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Technology in the fast lane

Posted by Jon Meyrick, 26 days ago

4 min read

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to work at NatWest Group compared to working at a startup, Parminder Trehan may be the one to ask. And you might be surprised by how many similarities there are.

Parminder, who’s based in Gurgaon, is the Platform Lead for intelligent automation in our retail banking business. After graduating with a computer science degree in 2003, he spent two and half years in a startup selling CRM products to retailers. “I basically got an opportunity to do pretty much everything infrastructure, security, stakeholder management, all the kind of things that you might not get an opportunity of when you're starting up afresh.”

That kind of freedom and variety can be a gift, especially when you’re just starting out. And when he moved to his next employer, an antivirus software company, having it taken away became a problem. “It was extremely cutting edge” he remembers, “but I somehow finally found myself constrained.”

He left that job after one and a half years and joined NatWest. And, despite joining another large global company, hardly a startup, he recently celebrated 16 years here. So why did he join a bank? And why has he been happy to stay here?

Best of both worlds

When Parminder joined our investment banking business in 2008, he was following his interests. “I think number one was my genuine curiosity for understanding financial markets. That definitely was a big reason for me to join,” he recalls. “I got an opportunity to work on an in-house product, which was doing algorithmic trading. Electronic trading, interest rate options, derivative products, which are real time pricing. These were all the things I genuinely wanted to learn more about.”

But while his NatWest career may have started in the financial markets, it certainly hasn’t stayed there. “I've been a production support manager, I've been a project manager, programme manager, developer. In 16 years I’ve done all kind of roles. I pretty much changed my job every three years.

“I have a curious mind and I also like to solve problems. So that’s helped me grow as a professional, as a person. It’s motivated me to learn more, challenging myself with different teams, different stakeholders. And that kept me going. I didn’t have to look outside because I could look within the organization for those challenges that some people might want to go looking for. If I wanted to do some experimentation or I wanted to go beyond my role, the leadership has always encouraged me not to go backwards, but to go above and beyond. To learn more things, do more things, and see how we can make an impact on the customers.

“That's one of the reasons that I genuinely like working here. It gives you that roadmap and landscape to experiment. If you are hungry and if you are curious, it does give you that leeway to experiment with different roles and responsibilities. You’ll also find no end of talented colleagues here who want to support you, to teach you, to mentor you. That mix of experimentation and colleagues makes it a great place for professional growth.”

So how does working here compare to his startup experience? “Startups give you freedom, but it can be very unstructured. My experience over the last 16 years, is that NatWest is a great mix of both. There are guardrails, but it also offers you enough space to experiment.

“If you want to explore new technology, or want to build something, that is that is very much appreciated. That gives you a bit of a flavour of startup, that you’re developing something which is brand new, or you are trying something which is cutting edge.”

Banking on a human scale

That varied career path eventually took him to our retail banking business, working on robotic process automation in products and journeys used by individual customers in their everyday lives. So after joining because of his interest in the global financial markets, what drew him to pesonal banking?

“I’m a customer of a retail bank, so I wanted to learn more about those products. The current accounts for example, the mortgages, those journeys. When I look at retail, I genuinely felt that whenever we make small change, or any change, that it’s impacting the real customer, just like me. I wanted to make that impact with my technology, that if I’m delivering a solution, it impacts the end customer just like myself.”

And the first solution he delivered after joining the retail bank showed him clearly that he was right. It was the early days of coronavirus lockdown, and many customers were struggling to pay for loans, mortgages, and other credit. Parminder’s work was key to bringing in payment holidays, giving them the financial breathing room they needed. “It had such a massive impact on people who were going through a difficult time. It was genuinely moving. And as a bank we are able to offer such solutions that have that impact. They're so close to everybody's lives. I genuinely feel a lot of pride and it's emotional as well.”

A career at the cutting edge

Throughout his career, both at NatWest Group and before, Parminder has always been drawn to new technologies and new use cases. So how does he see technology changing the banking industry in the coming years? Perhaps not surprisingly, he points to the impact generative AI will have. But what interests him more is journeys rather than any particular piece of tech.

“Everything is moving towards the customer. How can we empower our customers to do most things on their own, and make everything available on their fingertips? And I think every bit of technology is moving us in that direction. When I think back to a few years ago, I think it was a product race. What newer products or services can you offer? How early? I think that is now being overtaken by the user experience, the personalised experience you can give to a customer. I think that is the deciding factor rather than 50 new features on your mobile app.”

Whatever the future brings for banking, and whatever interest strikes Parminder next, it seems NatWest Group will continue to be the right place. And for more reasons than just the tech. “One more thing with NatWest offers you is a fantastic work-life balance. When I was starting up, I genuinely didn’t give it that much importance, But work environment, work culture, the kind of people that you work with is, extremely important. Both for your professional growth and for your mental growth. I think NatWest is one of the best places to work for those things.”

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