Designing A Digital Ecosystem: Q&A With Emirates NBD’s Chief Digital Officer Evans Munyuki

Evans Munyuki, chief digital officer for Emirates NBD, reveals how to create a fully digital ecosystem and highlights the technologies with the most promise.

Global Finance: What is the secret to embedding an innovation-culture strategy in order to create a fully digital ecosystem?

Evans Munyuki: Innovation has always been a core value at Emirates NBD, driven by the board, CEO and executive leadership team across to all levels of the organization. The secret to embedding an innovation culture is to include employees at all levels, including the front line, and to run employee innovation programs that encourage collaborative and agile ways of working.

Emirates NBD also embraces an API [application programing interface] economy to accelerate the speed [of development of new ideas], while also reducing the cost of innovation. It is also important to reward the right behavior while setting KPIs [key performance indicators] which make innovation and digital a job for everyone.

Our Future Lab in our Digital Office acts as the driver behind the holistic innovation programs whereby Innovation Champions, representing different businesses throughout the Emirates NBD Group, conduct design-thinking workshops, evaluate ideas and help accelerate innovative solutions.

In addition, Emirates NBD has committed to a 1 billion Emirati dirham [$272 million] digital transformation which includes changing to an agile way of working. In 2017, we adopted our very own agile methodology, and we created a run book [a compilation of routine procedures and operations] to empower our agile squads and help them deliver promptly, efficiently and innovatively.

In 2018, we pushed the envelope even further and started delivering additional new projects and completed major tasks on our agile innovation road map. As such, Emirates NBD has been transforming both products and services, from both business and technological viewpoints, in order to fulfil our promise of providing our customers with the most innovative, state-of-the-art digital solutions.

GF: Remittance is big business in the Middle East. What technological innovations do you think will bring the biggest changes to the industry?

Munyuki: Frictionless payments, based on real-time value transfer, are expected to become a potential game changer; as they will create a secure, cost- and time-efficient ecosystem. Fees and speed are two major pain points for customers today. The traditional transfer service can be quite expensive and takes time to reach the beneficiary, whereas competitive services offered by MTOs [money transfer operators] and fintechs may be faster. However, settlement is still via traditional routes.

GF: What do you see as the biggest benefits of cloud migration and what are the chief considerations for banks when undertaking the integration of cloud technology?

Munyuki: The key benefits of cloud adoption include simplified collaboration between internal teams and partners through reusable APIs; reduced application launch and update cycles, from more than six months to hours; an established, flexible, yet stable foundation for our on-premise private cloud today and enabled hybrid cloud for tomorrow; secure, scalable and resilient architecture to ensure our customers have an “always available bank” and reduced time to market for our banking products and services through continuous integration and continuous deployment of features.

Key considerations include balancing the “build-it-ourselves” versus “buy-off-the-shelf” trade-off; sourcing the right talent; ensuring adequate security controls to mitigate the evolving threat landscape; regulatory considerations such as data sovereignty, material outsourcing and service-provider governance and right placement of application workloads to ensure benefits are maximized.