Something new is “rising” at the Bank of Cyprus

Having set in motion the process of significantly reducing non-performing loans in 2020, the Bank of Cyprus initiated the procedures for yet another monumental project, that of transforming its operating model with a dual goal: to upgrade the customer experience and simplify internal processes for an equally upgraded work experience.

The protagonist are the staff themselves

The implementation of this project, which was called “Sunrise”, was undertaken by the Bank’s Transformation Office, which is staffed by a group of young people with ideas and a vision for change. The Chief Transformation Officer of the Bank of Cyprus, Christos Ioannou, noted that, this is a dynamic and multifaceted effort, which includes various stages, from the evaluation of the operational model and procedures, the optimization of the customers’ banking experience, the increase in profitability and cost reduction as well as strengthening the “organizational health” of the Group. In this ambitious agenda, the protagonist are the staff themselves who are actively involved in the planning and implementation of the plan.

Today, as Mr. Ioannou explains to InBNews, the most important of these suggestions are in the process of being implemented, while several of them have already been executed.

At what stage is this process of operational transformation of the Bank currently?

We are currently in the implementation stage. We continue with a strong pace and an ambitious agenda pushing the implementation of the changes decided by our staff at the forefront. Simply put, as the team of the Office of Transformation we act as the catalyst of the program bringing together all the Directorates in the context of a more general effort to strengthen the performance and culture of the Group.

If we understand correctly, the changes implemented have resulted from the suggestions made to you by your colleagues themselves?

Yes, and this I would say is the most important parameter for success. This approach was clear from the beginning. To design and implement a multifaceted operational transformation plan, which would be the result of our staff’s recommendations. It is very important that our people know that no third party came to impose the changes on them, but that they have arisen through their own experiences and suggestions. After all, improving the work experience is just as important to us as the customer experience.

Today when you see it in practice, are they ready to implement everything that they had suggested? Are there or have there been resistances?

One of the most essential but also difficult elements of our role is to "break" in every possible way the "silos" that exist. Our co-ordinating and independent role is key to strengthening cooperation in the Group. We implement new models, agile methodologies and created cross-departmental workgroups. Resistance to change is inherent in human nature, however, we did not encounter strong resistance. The involvement of many colleagues at all stages of the program, always combined with the continuous support of the Management team and the Board of Directors, played, and continues to play a decisive role.

Can you give us some examples of suggestions that are being implemented or to be implemented?

The recommendations are many and on various levels. They touch on processes, systems and also cultural issues. An example that we are particularly proud of is that all our customers will very soon be able to submit their request for a loan for four products from their mobile phone (“Quick Loans”), receiving immediate automated replies. So far, this new feature is available to a select portion of customers.

We also simplified the administrative functions of our stores through automation and centralization. We have substantially delved into the field of Data Analytics thereby upgrading the quality of our products to meet the needs of our clients as per their client group. We created a specialized team for Segments & Propositions and Digital Sales. With the close cooperation of the Digital Transformation team, we have increased deposits through alternative channels and continue to expand our range of services that simplify and at the same time significantly improve the service experience of our customers.

So what role do the branches have in the modern banking map?

The only thing that is certain is that it is no longer the same as the one we were used to, which is, a place for processing daily transactions and facilitations. This role is now played by our alternative channels with the many options they offer to our customers. The role of the store is dual: advisory and educational. It functions as a meeting point with our clients to guide them on important financial decisions they need to make at various stages of their lives and at the same time as a training hub for their digital literacy.

At the same time, the way the staff responds must also change, correct?

We achieve this by investing even more in the training of our staff. Human resource reskilling & upskilling programs have already started to be implemented based on the needs and changes defined by the new business arena.

Has the culture really changed?

Culture does not change overnight. But very good work is being done and we already have measurable results and specific priorities that we are focusing on. We have also created a dedicated team of colleagues from across the Group's Divisions who help implement the actions designed following the feedback we received from staff.

Are customers aware of the fact that the Bank is changing?

Not only are they aware, it’s something they demand and we receive this feedback daily through our channels and the surveys we conduct. The perfect customer experience of any business should not be treated as a luxury, but as a responsibility. As Bank of Cyprus, we will continue to invest in customer-centric strategies and in educating our customers in the new era.

Do you follow the competition?

Of course, and when we talk about competition we are not limited only to domestic Banks but also to foreign companies such as FinTechs. We must remain true to our promise as an organization that pioneers and that contributes substantially to the evolution and modernization of the way the Cypriot economy operates.

r two years of operation of the transformation office, what do you consider to be the most important achievement?

The optimism we receive for the next day but also the undiminished determination to keep trying new ideas with boldness and delight. Change is no longer as intimidating as it used to be, and collaboration has strengthened to a significant degree.