Interview with Ghinwa Baradhi

Ghinwa Baradhi

Jun 8, 2021

What do you see as the CIO’s top priority? 

Our top priority is to generate value for our customers, colleagues and shareholders in a sustainable way. To elaborate: Our customers are demanding digitally enabled services at anytime and anywhere and which we at HSBC refer to “Bank-in-a-pocket”; our colleagues need to focus on their core competency of serving our customers and not being distracted by inefficient manual processes; and our shareholders require returns that are delivered in a way that is sustainable and aligns with the values of the organization. For example, at HSBC, our ambition is to reduce financed emissions from our portfolio of customers to net zero by 2050 or sooner, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

How have you helped move the business forward? 

A deeper understanding of technology as an enabler and driver for business growth has been established during the pandemic and we are now accelerating and increasing investment in digitalization to move our business forward. At the core of driving business growth is a clear technology strategy that defines key programmes to solve challenges faced by our customers and achieve business objectives. Some examples are: incorporating digital signatures into customer journeys to provide contactless service; launching our new online investment platform to book equity and ETF trades at the customer’s convenience; providing an online banking channel, HSBCnet, for our commercial banking customers to make payments and initiate certain trade transactions; launching a virtual debit card for UAE companies to enable our clients more choice in making B2B payments; and launching our new Global Money Account to manage and send money globally in multiple currencies and in real-time through mobile banking.

What is your experience with digital transformation? 

Our aim is to provide a “Bank-in-a-pocket” to provide anytime, anywhere connectivity for our customers and this requires front to back digital transformation across our Wholesale Banking, Wealth and Personal Banking, and Markets and Securities Services lines of business. This has required not just focusing on the front-end interfaces, but also straight through processing and modernization of our back-end core banking architecture. Over the last 5 years this digital transformation has been accelerated through the use of API, Microservices, Cloud Computing and Artificial Intelligence technologies that allow us to develop scalable, resilient and innovative solutions for our customers and colleagues.

Where do you see the industry heading in the next three to five years? 

We will see an increased use of the technologies mentioned above as well as focus on emerging technologies such as Mixed reality (Virtual/Augmented reality), Digital Identify, 5G, Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) and early use cases for Quantum computing. For example, the financial services industry is actively exploring Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) that are based on DLT technology. The next three to five years will also see an exponential increase in the volume of data generated through a more digitally native demographic and which will require advanced data science capabilities, powered by Artificial Intelligence, to generate customer insights and interactions, for example, through the use of bots to provide basic banking services. We also see increasing partnerships with global technology players like Google and Amazon as well as FinTechs to help accelerate solution offerings for our clients.

What’s your strategic plan for your current IT organization for one year, three years and five years out? 

Our plan is aligned to our strategy of building a bank that is “Fit for the Future” with a focus on four areas; customers – becoming easier to bank with; growth – growing the business from areas of strength; efficiency – reshaping and organizing the business; employees – empowering our people. As a technology organization we will enable execution of the business strategy by building resilient services, leveraging our scale, and focusing on speed of execution underpinned by architecture principles (such as design for security, resiliency, API enabled etc.…) to deliver a consistent digital technology stack across the region.

How do you stay current on innovations and trends? 

Through a collaborative culture of innovation within HSBC, with our technology partners, with our regulators, having a continuous feedback loop with our customers, reading, and most importantly being curious. Some examples include a partnership with Google, where we are working to detect and prevent money laundering and financial crime using better analytics – using the computing power of Cloud and AI to analyze trillions of dollars of financials transactions and figure out which of those might be fraudulent in nature and this allows us, as custodians of our customers’ financial records to, provide a more secure banking environment.

How do you engage and get buy-in from your diverse groups of stakeholders? 

By linking technology to customer outcomes. For example, through the use of AI, Cloud and Cybersecurity, we are helping creating a more secure financial ecosystem for the markets that we operate in. Essentially, we need to ensure that there is a clear benefit of everything that we do in technology. This require a relentless focus on clear, open, honest and regular communications with our customers, colleagues and regulators.

How do you retain employees? 

We offer numerous opportunities for colleagues to acquire new skills and future skills, ranging from formal training and qualifications, to on-the-job experience and mentoring. Our unique culture has developed over many years. We objectively measure feedback from our colleagues through surveys and ensure that areas of improvement are continuously addressed. To ensure we achieve growth in the right way, we place great emphasis on our values, and are committed to applying the highest standards everywhere we do business. We want our people to feel able to act with integrity, speak up for what is right and feel proud of working here. Additionally, as our international network covers 64 countries and territories, we offer the opportunity to build connections with colleagues and customers worldwide.

How do you upskill your employees? 

We have a global technology academy that focus on key technical as well as soft and leadership skills. We partner with leading content providers that include LinkedIn learning and Coursera to offer hundreds of virtual courses that our colleagues can tailor to their requirements and career aspirations. Furthermore, we have provisioned interactive and collaborative tools that allow our colleagues to formally develop their training and career growth plans.

How do you support collaboration across departments? 

By ensuring that we have the right organization structure, processes and tools to collaborate. We have customer experience forums that have representation across multiple departments, including technology, where a collaborative approach is taken to address challenges faced by our customers. From a process perspective, we are working to streamline processes that allow for faster communication and collaboration and from a tools perspective we have equipped our colleagues with feedback/ideation tools that are visible across departments and which others can “Like” or support in a social collaborative way.