By Tim Pemberton
How technology is transforming corporate banking
As HSBC’s Global Head of Corporate and Institutional Digital, Niall Cameron is responsible for delivering digital services to commercial and investment banking customers. He explains how technology is changing the way they bank, trade and even raise capital.
Why is it important for HSBC to invest in technology?
Every industry is going through a digital transformation, including financial services. New technologies offer significant opportunities – but companies need to embrace them to avoid falling behind.
HSBC has made great strides in this area in a relatively short space of time. We continue to invest in digital on a major scale and have the confidence to innovate in a fast and agile way.
But this is about more than just keeping up with our industry peers. Technology also gives us a new toolkit for solving problems for HSBC’s corporate clients as they too embrace digital and its potential for helping them grow and manage their businesses.
What kind of problems do you solve for customers?
Retail banking and corporate customers need and expect many of the same things from digital platforms. Both want services that are secure but also easy to access. So we spend a lot of time making sure platforms such as HSBCnet – which enables our corporate and institutional customers to view and manage their accounts – are as effective and intuitive as possible. We had this in mind when we developed the mobile app version that customers can access using their fingerprint or face.
But corporate customers can also have very specific needs. If you are launching a bond, for example, you might be making multiple presentations to different investors each day for one or more weeks. You need information from a whole range of sources at your fingertips.
Collecting and staying on top of this data used to be stressful and time-consuming. That’s why we have developed an app called MyDeal, which gathers all the data that clients need on a capital markets transaction and displays it on a tablet. Drawing from our own proprietary data as well as publicly available information, it gives real-time access to details such as investor feedback and profiles, orders and deal pricing, as well as logistics about meetings.
Which developing projects and technologies are you most excited about?
We are seeing some great innovations in payments tracking, particularly SWIFT’s global payments innovation (GPI) service. The initiative allows participating banks to track the status of their cross-border payments via a cloud-based system. They then have the option to show this information to their customers. HSBCnet Track Payments is our first customer-facing tool to integrate SWIFT GPI.
Our Trade Transaction Tracker app is also proving very popular. It lets clients use their smartphones to see what stage their trade finance deal is at. We are planning to combine it with GPS technology so they can check when the ship carrying their goods will arrive at its destination.
We have become very used to tracking in our personal lives. Whether we’re waiting for a taxi, a pizza or a parcel, we want to know where it is and how long we have to wait for it. Unsurprisingly, people now expect this in their working lives too.
You are looking to recruit more digital experts. Why should they join HSBC?
One of the pros of working for a major international bank is the variety – you can work on several different projects at once. In contrast, at a fintech start-up you would typically be focusing on one thing for several years and even then a competitor may come up with a better solution, rendering yours obsolete.
HSBC’s culture is another big plus. We are very collaborative, with fantastic people – including world-leading product experts – who are always prepared to help colleagues out. We have seen this with our team. It is relatively small, but we have been able to achieve a lot by collaborating with other parts of the organisation.
What’s more, the scale and nature of our business means that our environment is complex and constantly changing. If you enjoy tackling challenging engineering problems, this is the place to be.
How important is it to work with external partners?
It’s hugely important. Five years ago, we had to build or adapt every program and application ourselves. Now there are fintechs all over the world who are building great tools that can transform what we offer clients. These range from biometric identification – such as face or fingerprint log-ins – to advances in mobile banking. Fintechs are helping us offer better, quicker, more responsive services to clients. In turn we use our scale to bring their technology to the world.
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