[English] How can we proceed with digital transformation smoothly ?どのようにデジタルトランスフォーメーションを円滑に進めるべきか

Hello christopher and welcome to foreign connect to podcast today thank you very much for uh coming to the show oh thank you very much for having me yeah so i wanted to start this interview from asking you about your background can you tell me what have you done and also what you do right now with your current company sure happy to um i've spent uh probably 25 to 30 years of my career primarily kind of a blend between financial services and technology i worked for a several of the large canadian banks in a variety of different roles uh lending uh alternate banking um remote banking electronic banking um and uh after after many years in that in in the in the big kind of corporate large banks i moved to a uh a large canadian fintech company called dnh which was uh about a couple years ago acquired by a more global company called finastra uh and what i did there was i led a big chunk of their sas software as a service uh digital banking platforms primarily we had a program for the federal government ran the the student lending program for the government of canada um ran a really interesting platform for uh security search registration and recovery um and then ran uh the largest mortgage origination platform in canada with about 98 market share so i did that for about for about five years um and uh then i moved on and was cheap operating officer of uh of uh i'd say a mid-sized canadian bank with a focus on uh with a focus on lending and then for the last couple of years i i started in and run on an operation called the freestone group and what we are is we're a boutique consulting firm that specializes in digital transformation in connecting uh fintechs uh and creating strategic alliances between fintechs and large financial institutions and other corporate partners wow that's that's very impressive and very interesting as well um can you tell me a little bit more about what you do exactly with digital transformation like how do you coach businesses to make that yeah it's a as as you pointed out when we talked earlier it's a it's a big challenge for most businesses yeah um uh one of the things that i do is really come in i work at a couple of different levels with uh with my clients one is at the strategic level so what i find is a lot of companies get very attracted uh and are very interested in buying software and they want to jump to sort of purchasing the software right but what i've found to be more successful is to really step back and have a strategy around your digital transformation and that strategy should really be driven by what are the benefits you're trying to create for your customers and your operation so really it's around uh client experience and operational efficiency and you know to to quote an old story if if you if you don't know where you're going you won't know when you get there so having that thinking and that strategy which i call sometimes go slow to go fast do the thinking and the strategic work around where you want to go and why and then line up your plans against that one of the mistakes that i see people make again as i mentioned earlier is they tend to jump to the software and the technology part first and what i advocate is really take a deep dive and look at your existing processes because a lot of the value that can be unlocked in transformation is in streamlining and modernizing your processes and once your processes are are streamlined the next level is automating them through the use of technology so what i do is is i help companies think through and develop a strategy along those lines and then i continue to work with them through execution and delivery of the projects that support that strategy very interesting do you limit the function of that digital transformation like do you limit that to strictly relating to finance function of the business or any function no you know what that's a really good point um i i think you have to approach it holistically right and it has to it can't just be finance it has to be operations manufacturing and the one that gets overlooked the most is people right so if you're if you're going to automate or digitally transform a part of your operation you have to take the people into account sometimes they'll have to be retrained on new systems they'll have to collaborate sometimes even their jobs will change right certain jobs will go away and new jobs will be created uh to affect that transformation and i would say the number one overlooked element in that is the people change management piece of it um interesting so right now do you help usually smaller company mid-size companies corporations who do you usually help with your um it's kind of split i would say i would say i i don't do a lot of really large corporations because they have a lot of in-house staff and and and and and they do a lot of things themselves i tend to focus on mid-size to smaller corporations for a couple of reasons because i i like to deal with the with the business owner the principal because they understand what they're trying to accomplish and uh frankly they tend to be a little more willing to adopt new practices and move quicker and because they're they're always they're challenging they're trying to take on the big guys so they're more willing to embrace new concepts and and and new capabilities to remain competitive wow that's that's very interesting so the next question is you seem to have a lot of operation experience in business from your background what kind of quality do you look for in like a good operational manager in a business um that's a that's a great question and uh and i'm gonna kind of take it at the high level i think uh i think uh uh number one attention to detail opera operations is really around focus and attention to detail um uh the uh number two is a a a an attitude towards continuous learning so even though you know how it's done today you have to be looking to the future to understand how it could be done and how the market is moving and how your competitors are moving and to be looking constantly be learning about how to do that and i think an operations manager while they have attention to detail also needs to think about how that operation impacts both the customer experience and the the employee experience so for example i could design a process that was very efficient but if it was very difficult for my team to use and it was very difficult for my customers that efficiency is not going to win me anything so so every so you're constantly striving for efficiency but it has to be within the context of the user and customer experience interesting so that actually leaves me another question you said that communication when you increase efficiency your communication matters right like to the customer and or the employee and like is there any sort of uh smooth communication method that you recommend for companies to or transition or you know well you know you know who i i'll give you an interesting example for an assignment i just did um and and one of the reasons why uh why companies hire me i'll give you an example um a client was going through a very difficult transformation and it was not going well um so i was brought in to help diagnose why it wasn't going well and and help them get it back on track one of the things i discovered was that that there was a breakdown in communication at all levels so so within the company different departments weren't speaking to each other uh and then the company wasn't communicating well with their outside technology providers and vendors so one of the things uh and again it's it's it's not really fancy but but i set up sort of just regular touch points um between all the stakeholders and all the parties so that people didn't have to guess or think what was going on um that they were actually involved in an ongoing uh communication and uh conference so i think i think creating the environment to have that dialogue and recognizing that people are on a team even if that team is made up of internal external and vendors it's still a team that's dedicated to driving this outcome and that team has to have regular touch points to facilitate that because a lot of these teams were remote i use a variety of uh of online tools and i'm a big believer in accountability so when you're doing a large transformation or a large undertaking you have to understand who's accountable to deliver what by when and that needs to be transparent and visible to everybody so if i'm relying on you and you said you're going to deliver something by saturday then that you have to sign up for that that needs to be tracked and visible and if it doesn't happen everybody sees it gets to know where it's gone wrong and can then work together to try and resolve it interesting so when you catch that problem right that came down to um it was a communication problem how did you diagnose that how did you pinpoint that problems or like how do you usually diagnose different kinds of problems well i usually i usually do with a kind of a classic uh project management tool called a racy chart um and that's really sort of understanding the accountabilities uh between the parties uh and then what i like to do is i like to i like to really identify who's uh the key contact for each key element in the transformation and i i typically interview them and i really try and understand what's important to them what their capabilities are what their gaps are and and how to help them and then do that and build a network across all the other people what i often find in that exercise is that that there'll be gaps like for example some of the people that often get left out are the uh are the compliance and data security people if you're gonna do any type of work online uh data security is is extremely important and you can't bring those guys in the day before launch they have to build the quality in throughout the project so you need to engage them early in the process and a lot of companies i think take too narrow a view of who should be involved in the in the project i think it needs to be a broader group because because the last thing you want to have happen is get almost to launch and then have the data security guys go you can't launch because it's not secure so so building that matrix of who the important stakeholders are and then building a mechanism to keep them informed and keep the dialogue going i think is critical to success i see that's very interesting point um so i know that you had once again a lot of experience with uh fintech companies right fintech is the industry you're very experienced with what about fintech do you find interesting and what about fintech do you find it exciting um i i think it's uh it's fintech's a very interesting space

one of the things i love about it is the energy the creativity so the one thing that that's really key to fintech is they're taking something that's well understood well established yeah right uh you know financial transactions banking has been around for hundreds of years maybe thousands hundreds here thousands in japan um and uh and uh and and they're trying to rethink how to do things better how to do things faster more efficiently more cost effectively with a better customer experience so i love the creativity and the energy that goes behind that um i'm a bit of a geek so i also love the technology side so i love the fact that in to do this they're leveraging emerging technologies and and uh and uh i like the pace i mean they it's it's fast it's dynamic um one of the things i didn't like when i was in the corporate world is it takes a very long time to make a decision right uh in a fintech company you get the right three people in a room you can have a decision in an hour wow yeah that's that's kind of exciting i see do you do you find any startups that's interesting like any canadian right like your canada base you find any canadian startups um particularly working on interesting fintech ideas um well there's a there's there's a there's a few i think one of the things that's really interesting i'm in i'm located in toronto um and toronto is one of if not the top global hub for artificial intelligence so we have a we have a we have a program uh at the university of toronto that's world renowned uh for its uh for developing ai uh masters and doctorate uh level people um and that's created a real energy around artificial intelligence in toronto and there's some some really interesting things going on in that space and there's just a a whole pascal of of emerging ai companies that are really looking at uh applying artificial intelligence to all sorts of aspects of fintech and regtech and medical tech and it's it's really moving quite quickly so that's an exciting space generally without specific companies um do you have any um i don't mean fintech is also a big space here toronto's big finance center yeah um in a in an odd sort of way um i i think canada has benefited from uh restrictive immigration policies in the u.s because a lot of uh high-end global talent um is now uh has a much harder time in moving to the us so they moved to canada instead so so we have a lot of even the big u.s companies google apple amazon are rapidly expanding their capabilities here because uh it's a it's a it's a very deep talent market and the ability to tap the global markets i was just on a call this morning in from taipei right so uh so there's uh there's uh there like it's it's becoming a very global an open global hub whereas the current environment in the us is a bit more restrictive so their ability to think globally and internationally seems to be at this point in time a bit more restricted

so companies that come to mind uh there's a company called flinx that does some really interesting data work in financial services they've done very well there's a small fintech i've done work with called savvy ai that does uh really interesting work in digital lending digital mortgage lending and processing um there's there's it's it's an exciting time here it's been uh a lot of growth in the space i see so that kind of that kind of leads me to the next question which is what kind of uh cross-cultural opportunity do you see between japanese companies and internet japanese companies um partnering with the international market in fintech industry i i think it's i think huge opportunities and i and i wouldn't just limit it to japan um uh i would i would think you know where i'm seeing the most interesting things happening is with companies that are taking sort of a global approach i think you know prior to sort of the technology revolution um people tend to be very narrowly focused um on on what's happening close to them and i think now you can't survive doing that the only way to survive and compete is to really have a global mindset and and to look all over the place for for ideas um you know one of one of the things japan in specific uh obviously big technology leaders so lots of technological expertise in japan um uh also uh you know historically uh tons of operational uh process leadership out of japan like the whole kanban concept process engineering a lot of those concepts came out of japan so so now what's happening is is is how do you translate those those concepts which are developed in more of a manufacturing environment and how do you move them into the digital space so i think you know combining that sort of mindset that that and and capabilities that exist in japan which some of the emerging technologies and thoughts that are happening in you know north america europe uh elsewhere and asia uh potentially create some really interesting opportunities i'm not i'm not aware of the state of digital transformation in japan so i don't know where that's at on the curve i can say in canada it's underway but a lot of companies in canada i would say have a long way to go to really fully adopt digital processes um i see this is just out of curiosity personally how like how long do you predict like how um how long do we have ahead of us until we finally start seeing like lots of businesses or like start operating on foodie digital yeah you know that's interesting i think what's happening or at least from my experience what i'm seeing is people are starting in the back office so they're kind of splitting it they're starting in they're starting in the front and the back so in the front people are trying to to put a more digital experience in front of the customer but the reality is behind the scenes it's still pretty old-school um yeah right right so those those those front-end things are driven by how do i appear to my customers to be more digital and how do i create a better customer experience so you know we call it gui you know graphic user interface so how do i make a better interface but behind the scenes it's still kind of clunky and then at the other end in the deep operational level um those initiatives are being driven by um economic efficiency so if i can take a process that takes an hour and i can i can digitize that and turn it into 10 minutes that's going to save me a ton of money yeah so to the outward consumer it it it doesn't appear to be changing that quickly because those two pieces haven't met in the middle yet so you're getting that sort of user interface at the front and you're getting some base operational efficiency at the back and i think you'll see those things grow together it's kind of like digging a tunnel from two ends right you know you're digging from one end you're digging at the other end and the real breakthrough will be when the tunnels come together so i i'm a bit different than some people on this i think it'll take longer than some people are saying um and part of that is some of these things are hard to do they're expensive to do yeah and and companies ability and appetite to undertake them even though it's possible you know like you know it's possible to do something doesn't mean it's economically prudent to do it in the short term so i i think you'll see you'll see people sort of chip away at it and there won't be a big bang where suddenly things will appear i think you'll see things slowly move towards digital over the next sort of five to ten years um so i think i'm gonna come to my final question which is so we talked about customer experience and also employee experience yes with digital right like how do you find that like optimal

like optimal experience for both audience when you try to integrate digital operation in what they do yeah i think it's uh i think it's even so to go back to the ai example right so everybody's excited about ai it's very exciting but i think where you'll see more advances in the near term is what i would call human augmented ai so the ai is in there doing some processes in the background but there's also human intervention so i think you're going to see that in the next few years where it's sort of where the ai is a support to a human interaction not completely taking over i think what it really comes down to is usability and simplicity both for the employee the user and for the customer and the thing that gets you know i'll give you an example um somebody was i was working with was doing a digital transformation i asked them why they were doing it well they didn't they couldn't answer me that's a bad sign right there right um and when i did push them they said well i'm creating a better i'm creating a better experience for my customer and i said well have you spoken to your customers do you know what kind of experience they're looking for and they said no so how do you improve the customer experience if you don't understand what the customer is looking to do so so the so to answer your question you know research and understanding of what your customer wants to do and how they want to do it is kind of a big first step on the path there's no sense transforming to an outcome that you don't know is going to be satisfactory to your customer right and on the internal side i would say you know always think about you know the people who are going to deliver these processes if if if the uh if the tools aren't there if the training isn't there if they're if their ability to interact with the process and the technology isn't well understood you're not going to deliver it so it really comes down to knowledge of what the needs are and the training on how to deliver it um that makes a lot of sense well um today we learned a lot from you thank you very much for coming to my show before i let you go i also want to quickly mention where can people find your chris uh they can find me through my website at uh www.freestonegroup.ca um i'm on linkedin um they can find me there as well christopher white uh and that's probably the best way to get ahold and my email is chris at freestonegroup.ca perfect well thank you very much for coming to the show today well thank you very much

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