Hubert J.P. Jolly, Global Head of Financing and Channels, Global Transaction Services Bank of America Merrill Lynch, puts innovation in treasury under the microscope.
Hubert J.P. Jolly
Global Head of Financing and Channels, Global Transaction Services
Tell me what innovation means to Bank of America Merrill Lynch and how you approach development.
Number one: we have to ensure innovation in transaction services remains relevant to our clients. They want us to make it easier for them to use our transaction services. That means working with all of our clients, not just learning and understanding what areas of innovation they want us to work on, but also where they see the pain points in their own ecosystems and how the treasury function can best evolve within that structure for the success of all.
We need to know where to provide new services, and how to enhance our existing services; that way we enable our clients to be both relevant to their corporation and successful from a transaction services standpoint.
“Our innovation funnel gives every team member in transaction services an overview of each project that is under way. This means we get to think through every step of development from all angles.”
To deliver, it is essential that innovation is driven by collaboration with clients, their third-party providers such as TMS and ERP vendors, and, increasingly, with the fintech community. In fact, if a fintech solution can resolve a pain point for our clients, we have the ability to onboard them as a supplier, and even invest in them with us as a development partner, integrating their solution within our own technical environment. This enables clients to comfortably procure highly innovative services through us, not through an unknown provider.
Ultimately, if our client experience is better, then we know that we remain relevant to them and that we are supporting their growth.
You use an ‘innovation funnel’. What is it and how does it help your development work?
We manage innovation across all of our geographies and products. Our innovation funnel gives every team member in transaction services an overview of each project that is under way. This means we get to think through every step of development from all angles.
This essentially ensures that if we are collaborating with a set of clients, we can think through the development of the solution and deliver working prototypes that demonstrate to them how the solution would work within our ecosystem. They can then provide us with a response on its suitability.
By securing active client feedback, we can fail fast, learn from the experience and rework it. The funnel allows us to expose the solution to multiple viewpoints, right across the bank. By the time we are ready to commercialise it, not only will it meet the needs of the majority of clients but also, through their input, everyone from our sales teams to our service teams is equipped to help the clients get the most from it.
Tell us about your current points of focus on innovation and what your pipeline looks like.
From an innovation standpoint, the focus is always on the client experience. We want to make sure that our solutions are the easiest to use in the industry. There can be a gap between the complexity of our products and the ease of their use, especially as many clients expect something similar to the everyday experience they have in their consumer lives. We have to fill that gap.
As part of our response to this need, we were the first bank to roll out a Siri- or Alexa-style assistant in the transaction services space. The launch of CashPro® Assistant on our online portal is all about rapid self-service, helping clients to carry out their everyday activities when they login to CashPro® online.
“Client delight is our primary goal so we measure every one of our transactions from that standpoint. Our clients are afforded a number of ways of letting us know whether they are pleased with their experience – and we always respond, often using innovation, to keep that score as high as it can be.”
Because innovation is also about giving clients information more easily when they go into CashPro®, we were one of the first transaction banks to roll out APIs. We asked the enterprise platform and treasury work station providers to connect to us via APIs. By making these connections more seamless, we are enabling many more clients to transact for the first time in real-time rather than through batch processing. We have several clients who have been leveraging these APIs to enable them to initiate payments and receive the information on the reporting that they need on the back of those transactions.
Another key focus in terms of innovation at Bank of America Merrill Lynch is adding to the types or payments that we offer to our clients today.
A number of clients were curious about person-to-person payments that have been evolving around the world. We see them as an opportunity for corporates and in the US, for example, we now enable our clients to initiate payments via Zelle, a platform that allows US consumers to link their bank account to their cell phone number and email address. As I said, it’s all about remaining relevant to our clients, giving them a choice of innovative payment tools.
All banks innovate. How does Bank of America Merrill Lynch differentiate itself from other institutions?
We look at innovation in terms of how we can improve upon the client experience. Client delight is our primary goal so we measure every one of our transactions from that standpoint. Our clients are afforded a number of ways of letting us know whether they are pleased with their experience – and we always respond, often using innovation, to keep that score as high as it can be.
Of course, we aim to make it as easy as possible for clients to transact with us. But we are also open to clients working with us, to let us know what they want, and how they want it. We encourage them to reflect on their experiences: how quickly they can open an account with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, whether it was a seamless process and if they were able to use electronic signatures, for example.
I would say that our differentiator is all the things that we are working on to make sure that every new client’s first experience with us is going to give them the same high level of client delight that we see every day from our existing clients who transact with us across 34 countries.
We take great pride in delivering the right client experience and remaining relevant for them as they grow, from a business standpoint. The ongoing challenge for us of course is how we leverage innovation to sustain that high ‘delight’ score with our clients. As I said at the beginning, innovation must be driven by collaboration, and this is exactly how we keep delivering.