#FinTech at 2000 feet above sea level 🇨🇦

My interview with the Head of Customer Experience at ATB Financial. Sponsored by SAP.

Two thousand feet above sea level, nestled between Wabamun Lake to the west and Elk Island National Park in the east, a quiet FinTech revolution is happening. I’ve recently had the privilege to interview John Tarnowski, Head of Customer experience at ATB Financial, headquartered in Edmonton Alberta, Canada and I’m excited to share my findings. ATB is a world apart both geographically and figuratively from the giant monolithic banks you find in the big FinTech hubs of London UK, Hong Kong and Singapore. They operate in Alberta only, providing financial services to nearly 700,000 Albertans and Alberta-based businesses, employ 5300 staff and operate 172 branches. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first. I’d not heard a great deal about ATB before but it turns out that’s more to do with the famous Canadian modesty than lack of innovation. Whilst bigger banks around the globe churn out press release after press release about their new ‘disruptive cat-selfie on a blockchain widget’, ATB is getting on with implementing real meaningful change for their customers.

A few years back ATB migrated off their legacy core banking platform onto SAP and it seems to be showing dividends. Their new Online Shopping Platform built on SAP Hybris is a fresh new way to browse and purchase financial products. With its shopping cart model it looks more like Amazon than a traditional ‘application form’ style sales journey. It was interesting hearing John’s story on the experience design. There were some who favored an envelope icon rather then the shopping cart icon, mimicking the old world ‘forms in the post’ application analogy. They took a scientific A/B approach to testing and found the cart actually made much more sense to people.

John went on to explain ATB are stubborn about customer experience and go to great lengths to make things simple and intuitive for customers, listen and understand their needs. For example, ATB have a one-armed strategy, meaning folks should be able to operate their apps single-handedly, freeing up the other hand to feed a baby, carry shopping or any of the other multitude of things we have to juggle in our increasingly busy lives. The customer onboarding experience used to take nearly an hour with up to 10 screens but now can be complete in minutes with just 2–3 screens. ATB are looking at new usability features in their apps too like instant balance display. ATB were also among the first wave of banks to support Apple Pay in Canada.

It’s not just incremental changes either, last year ATB partnered with SAP and Ripple to test Blockchain cross-border transfers. Using a network built on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform, SAP Payment Engine and Ripple’s enterprise blockchain solutions, ATB transferred CA$1000 (EUR667) to ReiseBank in Germany. It took just 29 seconds for a transaction to complete that would otherwise have taken 6 days, whilst still complying with Anti-money laundering regulation. What’s more impressive is that the whole proof of concept was designed and built in just 9 working days! ATB are now looking at how to take this to scale.

How ATB have managed to achieve all this can be largely attributed to their technology and culture. ATB has a flat organization structure usually found in the likes of Google and ATB’s CEO is extremely in-tune and supportive of an innovation mindset which is likely in part why ATB was ranked #4 of Canada’s Top 50 Best Workplaces, Large and Multinational in 2016. ATB are also exploring ways to collaborate with Canada’s burgeoning #FinTech developer community with aspirations to build an API layer on the SAP Hana Cloud platform.

Looking forward into 2017 ATB will face similar challenges to other banks such as how to best access and use their data, how to move towards continuous delivery whilst maintaining security and how to keep up with customer’s digital expectations. Ultimately I think ATB are strategically focused on the right things and have the ambition, tech and culture to achieve.

Image Source: Edmonton, ATB.