AIB’s Tim Hynes: ‘95pc of engagement with our customers is digital’

12 Apr 2019

Tim Hynes, AIB. Image: Orla Murray/SON Photographic

For Tim Hynes, excelling in the 21st century’s digital revolution is not about technology. It is about effective leadership and purpose, he tells John Kennedy.

When I first spoke with Tim Hynes, chief information officer at AIB, it was almost four years ago and he had only just put his feet under his desk at the bank so it was an odd time to be asking him about his thoughts on technology strategy. But he had the courage of his convictions and it is clear he has stuck to them.

Hynes, who will be speaking at Inspirefest 2019 next month, had just joined AIB from Microsoft where he was the head of IT (EMEA) at the technology giant. At the time he was pretty clear about the fact that the challenge ahead was immense as he navigated the bank to an omnichannel digital future.

‘What the last four years have been about has been removing obstacles so smart people can do their best work’

To achieve this, Hynes had to lead AIB’s IT organisation away from the old-world mentality of keeping the lights on to one where workers today are empowered and are directly making a difference to people’s lives.

Crucial to the 21st-century mindset, he believes, is that IT is no longer about technology, it is about leadership. “The people who work with me need to be more leaders than specific technologists. You must be able to maintain multiple priorities in your head at once. If you are myopic on one priority over another, then that is not a leadership mindset. In fact, to be successful in any role in tech, you need to go further and have a full enterprise mindset.”

Hynes points out that there has been a complete generational shift in the bank and that nearly half of those at the IT organisation have been with the bank for less than five years.

The crucial change has been moving away from a legacy mindset to fostering a greater sense of purpose around customer trust. “Organisations that have a clear purpose have a tendency to be far more effective than organisations that don’t. Our purpose is to back our customers to achieve their dreams and ambitions.

“Over 95pc of engagement with customers is now digital. That said, our branches are very important to us and our customers. But the main thing that has changed is that customers can engage with us at a time that suits them rather than a time that suits us to open the branch.

“What we are doing today is omnichannel. We have branches and we are digital. While 95pc of engagement with customers is now digital, 64pc of our products are sold digitally and underpin what is sold in the branch. When people are making big financial decisions like mortgages, they still want to be able to look someone in the eye. We are all human beings, but even that level of engagement is heavily supported by digital. Everything we do, we put the customer at the centre.”

Embracing the open future of banking

Crucial technological changes in recent years include the swift uptake of wireless payments underpinned by technologies such as Apple Pay, Android Pay and payment via Fitbit devices, for example. “The key is to make all of these things frictionless but still be there for people when they want us.”

Another key change in recent years at the bank under Hynes’ IT leadership has been the embrace of open banking. Last year the bank revealed it was the first Irish financial institution to launch industry-standard open application programming interfaces (APIs), allowing trusted third parties to interface with its platform to offer services to customers.

Hynes said that AIB is one of only two banks in the UK and Ireland keeping up with the UK Competition and Markets Authority’s ambitious deadlines for open banking. “Four years ago, we would not have met those deadlines,” Hynes said flatly.

So, what changed? He explained that instead of having legacy IT infrastructure and a new digital infrastructure working side by side, there is now only one, single technology group headed by Hynes.

“The big change was enabling the human capability to work together. There has been a huge surge in demand across all of our digital channels, and we’ve driven out costs and driven up our ability and reliability by getting better at how we work together, being clearer on our priorities, and this is being reflected in higher job satisfaction levels. Our colleagues in technology are more satisfied, productive, effective, and everyone wants to come into work and feel like they’ve done a good job.”

Hynes hits on a real pain point in IT: most workers feel removed from the impact their work is having on customers. “We have a good reputation in the bank for delivering on time and on budget because we focus on the people and the effectiveness of our processes.

“What the last four years have been about has been removing obstacles so smart people can do their best work.”

Hynes said that AI and machine learning are already deployed by the bank across a number of key functions. “It could be five years before AI is really going to find its feet but it won’t really pop until we have quantum computing. But we are building towards that future today.”

In conclusion, Hynes said that his talk at Inspirefest will be about leadership as organisations such as AIB digitally transform.

“People need to know the impact they are having. Workplace stress is so high because people don’t feel appreciated or know the impact they are having.

“In backing the dreams and ambitions of our customers, our colleagues know their purpose and can draw a parallel between what they are doing and helping customers achieve those dreams and ambitions. It’s very important, because knowing that is what makes you come to work every day and do your absolute best.”

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event celebrating the point where science, technology and the arts collide. Tickets for Inspirefest 2019 are available now.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years