Digital, human, specialist: How Shawbrook’s product and tech strategy is helping accelerate transformation

Arthur Leung, Chief Product Officer, Shawbrook Bank

I joined Shawbrook a year and a half ago to help use a product lens to accelerate our customer focused approach and enable us to be more customer led.

There may historically have been a divide when it comes to technology and product development within the ecosystem of financial services. On one hand there are the unicorns, the start-ups — digital-first businesses where product teams are often at the heart of the business from the beginning. On the other are the incumbents, firms that may have legacy tech infrastructure, and yet whose approach to digital is increasingly central to their business proposition.

More than ever though, all businesses are seeing the transformative role that technology can play in their organisation. Since joining Shawbrook I’ve seen how our work on transforming technology and digital — led by an in-house team — has been hugely impactful for evolving our approach to people, process, and product. This approach allows us to harness the best of Shawbrook in a digital-first world.

People: attracting and retaining the best talent for transformation

  • Shawbrook has grown our Product team from roughly 20 to 45 people of the last few years, including Product Managers, Designers and Analysts.
  • In the past six months, we have accelerated a shift to in-house, internal engineers
  • As we’ve worked to attract talent in an extremely competitive environment, our approach to tech transformation has been instrumental for bringing talent onboard while transforming our internal culture as well.
  • People have joined us from major, leading tech firms, and what has made the difference for attracting that type of talent is that we have a clear stance on how we use technology and how it applies to our business and our organisation.
  • The way we have been able to get the best from our teams – new and existing – has been to balance new talent and new ideas with what is unique about Shawbrook and the DNA of the company.
  • A key part of more recent change has been ensuring that digital transformation be rooted in the human expertise that is so abundant at Shawbrook so that we are creating digital experiences and processes that enhance the best service from our specialist people. That is the culture that I have been able to plug into, and make the most of in attracting the best digital talent.
  • The talent we’re looking for can appreciate that approach. They can understand the strategy, the type of transformation we are pursuing, and most importantly for them, the kind of career progression leading that change can bring about.
  •  What’s more, there is an appeal to the unique transformation journey that Shawbrook has been leading for years already. We offer tech and product-minded people the chance to make a real difference to the customers and colleagues they work with, through new applications and tech architectures.

Evolving processes across the business

  • Alongside the changes to the way we attract and engage our people, our work on technology is driving new processes and ways of approaching our business.
  • Historically, financial services firms have outsourced many areas of their technology.
  • At Shawbrook, we are working to shift towards a tech stack in which we own the entire customer experience, from beginning to end.
  • To do that, we need to know how to build it, how to ideate around it, how to refine it and ultimately how to iterate our platforms to keep them nimble and ensure the best possible customer experience.
  • Owning this work in-house means we better placed than ever to put the customer at the centre of our work, engineering our technology around them and in the process driving operational efficiencies by maintaining that centricity throughout. Importantly we can work as a team to measure, learn and iterate to improve the experience for our customers and our colleagues.
  • We have been able to develop new ways of working and delivered things into the hands of colleagues to drive up operational efficiency and capacity – in underwriting and real estate – and move quickly to take these learnings to other areas.
  • Along the journey, as our processes have evolved and matured, you can see and feel the confidence within the organisation growing, both in terms of a boldness to try new things and a renewed sense of optimism about what we can help customers achieve.

Putting product first and keeping it front of mind for the entire team

  • I find that in business transformation and digital transformation, the Product team can really help support a business with the information and practical tools it needs to orient everything in terms of customers. We help Shawbrook to bring to life the customer-first approach that has always been there,and now continually improve our offerings for them.
  • We are working to bring the entire organisation — from Risk and Compliance to Business Development and other functions — into our work. We want to collaborate daily to get technology and product excellence baked into our culture.
  • It takes time to bring about that level of change, but the transformation process has given us touchpoints and opportunities to keep our work front of mind for the entire organisation.

Shawbrook’s transformation journey is ongoing, but we are well on our way, in part because of our approach to talent. Having a consistent narrative about what technology and product mean to Shawbrook is invaluable in attracting the right people and helping our existing teams to be change agents for the organisation.

I will say, we have also benefited greatly from a Board and investors that recognise the cultural transformation underway and have backed it over many years. We recently took the time to take the Board through an expanded, holistic, digital strategy and what that means for Shawbrook for the future. It comes down to the core elements I have set out here, a strong identity that underpins what we are doing; human specialism combined with best in class digital.