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By Amy Brady, CIO, KeyBank

The world is undergoing what is, arguably, the most significant, fastest, life- and business-altering cultural change it has seen in more than a century. I know we’re not alone in saying that our company is rapidly adjusting its former business models to adapt to the shifting market and lifestyle dynamics brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Banking has been in the midst of a digital transformation for years, largely driven by evolving customer expectations that have been forever changed by large tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google. The past year’s events have only accelerated the need for change.

KeyBank is not just a financial services company — we also view ourselves as a technology company with a culture of digital innovation. We must be technology-focused in order to best support customers and communities, especially in these times of uncertainty and fast-evolving industry dynamics. We need to deliver the convenience of digital while still demonstrating that we know our clients and understand their requirements.

Empowered with resiliency

Part of my role as KeyBank’s Chief Information Officer is to help a 200-year-old company behave like we were born digital. And, it is my — and the IT department’s — job to ensure that the technology-enabled solutions we are introducing to our ecosystem are safe, secure, reliable and easy to use. We’ve made significant progress — from delivering exceptional digital self-service capabilities to our clients, to empowering our teammates with tools and information to automation that creates efficient and effective straight-through processing. But we still have more to do to digitize our enterprise end to end.

The prolonged pandemic has fueled our energy and focus around digitization, propelling us forward across a number of different areas. Our Digital Default initiative is one example — we took a multidimensional approach to digitize collections. The platforms, infrastructure and technology investments we’ve made over the years along with the close monitoring of our networks and applications well positioned us to respond in the pandemic for our clients as needed.

Additionally, this past year, the resiliency of our applications and network stood the test. From enabling 11,000 teammates to work remotely to funding more than 40,000 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) applications, processing $8.5 billion in requests, we shifted to remote working in a matter of days and never missed a step.

Open banking, open minds

Digitization and open banking are undeniable macro trends in our industry — and they’re not new. However, they are now accelerating. Forrester is fond of saying that open banking demands a shift to an open culture that promotes integration, service quality and agility.

We are focused on creating an open banking culture at Key and delivering open banking APIs that drive speed, agility, security and efficiency in our internal digital initiatives as well as in those with external fintech partners. To drive this transition forward, we implemented an open banking engineering team to accelerate our ability to develop digital and servicing capabilities across all channels. We migrated most of our fintech aggregators to leverage open APIs rather than screen scraping. Additionally, we deployed Confluent’s implementation of Apache Kafka for enterprise event streaming and Google’s Apigee API management platform to design, secure, analyze and scale our open APIs.

Bots at work

The pandemic also put automation into the spotlight — especially the need for greater efficiency and an improved teammate experience. Through automation, we’re able to streamline processes and respond faster to client requests — and while bots are hard at work behind the scenes, our teammates can focus on helping our clients and growing relationships. We believe the human element remains critical, and when, and how to combine the work of bots with the work of our team members will be crucial to our success as well.

Roughly four years ago, we set up a center of excellence for automation, and the team has done outstanding work, with over 140 bots in production today executing over 2,000 tasks daily. For example, we use a bot called Key3PO to look at various documents for our real estate capital team. The bot identifies the documents according to a predefined set of terms.

At the end of 2020, Key3PO had identified about 450,000 documents. It continues to deliver solid results — enabling teammates to spend additional time assisting clients and building relationships — via rules-based document identification, while reducing the total cost of the vendor-supplied service.

Blending human & technical skills

Among the core challenges we face are the implications of all of these trends on our current and future workforce. We spend a lot of our time at KeyBank defining priority skills and capabilities, and developing in-house training to prepare the type of teammate we need to be competitive going forward. Just as our customer preferences have shifted from traditional branches to mobile phones, our workforce requirements are materially different than they were even at the start of 2020.

Understanding the skills we need to compete, and recruiting, developing, retraining and retaining that talent is a critical challenge — one shared across our industry. And the skills needed are both technical and nontechnical. The ability to communicate effectively, think critically and negotiate well are just as important as technical requirements.

Taking a step back, the banking industry faces near-term challenges, as macroeconomic headwinds abound. But we believe the steps we have taken both over the past decade and the past few months — Key’s successful response to the Paycheck Protection Program, the resiliency of our internal infrastructure and resiliency in our client-facing applications — set us apart as a technology company ready to take on the financial challenges of the post-COVID-19 world.

This article was written by Amy G. Brady, Key’s CIO.

To learn more read the latest Cognizanti Journal, "The resiliency reset," or contact us.