An Alliance Bank branch.

An Alliance Bank branch. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Alliance Bank goes open-source to enhance in-branch CX

  • Alliance Bank Malaysia turned to open-source solutions to deliver its first fully-digital in-branch experience
  • The ‘branch-in-tablet’ project was developed within 6 months
  • Results tied together customer’s online and in-branch experiences and freed up staff for customer interactions

Established banks are getting hot under the collar.

In a digital world, the champions of this once secure market now must fend off up-and-coming challengers, who can offer customers personalized, data-driven experiences powered by tools like AI.

Like every other industry, the banking sector must go through a digital transformation in order to stay relevant and competitive. Digitization of banking services will help to reduce risk, heighten efficiency and, in an ideal scenario, help banks serve their customers better.

“Digital banking makes life easier for consumers,” Ian Bradbury, chief technology officer for financial services at Fujitsu, told Raconteur.

“People are increasingly enjoying the simplicity of managing all their finances in one place, setting up automatic payments or making deposits, any time and anywhere, without the need to queue in a bank.”

But traditional banks still carry an important advantage of their new fintech and challenger rivals – they have a physical branches.

While the demands of COVID-19 may have seen branch closures and restrictions, many customers still value the assurance, interaction, customer service and security of in-branch visits.

Established banks must play to this unique strength, ensuring their bricks-and-mortar experience continues to advance to give them something their new cloud-based rivals don’t have.

That seems to be the reasoning behind Alliance Bank Malaysia Berhad’s tie up with Red Hat, the US open source software giant.

Alliance Bank told Tech Wire Asia how it has employed Red Hat’s microservices, or mini cloud-native solutions, to build an agile, open architecture containerized digital platform on Linux.

Ultimately, what it means is that Alliance Bank can develop one large digital project, where multiple teams can collaborate, instead of multiple smaller and seperated projects.

The end goal, however, was to make customers’ online banking experience work as seamlessly as possible with their in-branch visits, bring a swathe of benefits.

Alliance Bank built ‘branch-in-a-tablet’. Users could now walk into an Alliance branch and open a savings account, activate their debit card, or activate their online banking account on a tablet within 15 to 20 minutes.

For enterprise clients, instead of meeting a banking representative to open an account, to then return another day to complete the application, the client can now open a business account digitally via the tablet in one visit, eliminating the need for repeat visits to complete the same application.

“We use digitization to harness greater efficiencies, especially in terms of turnaround times, transactions, and completing applications,” Choong Lee Chen, head of lifestyle banking at Alliance Bank, told Tech Wire Asia.

These efforts, Choong continued, are in response to the increasingly digital lives of Malaysians, where the mobile device as the main enabler.

By making a self-service banking an option in-branch, the banks has reduced account opening times by 70 percent, while the removal of other hardware made possible by the solution means the bank has reduced operating costs and has made new community spaces available on its sites.

Freed from other tasks, staff has 75 percent more availability to help with customer queries, meaning in-person interactions are of better quality.

Enhancing customer experience in its branches – making services more convenient, efficient, and valuable for clients – is one benefit, but the company has also discovered a new, more agile approach to digitization across the company.

Adopting agile practices saw the project development take 2 to 6 months. This was a far cry from the 6 to 18 months it used to take under the old waterfall method of breaking down a project into phases, receiving the deliverables of the previous phase, before moving on to the next.

“With Red Hat open source software, we are able to innovate and scale up quickly to provide a fast and responsive customer experience. It empowers us to achieve our business goals with value-added propositions that benefit our customers,” commented Alliance’s Head of Group Transformation, Ken Yong.

Alliance Bank’s applications of the open source solutions were rewarded with an ‘Honorable Mention’ at the 2020 Innovation Awards at this year’s Red Hat Summit, the biggest event that specializes in open source technologies and innovations.

One of the new initiatives Red Hat revealed at the Summit was the provision of free online training courses spotlighting agile, open-source technologies that could benefit enterprises looking to recover and adapt from recent world events.

Benjamin Henshall, the General Manager of Red Hat in South East Asia, told Tech Wire Asia that the training courses could “help accelerate the customer’s digitization journey” as Alliance Bank has done. “Systems that are open bring a faster rate of development,” he noted.