. This holds true for corporate and investment banking clients as well. She says: “An emotionally connected client is twice as valuable as a highly engaged one.”

Becoming a modern bank  

That has been the theme of this series on how RMB has reinvented itself for a new digital, virtual age. The shift to digital has started a journey for so many of the world’s big industries, corporate and investment banks being no exception. 

Navigating the new normal requires a clear vision. King recalls a mentor’s four-step mantra: strategy, structure, people, process. “If you know what your strategy is, then you know your structure, the people you need, and the processes that need to be in place,” she says.

RMB is focused on high-end solutions. “We are targeted, and specific. We don’t stop until we have the best possible solution, and we value the quality of our relationships above all. This is fundamental to our DNA.”

This article was paid for by RMB.

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