Yolande Piazza, former CEO ofCiti FinTech, the bank’s internal innovation group, and current vice president of financial services for Google Cloud, has advice for banks that want to adopt cloud computing gradually.
“Don’t try and do this softly,” she said. “Now is the time to rip the Band-Aid off.”
Yolande Piazza, former CEO of Citi FinTech and current vice president of financial services at Google Cloud, says banks need to be quick and decisive about digital transformations.
Piazza has street cred: She was a technology leader at Citigroup for decades. In her new role, which she’s had for a year, she has spoken with technologists at banks of all sizes. She is helping the tech giant understand all the things a traditional financial services organization has to think about in a technology project, like revenues, cost, risk and customer needs as it expands its presence in financial services.
Marquee financial customers for Google Cloud include PayPal; HSBC, which reviews its contact center sales calls in the cloud; and Commerzbank in Frankfurt, which announced in March that it will move “a significant number” of its banking applications to Google Cloud.
Piazza shared her thoughts about what banks get wrong about cloud computing with Rob Blackwell, chief content officer at IntraFi, in a recent episode of his podcast, Banking With Interest. Her comments here are drawn from the podcast and a follow-up email exchange.
The slow approach to cloud adoption that so many banks have taken doesn’t work well, she said.
“We see some customers get very nervous and very uncomfortable, so they want to go layer by layer,” Piazza said. “It’s long, it’s drawn out, and I’ve yet to see that you really actually master the end expectations of value. The rip-the-Band-Aid-off approach is, ‘I’m all in, I’m making this decision, I’m doing all of my due diligence to demonstrate that I can trust in this solution and therefore, we should go. ‘”
Another mistake banks make is not involving business people in cloud projects, she said.
“Where we’ve seen it done best is where these tools enable and unlock business value,” Piazza said. “If you take the business with you on the journey, you’re going to see benefits across all areas and all aspects of your organization. So my advice is, don’t make it just a technology initiative. Because the business gets frustrated, technology gets bottlenecked, the opportunity to invest in new things becomes limited. Do it with the business. “
And leaders have to be more mindful of the impact on people across the organization, Piazza cautioned.
“One of the things I learned in my last role is [the importance of] getting people aligned and on board across the organization, making sure all of your risk teams understand what we’re trying to do and where you’re going to need their help and their support, ”she said. “Do the business lines understand, and are they brought into the opportunities? Do the operations teams understand that this is an area of opportunity for them, also? I think the more socialization you can do and get people aligned up upfront, the easier that transition becomes. ”
Piazza said she is seeing a shift in the way banks think about cloud computing.
“The hesitancy was likely a result of financial services institutions being too cautious, which in turn made them think twice before migrating their infrastructure to the cloud,” she said. “We are now seeing a greater uptake of cloud technology across the financial services industry including with our customers: Deutsche Bank, [Bank of New York] Mellon, HSBC, PayPal, Global Payments and more. Besides advancing their technology position through cloud, financial institutions are also helping to accelerate their own business transformation. “
Blackwell, a former editor-in-chief of American Banker, also asked Piazza what banking will look like in five years.
Piazza said financial institutions will have to branch out beyond traditional banking services. She noted that the average consumer has about 14 different financial services apps and spends 3% of his or her screen time on them combined.
Financial services providers need to think about offering a connected set of services, she said.
“Nobody has one savings goal,” she said. “It may be that at the end of the month, I want that new pair of shoes. I want that new car. I want a new house, and I’m saving to make sure that I can retire when I want to or I’m protected for a rainy day. How do I do that? Do I have four different accounts? How do I start to think about that management of money differently, inside an ecosystem that gives me one-stop shopping for everything that makes me feel secure? ”
A few years ago, while she was still at Citi, Piazza’s team asked consumers what they wanted in financial services. The No. 1 response was to have all their bills in one place.
“It isn’t always the complex things customers want,” she said. “Rather, it’s about how we can simplify and enable an easy user experience.”
Integrating nonsense financial services offerings into one place, through embedded finance and through a single ecosystem, would help banks meet customers where they are and at their convenience, Piazza said.
“Think about responsible finance for kids, overseeing finances for our aging parents, and the intersection between health and wealth, where financial institutions may approve individuals to borrow more money to pay for medical expenses than other financial expenditures,” she said. “Further, I view this ecosystem as a place where people can consolidate services that meet their personal needs. This ecosystem would also provide the ability to form communities, and give individuals access to things like their own demographic comparisons. These communities could help people have a stronger pulse on where they stack up against their peers financially, how to better manage their finances, and get useful and easy-to-understand education from their financial institutions. “