Amidst the whirlwind of today’s digital landscape, banks are engaged in a race to not only survive but also flourish amid ever-evolving customer expectations. The key lies in embracing technological transformation and adopting a tech company mindset to ensure enduring competitiveness. As customer demands for seamless, personalized, and innovative experiences escalate, banks must strive to match the service caliber set by cutting-edge technology giants. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and the solution is unequivocal – technology-driven strategies that yield a market-leading platform-based value proposition. This, in turn, guarantees heightened customer satisfaction, loyalty, and sustainable growth within the perpetually shifting financial terrain.
In the pursuit of this audacious aspiration, trailblazing leaders like Amlan Patnaik are at the forefront, guiding banks towards crafting the next generation of banking platforms. Amlan Patnaik, a distinguished Associate Director of Software Engineering at NTT DATA, stands as a visionary force behind the digital transformation of Wells Fargo, one of the United States’ most prominent financial institutions. Fueled by an unwavering pursuit of excellence, he embarked on a transformative voyage, bolstering and modernizing the bank’s technological bedrock, thereby paving a pathway to a modern, unparalleled, and seamless customer experience.
In a recent exchange with TechBullion, Amlan Patnaik offered insight into his journey of building Wells Fargo’s next generation banking platform. He shared invaluable perspectives on the significance of erecting robust foundations to expedite the transformation of legacy banks into fintech powerhouses. Additionally, he expounded on how artificial intelligence is poised to disrupt and reshape the banking and finance sector.
TechBullion: You’re a technologist at heart. Did you aspire to the work you do when you were growing up? What made you choose this path?
Amlan Patnaik: I’ve always had an unwavering passion for technology, and what captivated me most was its limitless potential – like a canvas just waiting to be painted with innovation. From my earliest days, I relished solving challenges, and technology provided the perfect playground for exploration. It’s a realm brimming with opportunities to craft something remarkable, to witness immediate reactions from users, and to continually refine and enhance based on their input.
Moreover, the sheer reach of technology fueled my enthusiasm. Back in the early 2000s during my university years, while the internet wasn’t the giant presence it is today, the whispers of its boundless possibilities were unmistakable, and that lit a fire within me.
My journey took flight with my first post-university role at a company that crafted mission-critical software applications for GE Capital Retail Bank. The experience was nothing short of incredible. We were developing technology that touched the lives of an astounding 300 million customers, effecting tangible change. It’s the potential to make a difference, whether directly or indirectly, through the power of technology that has always been my driving force, fueling my unbridled excitement for this field.
TechBullion: What questions do your financial clients ask regarding the rapid technological transformation happening within the retail and commercial banking arena, and how do you view the accompanying wave of disruption?
Amlan Patnaik: We stand on the brink of a profoundly transformative era in the landscape of financial services, one that demands a complete shift in how we conceive, establish, and deliver these services to end-users. If we reflect on the major epochs of financial services, we find ourselves transitioning from a period where a limited number of providers held sway. During that time, the technology available for crafting new financial products and enhancing user experiences remained largely static, tailored to accommodate a leisurely pace of change.
In the last decade, we’ve witnessed an influx of new technologies into the realm of financial services. This encompasses not only the design of mobile applications or the seamless integration into websites but also extends to the backend infrastructure, encompassing domains like payments and the integration of machine learning for decision-making. This newfound ability to personalize and automate on a micro scale for each individual has recently emerged as a possibility.
Invariably, whenever novel technologies emerge, someone invariably combines them to present a compelling value proposition to customers. Take the example of the iPhone—a culmination of disparate technological elements ingeniously woven into a cohesive package that almost felt inevitable in its eventual realization.
A similar paradigm holds true in the realm of financial services. With the latest strides in artificial intelligence and the ongoing transformations in payments and open banking, entirely novel avenues present themselves for reimagining product creation across diverse customer segments, spanning both retail and commercial banking. This juncture affords us unparalleled potential to amalgamate diverse technologies, forging new constellations that continually enhance financial products and services. Given the accelerating cadence of new technological breakthroughs, the imperative to adapt is relentless, prompting a reevaluation of our operational frameworks and technological underpinnings to ensure nimble adaptation and progress.
TechBullion: What was your approach to the technology transformation of your client? What were the major things you focused on?
Amlan Patnaik: My entire approach was rooted in addressing fundamental questions, such as: “Are the applications sufficiently resilient?” “Are the legacy applications tightly coupled?” “How prepared are they for a shift to the cloud?” “What proportion of monolithic systems need to be broken down into APIs?” “What foundational components are requisite for purchase or development to underpin the transformation?” “What is the level of maturity in the continuous integration and delivery pipelines?” and an array of others. Drawing insights from the responses to these pivotal questions, I meticulously devised a comprehensive, multi-year strategy that unfolded in distinct phases. The task was nothing short of colossal, given the extensive impact spanning hundreds of online banking and mobile applications.
Each of these questions acted as a catalyst for an extensive revamp of existing legacy systems. I led a team of architects through an in-depth evaluation process to ascertain the current state. This assessment paved the way for the creation of a blueprint outlining the future state. Concurrently, we delineated the foundational software components essential for actualizing this transformative journey—components that were to be either developed or procured. This holistic approach was crucial for sustaining the overarching evolution.
TechBullion: What challenges did you face during the digital transformation of your financial clients?
Amlan Patnaik: Navigating the landscape of technology transformation is a formidable endeavor, entwined with the intricate challenges of aging infrastructure and the escalating competitive landscape fueled by the emergence of fintechs and other disruptors.
Historically, a tapestry of decisions regarding procurement, in-house development, and customization gave rise to a proliferation of add-ons around the core system. This amalgamation resulted in an assemblage of disparate services, functions, and capabilities that were intricately patched together. While this approach was reasonable in its time due to limited alternatives, its ramifications have become apparent.
Presently, the crux of the challenge lies in the tightly woven fabric of legacy systems. Even the slightest adjustment to one facet of the structure initiates a cascade of repercussions, as interwoven elements necessitate extensive modification. A shift in one system has the potential to reverberate across various sectors of technology, amplifying the risk factor. Notably, a substantial portion of the endeavor is dedicated to rigorous testing, aimed at averting catastrophic disruptions stemming from the integration of a single new feature.
If you look at the speed at which fintech companies release new products and update existing ones, it is literally an order of magnitude faster than traditional companies. They can afford to make all those changes because they cause less disruption than legacy tech changes do.
TechBullion: Could you shed some light into the disruption caused by artificial intelligence in the banking and finance sectors?
Amlan Patnaik: I am convinced that data-driven personalization constitutes the imminent competitive battleground within the financial services sector. In the contemporary landscape, consumers yearn for the “Netflix Effect”—seamless encounters and automated suggestions that cater precisely to their desires and preferences. Banks are pivoting from passive engagement to fostering proactive relationships with customers, seeking novel avenues to enhance their financial well-being. Capitalizing on a reservoir of data, they possess the potential to pre-empt customer requirements and translate these insights into bespoke recommendations. Employing AI-infused technological solutions bridging their front-end and backend systems, banks dissect customer transactions and behaviors. This analysis yields nuggets of advice and direction to bolster financial wellness. For instance, envision a scenario where a customer subscribes to two similar music-streaming services; the mobile banking app could spotlight this redundancy, prompting whether the intention was truly to sustain both subscriptions. Furthermore, banks can monitor a client’s checking account, seamlessly transferring funds to their savings account when congruent with budgetary objectives.
Another pivotal domain experiencing AI-driven disruption is the realm of Cybersecurity and Fraud Detection. The daily deluge of digital transactions—bill payments, withdrawals, check deposits—via apps or online channels accentuates the urgency for the banking sphere to fortify its fraud identification mechanisms. This is where the potency of artificial intelligence in banking becomes manifest. AI and machine learning emerge as guardians, pinpointing anomalous activities, exposing vulnerabilities in systems, mitigating risks, and augmenting the overarching cybersecurity of online financial transactions.
AI technologies are progressively assuming the mantle in an array of use cases, spanning Loan and Credit Decisions, Tracking Market Trends, Enhancing Customer Experience, and Ensuring Regulatory Compliance, among others.
TechBullion: What advice would you offer to the next generation software engineers who are eager to excel in the rapidly evolving fields of software engineering, technology and AI?
Amlan Patnaik: To the next generation of engineers, I would emphasize the significance of continuous learning and adaptability. In the swiftly evolving domains of software engineering, technology and AI, staying updated with the latest trends, tools, and methodologies is pivotal. Mastering fundamental principles while remaining open to exploring new concepts ensures a strong foundation. Practical experience gained through hands-on projects and collaborations is invaluable for honing skills and problem-solving abilities. Embrace a curious and innovative mindset, unafraid to experiment and venture beyond traditional boundaries. Networking within the engineering community fosters diverse perspectives and opportunities for collaborative growth. Ethical considerations are paramount—strive to create technologies that positively impact society and uphold principles of responsibility. Remember, the journey is about embracing challenges, adapting swiftly, and contributing meaningfully to the exciting evolution of these dynamic fields. Your dedication to learning, innovation, and ethical practice will undoubtedly shape your success and impact in this ever-changing landscape.