“Digitalisation can bring us closer to our customers.”

Interview: Dr Gerhard Kebbel, leader of Helaba’s Digitali­sation Strategic Project   

A year on from our interview for the Annual Report 2016, we meet up once again with Dr. Gerhard Kebbel to find out how happy the man at the helm of Helaba’s Digitalisation Strategic Project feels about the progress made so far and what happens next?

We want to become even more customer focused

Dr. Kebbel, what do you and your team have to report for 2017?
Our customer portal has been online since the end of 2017. We have provided relevant training for our sales teams and are now gathering feedback from our customers and going out to visit them. One of the first organizations we heard from was Deutsche Telekom. They were very positive about the portal and said that we were ahead of the other banks they deal with in this respect.

So they are satisfied with the customer portal?
Absolutely. Now we just need to capitalise on this momentum. The next step is to expand the range of functions offered through the portal. Whatever happens, we are confident that in future we will be using the portal for transactions as well as for distributing information – in fact we are working on this at the moment.

Would you say customer dialogue is going to be a central part of the ongoing development of the customer portal?
Indeed. Digitalisation is about more than just deploying a package of technical measures: at its core it is all about adopting an attitude – a distinct mind set – that revolves around the customer’s perspective. The idea of the customer portal emerged from our meetings with customers in 2016. Then we had to develop it. And now of course we need to market test it with as many customers as possible. We are carefully collecting their responses and I very much hope we will hear not just that they like it, but also what they want us to do better: constructive criticism will help us to learn and to align our functions even more effectively with what our customers want.

What are your top priorities at the moment?
The customer portal and the Bank’s lending units, which are the main income generators. We have launched a second wave of efficiency-oriented projects too, one of which involves a new portal for meta loans business with the Sparkassen. Progress with the prototype has been very good and we are now working on implementation, including an interface to the OSplus Sparkasse operating system. And we still have a whole raft of ideas to work through from the participants in our three trips to Berlin, also referred to as digital learning journeys, which saw members of the Board of Managing Directors and heads of division each spend two days in Berlin with a group of start-up founders discussing subjects like the blockchain and artificial intelligence and looking at how a bank like ours can work together with startups. The people involved came away really full of enthusiasm about the experience.

Has this process also produced ideas for 2018 and 2019?
Yes. One example is “Helaba Digital”, an investment company set up to invest in internet companies. We are just ramping up with this one now and should be in a position to report the creation of our first company soon. And then there is robotic process automation: there are significant time savings to be made by automating repetitive processes and sparing our employees the need to complete mindless tasks manually. Robotic process automation promises to make a real difference and we are already piloting the technology on test processes in Settlement/Custody Services.

Speaking of employees, a year ago you praised the commitment of your Helaba colleagues in glowing terms. Do you still feel that same strength of support today?
Capital Markets, the CRM units and so on are strong drivers. And the digital learning journeys in particular have helped to create a broad awareness that digitalisation involves a change of perspective: now the customer and its specific needs stand at the centre of everything. Digitalisation can bring us closer to our customers.

Last year you described yourself as patient and persistent. What new attributes have you had to add since then?
It is very important to be able to paint a clear picture for people of the concepts with which we are dealing. If we are to make a success of digitalisation, I need to be able to bring management and employees on board. Furthermore, once on board, they have to believe: “This is it – this is precisely the path that I will continue to pursue!” This shift in approach is what we are aiming for and step by step we are getting there.

"Digitalisation is about more than just deploying a package of technical measures: at its core it is all about adopting an attitude – a distinct mind set – that revolves around the customer’s perspective."

Dr. Gerhard Kebbel
Leader of Helaba’s Digitalisation Strategic Project

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