How One International Firm is Helping Rethink a Bank's Legacy IT

Publicis.Sapient is using new-gen technologies to update and make more efficient the style of business of a centuries-old bank in the UK.


LAS VEGAS--This is a big IT convention week here in southern Nevada, as it is often in the springtime. Adobe Systems is having its big annual event, Adobe Summit, for 12,000 attendees at the Venetian and Sands Expo. IBM has two conferences going simultaneously: InterConnect at the Mandalay Bay for 20,000 guests and Amplify for another 15,000 at the MGM Grand.

An important thread ties each of these together around this topic: Refining customer engagement in the cognitive computing era. That's the marketspeak description.

In more businesslike terminology, everybody's talking about how to keep potential buyers online at your website, tuned in to your brand, wowed by your images and presentation, and then persuade them to spend dollars on cars, jewelry, hand soap or anything else your company produces. Then, if your company is really good at this, and the products are decent, those customers turn around and tell their friends, who tell their friends, and so on, and so on ...

It's really all that easy and all that hard.

One Company That is Connecting Many Dots

eWEEK was on site at two of these three events this week and saw a list of connected dots among them all. We were fortunate to find one company, Publicis.Sapient (yes, the period belongs there) that was engaged (there we go, using a much-overused marketing term that used to mean a man and woman planning to marry) with customers, partners and potential customers in all three of these conferences.

A little background: Publicis is the third-largest advertising/marketing holding company in the world. It employs about 80,000 people and has presences in most of the world's countries.

Publicis.Sapient is the controller of all of the company's digital brands and is the digital-transformation arm of the main company. This comprises SapientRazorfish, DigitasLPi, Sapient Consulting and others, and it's a powerful, multi-billion-dollar force in the advertising world. Publicis.Sapient works with some of the world's largest and most successful companies, governments and organizations.

Josh Sutton leads all of Publicis.Sapient's work around artificial intelligence in data, which touches just about everything his company does. AI is spreading everywhere, in all businesses globally, due to its increasing availability and competition among a growing set of vendors.

We're not even invoking the internet of things here; that's an entirely new greenfield for AI/machine learning and a story for another day.

A Digital Transformation Case Study

Perhaps the best way to describe such an enterprise "digital transformation" is to present a real-world use case of how this works. This one involves Lloyds Banking Group in London, a venerable banking institution. The group's history stems from the founding of the Bank of Scotland in 1695 by the Parliament of Scotland before the Act of Union, which is the second oldest bank in the United Kingdom.

Lloyds Banking Group hired SapientRazorfish along with the McKinsey research firm a couple of years ago to "quite literally turn their company on its side," Sutton told eWEEK. "They wanted to move from a company that was structured around individual products and P&L silos for those products to a company that is structured along customer journeys.

"They looked at the 10 or 15 things that are most critical for their business that they actually do--from a customer's point of view, not from a product point of view. For example, saving for retirement, or saving to buy a new house; things that are very tangible, meaningful for their customers."

Lloyds wanted to restructure the company along the lines of each of those journeys, Sutton said. To do this, they had to break up the old model (which literally was centuries in the making), bring in a lot of new people, and train the ones who had been used to the old model of doing business.

"We had to look at each experience front to back, not just the individual touch points, but all the things in the middle and back office that impact that experience: from an approval point of view, from an accounting point of view," Sutton said. "We focused on providing the best possible streamlined positive experience for each of those customers on each of those journeys."

Each 'Journey' Has Its Banking Owner

Each "journey" comes with a Lloyd's "owner," so to speak, and supporting teams to enable every customer case to be a positive one all the way around.

Delving a bit deeper into this use case, the multiplicity of retirement and pension funds can be a real nightmare, Sutton said.

"One of the challenges that has been very prevalent in the UK, is that people have their pensions from different companies they've worked with throughout their career," Sutton said. "Having a cohesive view of that and being able to manage that as a single entity has historically been an incredibly difficult task."

A cohesive view of disparate income streams would be an important one for retirees. With a tool like this, retirees would have a much easier and simpler way to plan budgets, handle bill-paying and perform all their normal banking duties (savings, loans, credit, etc.) in one place, rather than dealing with multiple channels (online and in snail mail) on a regular basis.

How Publicis.Sapient Uses IBM, Adobe Resources

Publicis.Sapient uses IBM Watson and soon will be using Adobe Sensei to help its clients manage all these personal journeys. In fact, Publicis.Sapient is one of, if not the largest, client of Adobe's in using its marketing cloud.

"We've rolled out some great solutions with Watson over the last year that have gotten great reception so far with positive results. Using cognitive isn't about replacing people in the bank; it's about a better experience for their employees and colleagues, and their customers," Sutton said.

In summary, Sutton advised enterprises to think about transformation to cognitive technologies in this way:  "Think about it from a business and experience point of view. Don't think about it from a technology play. The three most common ways I've seen companies be very successful is:

a)  "look at use cases around insight generation--how do I leverage the data I have in order to make better decisions for my company;

b) "use conversational engagement with customers, using the natural language capabilities of these technologies; and

c) "use business acceleration--and I say acceleration and not automation. Look at the tasks people do that are rote and mundane, that can be accelerated via cognitive technology, to make people more effective in their day-to-day jobs."

IBM InterConnect, IBM Amplify and Adobe Summit all conclude March 23.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...