Future of Saudi banking demands digital maverickism

22 June 2021 Consultancy-me.com 5 min. read

The rapid growth of fintech and the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic have accelerated the demand for a strong digital leadership for banks, necessitated by both customers who require a touchless and seamless service, and employees, writes Maz Hussain, Head of Digital Science and Innovation at KPMG in Saudi Arabia. 

Broadly, the banking sector has been quick to adopt digitalization – it has, in a sense, been taken by storm. Stable and well-capitalized – unlike many industrial sectors – the banking sector steadily introduced digital products to its customers and digitalized its own processes. However, with fintech companies taking up a growing share of the banking pie, banks are realizing that their digital progress may not be quick enough. 

Stepping up to the plate on time

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a game-changer accelerant for the mindset shift around speed and urgency as organizations work to achieve the digital transformation which could work for the next 10 years. There simply is not time for business as usual in ‘the new normal’. Extraordinary situations require extraordinary people with extraordinary ideas – digital transformation is no different.

Maz Hussain, Head of Digital Science and Innovation, KPMG

The emergence of flatter organizational structures in the new working reality require virtually every employee, regardless of hierarchy within the organization and across the front, middle and back office, to function as digital leaders.

The role is no longer reserved just for the CTO or CIO. However, the true mavericks – whose unconventional mindsets remain untouched by the attritional anti-value of conformity – still seem to be found at the lower levels of most organizations. And that’s a really important facet of the new digital determinism. It’s not just about emphasizing what leaders are accountable for, it’s about what leaders actually need to be capable of in the rapidly changing world.

Four main drivers are motivating corporate leaders to embrace the digital maverick philosophy in an effort to ensure their organizations don’t get left behind in the digital age.

  • Complexity: Thinking far bigger about how to architect and build digital
  • Culture: Pushing boundaries and forcing people and teams to transcend
  • Connection: Crushing needless structures and engendering purpose
  • Customer: Customer obsession across the value chain

Bank to attract digital mavericks

Banks have started adopting workplaces they see as attractive to young, digitally-minded talent. Gone are cubicles; in are open offices, free food, and wellness seminars. With remote work a defining feature of the new reality, no longer can they use office perks as a way to attract tomorrow’s digital leaders. Banks instead must change the nature of their work and operations to attract talent.

Against this inevitable digital backdrop, a new leadership model is emerging that pivots away from the traditional qualities of corporate leadership. Of course, traits such as integrity, vision, commitment, and passion remain important, but the profile of a digital leader is increasingly skewing toward a worldview that, like the new business environment, is relatively unstructured and less predictable.

Indeed, we are seeing the unrelenting rise – and more importantly the mass adoption – of a digital maverickism. 

Intellectually and practically, digital mavericks have a unique capacity for interoperating in a multimodal fashion. As leaders, this makes them inherently agile and highly adept at designing and building solutions to complex problems – if placed in a conducive environment.

A practical framework defines four distinct, interconnected modes of thinking for digital leaders.

Mode 1: From strategy to solution – this mode is about recognizing that digital is about doing. There’s a place for big thinking, of course, but true value is found within the deeper ‘solutioning’ work. This is an exercise in ensuring all the new moving parts fit together at a pace and scale never previously achieved. It’s also about establishing a digital strategy, getting inside and understanding that strategy, and ensuring it is incremental and flexible.

Mode 2: From production to purpose – here, digital leaders must think about generating positive, sustainable and repeatable outputs and that means inspiring everyone to think and act digitally. This mode is about defining and exhibiting different activities across the entire enterprise. The focus is on product development and ideas that ultimately become business lines or enable improved business efficiency in existing business lines. 

Mode 3: From champion to spark – tomorrow’s digital leaders must assume the role of evangelist, motivating and inspiring the organization as a whole, at every level, to move from awareness to action. The champion works to help people understand their roles, the company’s technology stack, and the operating model that will move the organization’s digital transformation journey forward.

Mode 4: From marshal to ethicist, while digital mavericks may have disdain for governance as a relic of old-guard corporate thinking, they must acknowledge the importance of the ethical ramifications and inherent risks in everything the organization does from a digital perspective. This realization enables them to collect and organize different perspectives and then determine how to most effectively secure the relevant resources to keep the transformation on track.