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Technology focused business, people focused leadership

Posted by Jon Meyrick, 3 months ago

4 min read

‘There is a big side of IT operations which is all about people,’ says Vikram Bose, Head of Operations Delivery for Digital X Operations, India. ‘I want to create a robust and sustainable environment for growing and grooming our talent.’

Digital X Operations is the engine room of our technology-led business, and the 3200 person strong Indian team covers many of the hottest topics in the banking industry. Fraud, financial crime, sanctions, payments, all areas which are hotbeds of innovation and AI-centred experimentation. Vikram can talk at length about strategies and approaches for using machine learning to drive process speed and accuracy. But it’s when he talks about people, and providing an environment for them to thrive, that he really seems to get excited.

‘We’re creating an ecosystem where people can help each other. That’s what I’m excited about, getting people to work together a lot more closely and creating that ecosystem where we help drive innovation. What are the skills required for the future, and getting people on that journey? We’re creating opportunities for people to learn the basics of data, the basics of communication, the basics of teamwork. That builds our capability, and ensures our human capital continues to grow. And we really want that, it’s not just tech capital. I want to bring the ops data and analytics team to collaborate much more closely. That’s something I’m very excited about.’

A large group of NatWest colleagues. They are posing with their arms crossed to make the letter X

Man and machine together

Having joined NatWest Group in April 2023 after close to 23 years at HSBC, Vikram is relatively early in his tenure here. But his blend of people and tech focus is already making a big impact. Even when he talks about the technology-led side of innovation, it always come back to how the machines are here to work with people, not replace them.

‘We deployed machine learning solutions earlier this year for one of our activities called PEP screening, and that has given a material uplift of about 50% reduction in false positives. So that’s a big step up. The other thing we have progressed on too, is what I call the augmented operations. So man and machine working together. The machine does part of the work when it comes to transaction filtering. It then hands over to human beings saying, “I’ve done this part, here are my recommendations” and then the human takes over completing the final journey.

And while the working relationship between humans and machine is still at an early stage, Vikram sees this model as the template to build on. ‘I personally see it as a combination of man and machine working together. The machine doing the heavy lifting in terms of pattern analysis, being able to analyze a lot of data quickly and identify the trends and patterns. And then the human takes over and actually looks at the recommendations and takes the decision to the ultimate conclusion. That’s how I see it evolving.’

Leading with authenticity

As you might imagine from somebody who cares so much about the human, Vikram’s leadership style is also very centred on people. ‘Authenticity is really, really important to me, because I think that’s the key to building trust and trust-based leadership across teams. I place much more weight on values, because I would typically like to hire people for their values. Skills can be trained, skills can be achieved. But values are really important.

‘Since the COVID pandemic, I think I’m a lot more empathetic now. Empathy is a big factor in my decision making nowadays and going forward. I’m still very driven, but I like to be more kind than clever nowadays. I don’t need to be the most clever guy in the room anymore. What I would like to be is the most kind of guy in the room.’

While from a technology perspective the future has much more innovation and experimentation in store, it’s not the only plan Vikram has for the business. And unsurprisingly, the other thing he has on his mind is people. ‘I’m really keen to do two things. One is encouraging more diversity at higher levels of the management. And the second thing is a much more deeper and embedded allyship for the LGBTQ+ community. So those are the two things which we have started on. We had a number of, I would call it broadly brainstorming sessions, and now we want to convert them into some sort of actionable plans.

A large group of people with their thumbs up to the camera. Vikram is posing with his arms crossed to create the letter X

The innovative journey

Turning to the opportunities colleagues find in Digital X Operations, Vikram is confident that joining the business is a good career move. ‘You’ve got a great set of leaders, you’ve got a great set of colleagues, you’ve got a great set of learning tools and capabilities that you can build on, supported by coaching. You’ll walk into an environment where we are being more and more innovative with every passing day. The vision is to get ops, data and analytics, learning and development to start coming together, not necessarily an organisational structure, but as boundaryless environment. So that’s a pretty big opportunity for somebody to step into.

‘If you are really interested in learning, and if you then add to that one of the hottest areas in the financial industry, which is financial crime, then it’s a great combination. You can have a big impact from the bank, big impact on clients and customers and be a part of that innovative journey.’

Charting the course on that innovative journey to both get the most out of technology while giving the most to our people won’t be easy. But there can’t be many people better placed to do it than Vikram.

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