Source: Interviewer Axel Winter, CTO, Central Retail
Moderator: Waleeporn Sayasit, General Manager-Corporate Communications, TCC Technology
So, I think you focus on the strategy and how to execute –right?
And spend money smartly in digital technologies. Come to the next questions:
[Waleeporn]: How do you balance the customer experience with data privacy? Any principle that you apply?
[Axel]: You have data from customers which aggregate what people are searching for, what they are clicking for, which does not have to be personalized all the time, to know what Axel
Winter did – right?
The other thing is, of course, if I am a customer of company. I have to have interest in a digital product -right? So, if it offers tools & features to help me to do what I do better and cheaper. Of course, as a customer, I am willing to share some data and feedback otherwise am I using that service, if I don’t like. If I don’t want Spotify or music, why I use it –right? So that makes no sense. Also, about Netflix; some of this is customized and personalized based on data.,
Of course, if I don’t want to be customer of Spotify any more, I don’t want Spotify to have my data –they should make it easy for me to exit.
If I am a customer, please customize & personalize for me –please use my data. If I don’t want to be customer –then please let me exit and make it an easy experience then I may come back.
I have some German Website –but see they make it’s so difficult to pay –they have a few restrictions; you can delete your account and so on. Someone may say “why do you may make it so difficult?’’ then maybe I don’t want it.
It’s a good metaphor to say, “hey! of course I can use aggregated data to help me improve my product,” and I know people really are interested in my services, so I try to further use that data, out of their own interest, to improve the services. I think that’s the way I will categorize.
[Waleeporn]: Do you have any project that you feel proud of? Why?
[Axel]: For me not an easy question as you know –as a team here at Accenture we have done tremendously, a lot of things every day, so I kind of almost forget –right? What we did well was 2 things I like to talked about.
At Standard Charter bank – I started along the end of 2012 –8 years ago – starting Hadoop ecosystems, known as big data system in a sense, I went to my boss and said I need a little funding to do this Hadoop thing. My priority, I like outsource, because it drives understanding as it drives knowledge and also drives innovation. He said fine, and try it out, so we could produce some by crunching a lot of data, massive amounts of data, in real time. This is not possible for data warehouse technology, and we could produce output in understanding counter parties, for example Banks, in a very short amount of time.
It was so impressive that in the Board of Director, my boss got excited about new opportunities, that we really started in 2014, a fully funded, kind of data lake in the banking world. Actually Standard Charter is the first, most completed data lake in the industry, so the organization is much further than many banks across the globe I am not saying that JP Morgan or Citibank doesn’t have it, but Standard Charter is ubiquitous across countries and across all products This is the difference between many other banks.
In Central group, the 2nd one which I really love, is that there are always ideas that corporations cannot work at startup speed, but I think that is what we tried to do within central retail technology department. To set up the unit which most people, average age of below 30, from Thai startup & tech companies- we really managed to launch the first Omni channels site in 3 or 4 months. It included complex product applications and integrations – we kept going all the way until today. Now running the different products across three countries, which I am very proud of. People always say it can’t be done in Thailand, and can’t be done in Corporate. Well! it can be done by a big corporation. I thought that was also remarkable, and made me see that it’s possible
[Waleeporn]: So, you can do many things that others think that is impossible -right?
Exactly. Can you share experience in implementing projects in different countries, which have difference in term of maturity & culture?
[Axel]: This is a tough one. I mean in the sense that we have the teams across Thailand, Vietnam, and Hungary, as a tech department central retail for countries in 2 continents, probably much like TCC. One of the issues is clearly the best way to deliver something as a team. It sounds like such an obvious point that it’s what some organizations have to learn, to work in across different departments. It’s not always simple, so driving & collaborating across leadership in different countries, and also setting aside for the team to deeply collaborate, and then really become one team, however it can work well. We can see it’s a success, maybe here and there, that it’s your team that’s not mine; it really does not work that way.
If people stop thinking about department, but just we want to get power, it’s by that spirit that we get high performance delivered. The lesson I deeply learnt in both Accenture and GE is that transparency and ability to be team drivers, contributing to the success-Openness, and I would say willingness, that needs to be taught to people If that mindset is there it does not matter if people are from Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Thailand, Vietnam, or Singapore.
We also have many nationalities.
And then I think people need to think about a second point. It sounds very basic but because you start to delivering things, execute, share opinion, people like or don’t like things. They want to push their ideas, so it’s not practical, so always potential for conflict – right? There is always potential for blame. As a leader, we need to resist and come back to the table and rationalize & itemize the issues, then focus head down and focus on the job, focus on fixing, focus on moving forward. Not to give in sometimes, to kinds of the negative emotions, and drivers, specifically in the global environment. This is particularly important.
The last thing I would say is about a tool. If you work- you will need something like teams, slack, zoom, and have a mix of tools so you have texture update. Then you also need to create a lot of touch points like these -right? You can talk and share as this kind of bonding: what makes me think, what makes you think, why can I agree easily, so this type of sharing, especially for remote teams, is quite important.
People tend to forget sometimes, they keep working, then keep doing daily jobs, which is important to them, but they forget to talk to the others to understand their motivation, their concern, the issue why they are having problems, so this touch point is really important With this in mind – this is not new or only COVID, these were what I said before in GE – I had a team in NY, London and BKK. This is always a paramount to work together through the years.
[Waleeporn]: I think from what you just mentioned, so you have focus on the right mindset –right? And also, the way people to move forward together. Another thing is that we should have touch points for people to collaborate even though they are in different countries, right?
[Axel]: Yes, there are also different ideas; do I want to be perfect first? Like German Engineering, they want to be super perfect, but not the best idea when you want to start small and scale. So, these types of concepts, that need to be consensus, for these types of ideas, and agreement on goals, and agreement with KPIs, what we want to achieve, and how / why it’s difficult, that’s needed to be done, right?
[Waleeporn]: K Axel – Could you please share with us about your plan with the startup?
[Axel]: There are two things:
- We have central retail, which has the culture in engaging with tech companies and all startups, but if you look at the JD market place, Central, Fintech, startup, Grab investment.
I think what we do is we tend to work with these companies, so not only about investment, but also taking the partnership and develop new product & services for customers. That’s why the product like dolphin, JD.co.th, Grab and we have expert delivery, and there’s other services coming up.
It adds value so it’s not only that we play the startup game. It’s something we can use to innovate. We can take it further than the central retail; it’s really there to move to a little bit smaller environment. If a startup has good ideas, we can improve our business to serve customers, business partners, and also internal productivity – right? And also, staff welfare; then we can. If they are startups, they can go to submit the project via web site and ideas: can we partner with a startup? And create small, within a couple weeks prototype, and if it seems successful then we can actually make this real, and use as a mainstream product in your organization.
In my view, I’m happy to hear comments. It is good for startups and for us, we learn what we don’t know yet -right? And so, we have a committee with business and technology colleagues, groups, so we take it very seriously, and then it’s the opportunity for startups to really get into projects, so this is not about a beauty show, or public relations, but really about can we have a real project? In real life environments projects are implemented and then we get feedback out of that. If these things fail, that’s good for us to learn about why they didn’t succeed, and also good for startups to go back and say because of a-b-c. Here I can think again, what do I need to change in my startup to address this concern in real life environment –right?
So, I think success is a good thing if we can go and make it the main stream capability in organization. That’s good for us and for the startup, because we can achieve the tools for business, and so that’s why I am very excited about this. I know that there are a lot of companies around this planet who use startups as a public relations idea, right, but they themselves don’t innovate and this is how we want to be different. We want to make the ability to learn and innovate and to change with startup’s skill. That’s the difference.
[Waleeporn]: So, what you plan to do is to work, learn and innovate together with startup –right? Your ideas about startups in Thailand and in this region
[Axel]: There are many startups. Lots of funding goes into Asean. It’s one of the most active startup areas in the world, and we see that a lot of governments also put investment. Look at the Singapore government. Of course, Thailand is also very supportive, as in other countries. This is good news –right? – if you look at the different startups – Google, when you think about companies like Jitta, playbasis, 2C2P, ….
They all are very strong players in their own field -right? – I am sorry to everyone if I forget to mention but there are many examples. They are doing extremely well, which is very impressive, and I really believe they change the economy. I believe they also change the employees. The people, who work for startups, they have different view from let’s say the older days Either they work for big company or startup. they work in a certain way and really make a big shake up for market, including Singapore, by the way, a big corporate head quarter type area of the region, and it’s good for the region.
Because a lot of startup also approached me and they ask my opinion – one of the problems I see though is that in many areas. There are 2 types:
One is the startup itself. It does not have enough depth. Startups are successful because both the business model and technology are done well. Business models have to have some sophistication. Technology has some sophistication. It cannot be copied in a day.
But I have people coming here with great Ideas, but so simple – I can do within a week.
I don’t know why I fund you as I can do myself only in a week. If you want to come here and work here and do it together with us then I can see benefit; this is a couple years back I can see big benefit. Good for you and good for us. Then they didn’t want that, so I wish them luck. Somehow it did not go anywhere in the end. I thought the idea it was too simple.
I see that a lot of startups are like that, where there’s not enough in depth. Also, startups should not be afraid to hire people from corporate, and not worry about age of employees.
What it is that you need to have right capability. The right skill to launch startups, right?
That means that you see who can help you –right? Then it doesn’t mean that everybody needs to be 25, and just a newly grad. It’s real -If you have right skill.
Another thing is I would have to say that a lot of company, corporate, even VC, who are very rigid in the way they work with startups, why can we give startup opportunity? Why they see startup like a ball? You throw it and you don’t really know where it’s gonna end up.
I wouldn’t know which startup that have 1-billion-dollar company now. Who would know that’s exactly like on day one where that’s true? They all change throughout the process, which is good –right? If successful company –who would care how they change -right?
So in the way that we as a corporate buyer, bank alone, give globally, and spend 57bllion in IT investment, I think the number was 2 yrs ago, that can be spent on startup to fund startup to drive cash flow, not to have the startup sell out their last shares to make it through the winter. Even if the startup doesn’t have a product, which you need, but they may have very cool innovative tech, you can spend money to buy the tech and help that startup. We look at fintech startups they don’t break even in their home market, so sell tech abroad in noncompetitive countries, where they didn’t intend to open. They can get the revenue and support their main course.
These flexible, big corporate, banker, investors and also VC, I think, we need to relearn specifically in ASEAN region
[Waleeporn]: K Axel – Let me change the topic a little bit: How do you foresee the future of digital currency usage in Thailand’s retail business? Do you have any plan to leverage it to help create better experience for your customers?
[Axel]: As a policy maker obviously, it seems to me that Bank of Thailand and some other central banks have been proactive in moving forward and try to digitize currency in the sense. For me, the question is about legal framework. Just to open digital currency is not that difficult, right, but the problem really is what’s the legal framework around it, and that’s just a matter of time that people will adopt it in my view.
Yesterday I talked with a startup in Vietnam in the payment space. They said not many Vietnamese have adopted digital wallet and they try to push for more. They think it’s a great idea and government supports it. Why the government will not support it, if you digitize payment; it is also tax benefit, right? Because you can trace and see what happens with currency, income and revenue, so lots of benefit in that sense. So, I do believe that it will accelerate in the next 2-3 years, my personal opinion, and I think companies will also adopt it. For us, as a retailer, the simple thing is if consumers use the currency as a legal tender and use an app to pay if this becomes the trend then we will also have to have it, because we want to serve our customers
We accept wePAY and Alipay and so on, and of course mostly Chinese national usage to the home country, where the customer is going, then we would also want to be there, right? It’s part of being customer centric.
I do believe in the next 2-3 years and I see a lot of things coming. I see Bank of Thailand and strongly believe it’s gonna be changed and advanced very soon.
[Waleeporn]: Last but not least – May I have your advice for our audiences for the digital transformation journey?
[Axel]: I think that’s a good question, that there are some companies that are on the way but the ones who are not on the way. This is not for everyone, right? It depends. I will not tell everyone but as COVID shows us sometimes there can be external factors which drive digitalization. If I need to go out to a shop or to a branch to do a transaction or sign document. All of these, they should not be necessary. That doesn’t mean that we will not continue to create places where people can go and customers & sellers can have a constructive personal relationship.
If I look at Chat and shop, which is one of our models. If people want to have a personal relationship with a service provider in the sense –right? – for retail, bank, telco. On the other side, what people don’t want is to be forced to do something they don’t want do. If I don’t want Thai baht & transfer – I don’t want to go to the bank, because it’s trivial thing, if I press the button and it’s done –right? They should not force it. I want to close my LTF –I don’t want to go to the branch and do that. This example –can be applied to retail whatever transaction you take. I want to make sure that customers have the choice so COVID time proves that customers want to have the choice, and again it can be circumstance where you have no other opportunity than being digital. I don’t believe that now is the time to go back to the old normal – it’s not going back. People want that flexibility. People want to do both so we need to be fast and build capability.
Make sure that we have the skill which we require, and are ready to move forward, and then work step by step, and very focused to digitize individual process, and not only use same process but change process to be more digitized and optimized. If you digitize but not optimize then you will have bad customer experience in many cases. If someone does not do it then please start it now, and don’t give up –start it now.
If someone does do it and then aren’t too sure how fast they should go, my advice is going fast, almost in a straight line, and adapt based on feedback along the way. My advice is to go fast and don’t hesitate
Don’t go many ways but be fast. Do not procrastinate. In the economy for a while to come it’s so much more important to drive customer service.
[Waleeporn]: Ok so Don’t give up- be Fast
Watch open talk EP2 Part 1 : Digital Transformation Experience at https://youtu.be/P0NtDoIqClo
About TCC Technology Group
TCC Technology Group is a Technology Solutions Partner, aiming to address customers’ requirements with Best Value Solutions through Neutral & Trusted Facilities. These are certified under ISO27001, supported by a Secure Cloud Platform (certified under CSA STAR and PCI DSS), supported by Strong Connectivity, and managed by Experienced Professionals. TCC Technology Group consists of T.C.C. Technology Co., Ltd. (TCCtech), Leap Solutions Asia Co., Ltd. (LSA) and Shinasub Co., Ltd. (SNS). This power of Synergies among companies under TCC Conglomerates and Global Strategic Partners enhances continuous growth and commitment towards sustainability.
For more details, please visit https://www.tcc-technology.com/en