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Age of the Digital Workplace: Why Standard Chartered is Prepared for this New Decade

Workplace transformation and evolution of workplace culture dominated conversations in the latter half of 2020. Greater use of digital technologies – right from note taking to automating processes, was achieved at faster pace than ever imagined. With widespread adoption of new working habits, organisations worked to support their employees to adapt to this new work style and also acknowledged the need to reskill and upskill a significant number of employees. With a noticeable shift in the workplace status quo, we interviewed Sham Arora, Global Head of Enterprise Technology, Standard Chartered to further understand how the bank is preparing to address challenges of the new decade and adapt to an ever-expanding digital landscape.

Workplace of the New Decade

Sham Arora: We know that work, now and in the future, is facing significant change, as are the expectations of our clients and colleagues. To work effectively in the new normal across the Technology function, we have set up the SmartForce Future Workplace programme to provide best practices, protocols, and standards for teams to work effectively.

During the pandemic we went from relatively low levels to 75% of our teams working from home in a few short weeks. We’ve learnt a huge amount from this – and it also proved we can effectively operate a global bank remotely. We are focused on how we organise ourselves, how we work, and how we drive an inclusive and innovative culture to equip us all to adapt.

We know how important flexibility and work/life balance is to our current – and future – colleagues. It is a core principle of our Fair Pay Charter and why we took a leading approach when we will be implementing our Flexible Working Standards across all our markets. But flexible working requires a change in how we do things, re-imagining how we deliver to clients, how we collaborate across multiple geographies, how we use the office or home space to bring our best and most productive selves to work.

Our Technology function is focused on how we can bring ideas from the whiteboard to our customers in the fastest time, from organisational design, to training and talent development, to building an engineering culture, to lean processes and delivery models.

Aiding Growth Across the Digital Spectrum

The Real Deal: A Digital Workplace

Sham Arora: The power of the digital workplace has never been clearer. Covid19 ‘forced’ us into a situation to adapt, and the result is massive adoption of digital capabilities both among our workforce and client base. During the pandemic, we enabled our 84,000 colleagues across 60 markets to work remotely, while continuing to provide uninterrupted service to our clients, and recording the fewest incidents in the past 5 years.

The organisation’s ability to adapt at pace showed that the future workplace is now, and it’s here to stay. That means long-term hybrid working options for our global teams, as well as our organisational structure, workplace design and digital workplace set up to enable flexibility and to promote new ways of working. The roll out of digital capabilities has clearly transformed our colleague experiences.

Booking a meeting room and taking notes, has become interactive two-way digital whiteboarding. Meeting our colleagues at the coffee counter is now getting together on our instant messaging or audio / video conferencing services. Connecting with a client is now a ‘face-to-face’ virtual meet, using our suite of video conferencing tools.

The Focus: Clients and Customers

Sham Arora: Clients have also demonstrated a strong demand for the convenience and availability of digital services during the pandemic. Across our markets, we saw a huge jump in digital sales for retail products at 68% compared to 28% a year ago and an exponential increase of over 300% in digital sales. This proves the increasing digital fluency of our employees and clients alike.

What’s more, we’ve also sped up delivery of our cloud-based solutions. The Bank’s applications and data are now accessible from any device – corporate or personal – through the roll out of a Bring Your Own Mobile Device platform, now available across our global markets.

The Critical Ingredient: Talent Pool

Sham Arora: Enabled by new capabilities, aXess Academy – our platform to upskill and reskill technologists – was scaled and globalised with innovative and experiential digital learning.

Learning participation increased by 223% covering 16,000+ participants from 32 locations, now connected via newly rolled out communications and collaboration tools.

The Future Lies in Automation

Sham Arora: We are transforming and re-engineering processes to create efficiencies that make things easier for our teams, whilst enhancing our client experience. Automation is fundamental in this journey; creating faster and more responsive technology products and services that meet our colleague and clients’ needs.

We’re adapting our structure and ways of working around clients and their needs. Our new ways of working are enabling colleagues to collaborate in multidisciplinary teams; thinking horizontally to deliver seamless client outcomes. They also allow us to build deep client insights and learn fast through rapid experimentation. Using the new ways of working, our retail bank in Singapore launched an improved personal loan product in 6 weeks instead of 6 months, packed with features in line with clients’ demands.

Employee Experience on par with Customer Experience

Sham Arora: I believe a great employee experience enables a great client experience.

We continue to invest in advanced digital capabilities and partner with leading edge industry players, to enhance mobility, teamwork, and innovation. As our employees embrace hybrid working, our focus is on making our technology capabilities available anytime, anywhere, anyhow. Whether in the office, on-the-go or in meeting a client, our employees will have optionality, the ability to virtually access Bank resources from any device, and to switch seamlessly between capabilities; from whiteboarding to virtual meetings, instant chat and more.

We also want to give our colleagues more choice around how, when and where they work. We formed a new partnership with International Workplace Group (or you may know them better as Regus) providing additional near-home/near-client workspace for all our people. This will enable our teams to work closer to clients, colleagues, and their teams, as well as reduce commuting time, travel costs and our individual and collective carbon footprint.
All this combined is about enabling our teams to collaborate digitally and to be more lean and agile, while meeting our sustainability goals.