Global business Agility report: Standard Chartered 31 August 2021

Julian L. Moneta, COO Enablement & Transformation, Consumer, Private & Business Banking at Standard Chartered, discusses how people are at the core of their transformation. 

As financial institutions recognize the need to respond faster to changing customer habits, they have turned to Agile. An Agile way of working equips employees and teams with the methods and processes to fail fast, learn, and bring solutions to the market quicker. For this report and series of interviews, we collaborated with ADAPTOVATE, a leading global transformation consultancy. We spoke with transformation leaders from institutions all over the world. We asked them to describe their successes and challenges in adopting Agile.

What does the term "Agility" mean at your institution? Does it correspond to a specific function and responsibility or is it a cross-cutting philosophy that structures the transformation of your organization? If the latter, who is ultimately responsible?

Agility at Standard Chartered is about delivering the highest priority value, faster, to our clients. As a transformation it encompasses systems, processes and at its core – people. Working in Agile ways requires psychological safety for our teams, improving through experimentation, and of course empowerment. It is the leaders of this organization, including myself, who are ultimately responsible for landing this change and it is up to us to create the optimal environment to enable transformational change. 

In your quest for greater Agility, which areas are most likely to be transformed? Which areas, on the other hand, do not require immediate transformation, either because they are already "Agile" or because they do not need to be?

We approached the transformation with a ‘test and learn’ mindset and identified the areas delivering the most innovation as our priority. We started with establishing a small number of cross-functional squads and focused on three of our client journeys in our retail bank. We took this opportunity to observe and learn – what is getting in the way of delivering value? How can we organize ourselves better around our client expectations? 

From there we scaled our focus across our product, platform, and segment areas across consumer, private, and business banking – applying the lessons learned and simplifying our internal processes as we scaled. Our Agility transformation has not specifically targeted our frontline colleagues at this stage, however many of them have been involved in various squads sharing the voice of our clients and the voice of our employees. 

Among your Agile transformation projects, which ones have been (or still are) the most difficult to lead, but for which you feel that a major step has finally been taken? What was the difficulty and what has finally enabled success on these projects?

The biggest challenges have come from our sizeable, multiyear investment programs. It is very challenging to ‘fix the car while driving the car’ and we needed to make several difficult decisions and trade-offs. Based on our execution risk appetite, we assessed what to change and what to leave on the existing course. 

How would you describe the benefits of increased Agility? Have you been able to measure them? Can you share some figures on how you are able to capture benefits?

We are dramatically de-layering our organization. We are seeing a shift in culture towards collaboration, bottom up innovation, and simplified delivery cadence. We have reduced our investment governance forums by 50%, accelerated partner onboarding, and increased our speed to market. We are seeing higher levels of employee engagement and 94% of colleagues believe the changes we are implementing will make a positive difference to the bank.

Can you provide examples of obstacles that could not be overcome in your Agile projects (regulation, technology, social constraints, other)?

Being a large organization with over 80,000 employees, we face challenges with transformation speed. There are some areas of the company that have accelerated in front and others that are still in the early stages of their journey. As many areas of the company are dependent on each other, this does create challenges and at time bottlenecks where some areas are waiting for others to catch up.  

In terms of Agility, could you provide one or two examples of successful collaborations between departments in your institution, or between your institution and external service providers?

Our Hong Kong team recently launched a successful partnership with Cathay offering affluent clients a unique banking proposition. Four cross functional squads were established with partner capabilities embedded to ensure an exceptional value proposition for both Cathay Marco Polo members and Standard Chartered clients. The squads focus on continuous improvement and regularly incorporate both frontline and client feedback to refine the proposition. 

In addition, we have made significant progress in breaking down internal silos. Specifically, our technology and business colleagues now work closer than ever before to deliver shared objectives and a joint mission. 

What organization and incentives have you put in place internally to ensure the success of Agility-related projects? Which of these were the most successful?

To ensure success we have made significant changes to the organization. We have transformed our investment approach to a quarterly performance review rigor and introduced key Agile ceremonies such as big room planning to align priorities. In addition, we have made a significant investment in people capability, reskilling, and training. We have also increased the emphasis on team results as a measure of individual performance and ensured that we have removed any parallel structures to improve efficiency.   

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