Technology’s Role in Transforming Customer Engagement at U.S. Bank

Session Insights
Written by Kara Bobowski

Dilip Venkatachari

Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Information and Technology Officer

U.S. Bank


When U.S. Bank learned that 72% of its customers wanted to engage with them digitally, the bank recognized it was time to redesign the customer journey. Of course, every customer experience on the front end requires extensive engineering and technology on the back end to make that experience a reality.

At the San Francisco CIO Executive Summit, Dilip Venkatachari, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Information and Technology Officer at U.S. Bank, shared how, in collaboration with business line partners and the Digital office, the Technology team at U.S. Bank provided the engineering and technology needed to deploy what are now award-winning, redesigned experiences for their customers.

What was the work behind the scenes to transform their customer experience? In his keynote session, Dilip shared four areas of focus for his technology team.

  1. Focus on client needs and feedback.

In order to deliver a best-in-class user experience, U.S. Bank realized they needed to understand their client needs and pain points. They created a concept they call “do it together,” which means using digital tools with human support. Some key innovations that demonstrate this concept are their Live Chat, a Smart Assistant, and goal setting and tracking features.

Dilip says, “These are examples of the front-end solution – the user experience. However, for the solution to work, there is extensive engineering and process behind the scenes.” Some of those include database calls, data federation, analytics, API calls, load balancing, user authentication, fraud detection, and security and regulatory compliance, and that’s where his team focused their efforts.

While re-engineering the backend of our digital tools, we are always considering response time, availability and reliability – things that are key to a positive client experience.”

Dilip explains that even if you have a great digital tool, if the client struggles to access their data or the backend processing is slow, the client experience will be negative. “For example, users previously accepted three-second response times, but that is trending more towards two or even 1.5 seconds now,” he says.

To provide a fast response time to customers, the team engineered API calls with minimal data transfers. They minimized the number of exchanges between the front-end and back-end processing, and they had to re-architect how to access the bulk of their data.

“One innovative thing we did to achieve this was to use open-source database structures with replicated copies of some master data in a distributed environment,” Dilip says. “This allowed for simple data reads to occur without competing for resources with other solutions on the mainframe, and it also protected the performance of existing mainframe solutions.”

Dilip adds that part of offering award-winning solutions is “continuous improvement.” His team, and their partners across the bank, gather data points on the back end and analyze how they can make the customer experience even better.

  1. Engage in cross-functional collaboration.

As Dilip points out, “Innovation and success do not occur in a silo.” His team collaborated with line-of-business teams and between product, engineering and agile teams to deliver the transformation. One example he shared is U.S. Bank’s co-browse function, which enables the branch teams to focus on deeper conversations with clients rather than just processing transactions.

Dilip says, “We (U.S. Bank) found that people wanted human help via digital tools. Introducing tools like co-browse and virtual appointments allows a banker to help, and the client can see the banker on their device via live video for a personal touch.”

To achieve this front-end solution, the technology team had to re-engineer the back end and front end of the solution to integrate multiple data sources – quickly. That meant working hand-in-hand with their lines of business partners and reorganizing the technology team structure to align with business lines.

In addition, Dilip shares that his team innovates cross functionally, with the technology and digital teams working together on innovation incubators. They also embed enterprise architects within various projects to build an architectural repository as they go along.

  1. Grow the team’s technology skill set.

Dilip shares that another key focus area is developing a continuous learning mindset in their teams and that innovating at the speed of today’s marketplace is almost impossible without growing employee skill sets.

The skills needed today might not be adequate to accomplish what we need to do next week.”

The team at U.S. Bank created their own learning university for technology employees called Skills Academy, which provides a single portal to numerous learning opportunities, including Linux Foundation training for Open Source. They also built a framework and tools to facilitate guided discussions between technology employees and their managers on the employee’s desired skills and career direction. 

In addition, their upskilling program offers a series on leadership and interpersonal skills, designed to help technology professionals develop the ability to communicate and collaborate cross functionally. Dilip says that the result of these efforts is that “we are constantly expanding our set of skilled subject matter experts, rather than relying upon and possibly burning out a small set of SMEs.”

He also points out that “focusing on skills is not only important for us to have the right skills at the right time, but we know it’s critical in attracting and retaining top talent.”

  1. Simplify and streamline technology services.

The fourth area of focus for Dilip’s technology team is simplifying processes. They adopted agile methods and principles, such as starting with the outcome in mind – theirs was creating a best-in-class client experience. Committing to this principle helps the team prioritize and reduce the number of projects in process.

To increase their speed and help with continuous delivery to clients, they also created their Shield platform, a DevSecOps platform. In addition, they made a strategic decision to move to the cloud, enabling them to support change at a rapid pace. Dilip says that they take “a ‘cloud first’ approach to new solutions, while also modernizing our core banking solutions to leverage cloud.”

Finally, the technology team prioritized the ability to repurpose their innovations. “We found that many of the innovations that improved our clients’ experience could also improve our employee experience,” Dilip explains.

Key Takeaways for CIOs and CTOs

To close his session, Dilip shared what other CIOs and CTOs could take away from their experience at U.S. Bank when undergoing a transformation of their digital business.

  • Start with the end in mind. Embrace the agile concept to think about the desired outcomes before and during the journey.
  • Focus on the mindset that supports the agile workplace. Implement the structures and skills to embrace agile methods and principles. This helps enable your technology team to listen to and collaborate with internal and external clients.
  • Expand your organization’s use of your innovations. Leverage your momentum to accelerate innovation in other areas of the company.

U.S. Bank won and continues to win numerous awards for their redesigned digital customer experience, and since implementing their digital strategy, they have risen to the top as an industry leader in digital banking.

To learn more about technology’s role in transformation, join an Evanta CIO community, or explore ways to get together in person and exchange best practices with your CIO peers.

Content adapted from the San Francisco CIO Executive Summit. Special thanks to Dilip Venkatachari and U.S. Bank.

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