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The customers and communities that drive Beyond Bank’s tech strategy

The customers and communities that drive Beyond Bank’s tech strategy

As the CIO of Beyond Bank, one of the largest customer-owned banks in Australia, Stevie-Ann Dovico is at the nexus of the business, from banking and technology, to data and business intelligence, all of which fuels the person-to-person customer experience and promotes financial well-being.

“We’re a very relationship led bank,” she says. “A big part of my role is to ensure we always think about empowering the frontline to have more meaningful interactions with customers, and finding ways to use both proven and nascent technology to use in real time so they can do their jobs more easily.”

But it’s easy to get carried away by the latest innovations, so the baseline question that needs to be answered is whether or not tech, however new or established, is solving the actual business problem.

“That’s got to be front of mind,” she says. “So even with leveraging emerging tech, you need to think about your business model congruence.”

Dovico just hit the 90-day mark in her CIO role at Beyond Bank, so she’s still in the listening phase while new a new executive team and business strategies are launched and formalized across the broader organization. While all this goes on, however, the underlying purpose stays the same.

“We exist to change the lives of our customers and communities, and we’re focused on being Australia’s best relationship bank,” she says. “And technology plays such a big role by using it to give people greater access to banking services, insights into their financial state, and advice on their financial well-being.”

Being very action and people oriented certainly helps, to benefit both outside and inside the company. “I have a big focus on creating an environment where people feel safe to speak up and being connected to what’s happening on the ground,” she adds. “So I spend a lot of facetime with all parts of the team. I’m a big fan of skip level conversations and meetings, too, and fostering a cohesive culture. Those are non-negotiables for me.”

Part of ensuring that kind of culture is fostering an environment of diversity that goes beyond race and gender, and into greater consideration for thought, style, and perspective. “Getting the right people with diverse skill sets and capabilities is critical, and then it’s about finding the right roles for those people and giving them clarity on the vision, strategy, and measures of success,” she says.

O’Sullivan spoke with Dovico about tech accountability, keeping empathy in focus, and effectively solving business problems. Watch the full video below for more insights.

On the changing role of the CIO: It’s extending beyond traditional tech responsibilities. If you think about what’s fundamentally powering a bank, it’s people in technology. So the responsibilities are both broad and deep. And it’s a lot about being the jack of all trades at that CIO level, because you’re keeping up with multiple expectations of executives, the board, your team, and stakeholders, and having to discuss not only the depth of tech but the breadth of business, and how technology helps to power the business. Then there’s the broader stuff like economic uncertainty, which means really interesting choices about where you invest in technology, and the short- and long-term trade offs, hybrid workplaces, global workplaces, mobility, and how to get new tech like AI, gen AI, IoT, and quantum right and humming. How to safely incorporate that into your operations is important, too, as well as expectations of the board and the excitement around some of this nascent technology. But as a technologist, you understand more the risks and controls you need to put in place. They’re those balancing challenges you’ve got to do.

On data privacy and security: It’s the first thing I look at. When I came into this role, it’s where we’re investing heavily because security and privacy are just the basic foundations of trust, and my customer and community trust is what our business is built on. So my approach is to spend money to bring in deep expertise, and empower them to go into the current state and be honest about any gaps we might have, and to think about where we implement both tactical and strategic ways to bridge those gaps. Then it’s about being clear about the risk we hold, how long we want to hold it for, and building a response plan. So if and when an incident occurs, we can recover and respond gracefully with a solid comms plan in place and playbooks because people know what they need to do in a crisis mode. We also have things like red teaming exercise drills and game days. Like any skill, you’re learning. And in terms of designing new solutions, I think it’s critical we embed controls to ensure things are secure by design right up front. So there’s both preventative and detective ways to enhance that cyber environment. I think it’s the real essence of partnership, which is what I’m looking for with my tech partners. Actual proven experience in the thing you’re asking them to help you with is important because you’re usually partnering because you either don’t have the skills internally or can’t afford to hire them either permanently or in an interim state. So that deep expertise is critical.

On the digitalization journey: So there’s digital and digitization, and they’re both high on the list for us. In terms of digital, I’m proud of the team and our digital capabilities, like our app is super sleek for such a small bank relative to the market, and has won a number of awards. We’re really not focused on replacing human to human banking, because that’s kind of part of our core values. But in terms of digital, it’s about enhancing that experience, and providing our customers with the convenience of banking mobility, and the ability to drive value and financial well-being through real-time insights. And advice is something we’re really interested in. I have a very strong belief that you don’t make digital awesome by just pumping in a ton of features into your asset. Instead, you have to get out there and listen to customers about what they’re actually experiencing and what they’re using — the pain, the gains, the jobs to be done, and all of that — and really focusing your investment specifically on this type of thing, continuing to measure and pivot what you do around this data. So it’s about intently investing in what will make the difference for an awesome experience. The other thing the team and I are working hard on is the new website. That’s been a lot of fun thinking about interesting ways to use tech to drive personalized experiences. In terms of digitization, we’re focused heavily on this from an efficiency and productivity perspective, because it influences cost-to-income, and the more cost effective we are, the more we can put back into the business and help customers and communities. So that means looking at traditional stuff like RPA and automation, and also thinking about ways to leverage gen AI for efficiencies, enhance the customer experience, and prevent frauds and scams.

On tactful tech application: A combination of new and existing tech is what I find creates the biggest potential. Everyone’s very excited by gen AI and so am I, but it’s been around for a while, let’s say it was 2018 when OpenAI developed GPT. So it’s very easy to get carried away with these things. But I’m particularly excited by our greater ability to analyze data, find patterns, generate insights, and make predictions, and from there automate tasks at pace and scale. This really personalizes the experience for customers, optimizes productivity, and enables speed to market. I’m very passionate about how we use new tech to foster greater inclusivity, too. I was reading about emerging tech helping people living with disabilities participate more fully in society, and linking that to financial well-being, which is, in a way, the augmentation of human capability for good. So in terms of us implementing new and emerging tech, like everyone, we’re cautiously optimistic and work around how we safely experiment in a controlled way, and think about the nature of our policies and frameworks to ensure the ethical use of these technologies. Privacy is also a priority in terms of ensuring customers and organizational data still remain safe while reaping the benefits of emerging tech.