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Microsoft’s Satya Nadella on how to build partnerships ‘beyond two ships passing in the night’

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella on how to build partnerships ‘beyond two ships passing in the night’

Months after striking a deal with Microsoft to become a ‘cloud-first’ bank and migrate all core applications to the cloud by 2025, Bill Winters, group chief executive of Standard Chartered joins Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft at Singapore Fintech Festival 2020 to discuss resilience, the future of digital transformation and why a good partnership is central to achieving this.

As Winters describes, plans for migration to Microsoft Azure were well underway before the coronavirus pandemic, but the partnership “couldn’t have come at a better time.” He goes on to mention the oft-asked question: “Is technology a partner for us, a competitor for us or are we two ships passing in the night? My short answer is, in different circumstances, all three. But I know that as it related to Standard Chartered and Microsoft, it’s a true partnership.”

Nadella responds and drives home that real change is happening outside of the organisation, with consumer expectations and value chains being reconfigured as a result of the pandemic, noting examples such as the facilitation of remote work through cloud, the personalisation of customer service with AI, the push towards real-time payments and the invention of new businesses and products with IoT.

“Banking and financial services have always been leading technology adopters and coming out of this crisis, there’s going to be more of an acceleration, there’s going to be a fair amount of disruption, […] and all of these arbitrage opportunities will go away and all of what needs to happen from a financial services perspective will happen with speed and with technology.”

Questioning Nadella on how banks can focus on the “frontiers of technology”, Winters suggests that customers today require “a fundamentally different proposition through the creative use of technology”.

Taking this a step further, Nadella elucidates that “computation and computing fabric” is now embedded in the real world and this “profound change around computational resource and the ubiquity of it” has resulted in banks and other financial institutions being able to transform this data and “turn it into analytical power and predictive power using techniques like AI.”

Nadella continues: “At the end of the day, any organisation is only as good as it is able to understand the past and predict the future.” While Covid-19 has resulted in consumers expecting video interfaces and virtual reality has become mainstream, financial services must adapt and integrate into the real economy. However, a cultural shift within the organisation needs to take place.

Riffing on Nadella’s earlier points, Winters highlights that the convergence of purpose and culture is key and states that “banks, in particular, maybe lost that message a little bit along the way […] [especially] during some of the more difficult times around the global financial crisis.” Nadella believes that “customer obsession” is central to “meeting the unarticulated needs of your customers,” or the engineering discipline, design thinking.

“Being part of that feedback cycle is perhaps the most important thing. That process has accelerated because of the remote everything. Organisations that have good listening systems have been able to come out of this, or at least are working through this crisis, much better and I think all of us are going to be very focused on embedding it, both in the culture and in the process of the approach,” Nadella concludes.

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