On the Cutting Edge of Digital Banking

[Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Bryan Kirschner, Vice President of Strategy at DataStax.]

Last year, Accenture released a report which revealed that only half of global banks are making strides in digital transformation, and only 12% of banks globally are fully committed to digital transformation.

At that time, Aiaz Kazi was relatively new in his role as Chief Platform Officer at Banco Santander. A tech industry veteran, Kazi joined the bank from Google Cloud, where he headed up Platform Ecosystem, and prior to that from SAP. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Kazi and his team hadn’t lost a beat as they worked to accelerate the bank’s transformation to a data driven enterprise. DataStax Chairman and CEO Chet Kapoor recently spoke with Kazi to talk about his experience thus far, and Kazi offered these three tips.

  1. Success comes from indirect paths. Kazi is the first to explain that his career didn’t go as planned. He began as a developer in India, taking his first job as a systems analyst for Tata Consulting Services. Ten years into his career, he took a somewhat unexpected turn to product management, and later to product marketing and product strategy. What he found as a marketer was that his frame of reference was constantly changing in response to external conditions. Every day brought on new challenges and a new set of tasks.Moreover, the definition of success wasn’t the same as in engineering – it constantly morphed based on the competitive landscape. Kazi explains, “If you don’t know how to overcome your own hurdles, you can’t be a good role model to help your team, and they can’t get through their hurdles. There’s always going to be different routes to get there. There’s always going to be temporary setbacks and hurdles. When I was younger, I would worry and sweat the small stuff. And I think — over time — I’ve learned to not do that. It comes with experience.”
  2. Don’t wait, do it now. While at SAP, Kazi learned that there are times when you just have to take a leap of faith. He talks about launching Hana, SAP’s high performance in-memory database. Kazi was not certain the product was ready in time for the target launch, and explained how he was “dragged over the line” by then-CTO Vishal Sikka. The result was an early mover advantage for the company that later paid off.Kazi relates that experience to his work at the bank today, where he is working with his team to move from traditional on premises to cloud-native, mobile first AI enabled platforms.To help his team along, Kazi realized he had to change the conversation and from the normal roster of projects to “platform as a business.” Together with his team, he looks at the big picture: what are we building and who are we building it for? What is the revenue that we will make out of it? And more importantly, what is the revenue for the people who are engaged in the platform, the ecosystem? Kazi has found that this mindset can help his team overcome even the biggest hurdles.
  3. It’s only a platform if others can stand on it. Kazi doesn’t like to talk about IT projects, he wants to talk about IT products. Products create a platform, and mean that Kazi sits at a “vantage point where I’m part of a transformation and helping to drive the transformation” as opposed to delivering discrete, disconnected pieces. His first year at Banco Santander was all about getting the platform in place and beginning to see the first wins.Kazi explained that the bank “recently had our global trade services go live in four countries with a large number of customers” and received a tremendously positive response.Hearing the individual customer reactions drove the platform point home for his team and the broader IT organization; it motivated them to keep charging ahead. Kazi instills in his team that “this journey, as long and as tough and arduous sometimes it can be, is immensely rewarding in being able to understand what it takes to transition and transform a company digitally.”

It isn’t about just Banco Santander and what they are delivering, but rather the larger financial services industry and the banking sector as a whole. With a strong Silicon Valley background and a team of financial industry veterans, Kazi is positioning Banco Santander to lead the way into the future.