As in many industries around the world, banks in Argentina need to transform traditional business models to deliver innovative digital experiences. Tech-savvy customers demand more than in the past. To thrive, we must offer digital services that are trusted, secure, highly available, high performing and personalized to customer interests and preferences.

At ICBC Argentina, our journey of digital change began five years ago when we developed mobile banking and other API-based services. Although our offerings are competitive, more recently we noticed that smaller firms were developing innovative services faster than we were.

Clearly, we had to do more. Unless we became more agile by aligning our IT environment with the needs of the business, we could fall behind all-digital banks, fintechs and even e-commerce companies starting to offer financial services. Our solution is to transition the bank’s infrastructure to cloud computing, capitalize on customer data and invest in AI technology to personalize customer service and increase operational efficiency.

In these efforts we collaborate closely with IBM Services. Not only does IBM manage our infrastructure and mainframe environment, but its consultants partner with us to improve the business. IBM is helping us become more agile by defining a hybrid, multi-cloud technical architecture and assisting us with agile development methodologies. IBM Watson experts are contributing to a number of AI projects. And together we are designing physical locations as “smart branches” that combine human with digital interactions.

Designing an agile architecture

Given banking regulations and security requirements, I cannot envision going entirely to the public cloud. A better way is a multi-cloud architecture comprised of public clouds, private clouds in our data centers and a perhaps a private cloud from our head office in Beijing. We are also testing different levels of cloud-based platform and infrastructure services. Key action items include deciding what to put in which cloud and combining everything into a manageable environment.

Multi-cloud connectivity can speed time to market by making it easy to deploy functionality to customers’ preferred channels. And functionality based on cloud-based microservices components can be reused as needed and scaled to support varying transaction volumes.

Delivering AI from the cloud

Using the Watson Assistant service from IBM Cloud, we’ve improved the customer experience by extending the hours of our service portal to 24/7. Our automated virtual assistant answers customer questions so accurately that it’s reduced calls by 30 percent. But AI doesn’t replace bank personnel; rather, it frees agents for more complex engagements and creates new positions in data science and user experience analysis.

Another Watson application benefits customers through preventative maintenance of ATM and self-deposit machines. In an industry first, our Watson solution analyzes Internet of Things sensors to predict equipment failures in order to dispatch a technician in time. This has improved ATM uptime by 1 percent and self-deposit uptime by 4 percent, solid proof of how Watson can enhance customer service. We also use Watson to analyze social media and banking data for insights into customer preferences and concerns.

Although it’s still early in our digital journey, we are confident that the speed of the cloud combined with AI data analytics will make ICBC Argentina a highly intelligent bank—one able to deliver trusted and personalized digital services that will delight our customers.

Watch Guillermo Tolosa discuss digital transformation in banking:

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