We are struggling for digital talent’ says CIMB head of digital | Digital Asia

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  • Entire team must believe in management’s vision, otherwise transformation will not work
  • Tough to find combination of that understands both banking and technology

“IT’S important that we do not equate digital transformation to technology transformation, because it’s beyond technology – it’s about people, the digital mindset and what can be done with the tech,” explains Kanags Surendran (pic, right), head of digital at Bank Bhd.

Kanags was speaking in a fireside chat with moderator Jun Fwu Chin, the research director of ID Asia Pacific at IDC’s Digital Transformation Awards (DXa) ceremony. CIMB bagged the award for 2018 Digital Transformer of the Year.

Addressing the question of how innovation is driven internally, Kanags says a top-down approach with staff just taking direction from upper management does not always work. “There has to be balance. While the vision is set by the management, we must buy-in to the vision as a team.”

Once this common vision has been achieved, Kanags job is to help staff progress and remove any roadblocks they may stumble upon along the way. “It is not about just giving them instructions but about my role in facilitating goals are achieved,” he adds.

One of the key challenges, he shares, in CIMB’s digital journey is the ability to “chunk down” large scale projects into smaller product offerings. “While taking on large projects, we face difficulty in developing product offerings for the market. If the top management doesn’t see results in six to eight months, more time is spent on preparing presentations than working with the team and getting things done.”

Another major challenge in CIMB’s books is talent, said Kanags. But not just any talent. Rather he is talking about talent that has the combination of banking and technical talent. “Access to talent who understand design, latest technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) is still lacking. However, it’s our job to train local talent and bridge the gap – that’s a huge challenge and we struggle,” he candidly admits.

Seeking to collaborate and understand better what private enterprises need, an audience member from Malaysian Digital Economic Corporation (MDEC) asked Kanags how MDEC or other government agencies can help in his transformation.

Kanags responded: “I look forward to help in terms of technology and talent. We’d like to continue work with MDEC to understand how we can upgrade and create more talent in the space.”

With the rise of disruption and fintechs, he claims that CIMB faces tough competition for talent that understands both technology and banking.

As to how CIMB attracts talent to join them instead of any exciting fintech, Kanags bluntly said, “I wish I had the answer to that. It’s a huge problem and we are to solve that. Because, why would someone want to work for banks when there are cool fintech startups operating from a different perspective?”

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