Improving Innovation: Q&A With OTP Bank Chief Digital Officer And Deputy CEO Péter Csányi

Péter Csányi, chief digital officer and deputy CEO of OTP Bank, speaks to Global Finance about successfully building and executing an innovation plan.

Global Finance: Which features should a successful innovation plan have?

Péter Csányi: Flexibility and a mindset that actively responds to different processes is the key to achieving outstanding and innovative goals. A great example is the higher level of synchronization between the business and IT areas of our bank, now called the Digital Division. Our main strategic objective with this transformation was to further improve the collaboration between business and IT, and to enable our customers to feel this in their everyday lives.

The next period will be about further improvements and their expansion. One of the key tasks will be the development of a new way of capability management, and further waves of agile transformation are in progress: We are present in 11 countries in the Central and Eastern European region, so the expansion to subsidiaries has started. In addition, the renewal of our core banking systems is a top priority.

GF: Is it better to have a dedicated innovation team or work with representatives across the business lines?

Csányi: It is better to have different areas working closely together. Based on our experience, the free flow of information makes processes much more efficient. Several banks in the OTP Group already operate in an agile system, with the synchronized work of tribes, chapters and squads enabling more efficient process management and development than ever before.

In this system, IT colleagues have a sense of the importance of the business, and business-branch colleagues have learned a lot about how to implement their ideas quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively.

However, we also have a dedicated area, OTP LAB, which is an internal innovation department—in close collaboration with other areas—dedicated to fostering a forward-looking mindset within the organization. Colleagues are encouraged to formulate and share their own ideas, and together with the subsidiaries they are informed about the latest innovative solutions and trends. The OTP LAB team is also continuously adapting its organization to deliver more effective solutions.

GF: What is the most misunderstood thing about having an innovation organization?

Csányi: I agree with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, who said that the digital industry only respects innovation, therefore we should inspire an inventive mindset. However, many are trying to find innovative solutions to the processes and changes of the present. This is important, but I believe it is even more important for an innovative organization to focus on the future, to identify the directions and skills needed for future successes.

One of the keys to competitiveness is artificial intelligence. The recent widespread adoption of AI has shown that we are on a right track by conducting an R&D project to create OTP Group’s own GPT-3 level language model and AI in Hungarian, which will be of paramount importance in the whole region. We will also integrate the solution at the group level.

In addition, our main focus areas are currently data management—how data becomes a service—IT security, a new capability-management strategy is under development, and we plan to extend agile operations to more and more subsidiaries.

GF: What has been the most important lesson you have learned during your tenure?

Csányi: In the past two years, we have faced unprecedented difficulties, first the pandemic, then the prolonged geopolitical conflicts and their economic challenges. The combined effects of these challenges has required us to respond to completely new situations with innovative solutions and short deadlines. However, as a group, we have successfully adapted to this new situation, and we have emerged stronger. We believe that challenges are also opportunities, so perhaps the most important lesson was that these opportunities can be exploited even in such extreme situations.

The coronavirus pandemic accelerated digitalization across the world at an incredible rate. And for us at OTP Bank, it has been a key focus area in recent years. We continue to make good progress on the road to digitalization, as the demand for improvements is increasing and the use of digital channels in Hungary is growing constantly.

GF: Which project has given you the most pride?

Csányi: It’s hard to pick one because I think we have a lot to be proud of. The ones that mean the most to me personally, and are the best indicators of the dynamism of our development, are the new digitalization solutions at OTP Group. In the past two years, we have introduced and improved a number of innovations in this area that are both a source of pride and joy.

We have introduced several new features that facilitate the operation of our bank and the high level of service we provide to our customers, via the internet and mobile banking, which has been completely renewed in terms of its operation, technology and appearance, or the Spending Monitor, which helps customers in their everyday financial transactions. The expansion and development of Beyond Banking Services are strategically important. I am proud that we operate two of the most popular financial mobile apps in Hungary: one is OTP mobile bank, and the other is our Beyond Banking flagship, Simple, which cumulates payment solutions.