By Michael Rhodes

Thanks to technology companies we have new ways to communicate, buy the things we want —and sell what we don’t—to get around and have all our favourite music in our pocket. We can count on these businesses for hyper-personalization and to create new algorithms to power their latest innovations. But can we count on them to do this without breaking the trust bond?

For the last several years the focus has been on how every business is becoming a technology company. For good reason: technological innovation is reshaping virtually every industry.

Banking is no different. For example, our recent technology partnerships with FinTechs Moven and Flybits have helped TD create the number one banking app in Canada and deliver trusted, personalized and connected experiences to our more than 12 million digital customers.

Banking’s legacy of trust

However, recent controversies such as Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data scandal shine a light on the fact that technology companies are not just in the technology business anymore, they’re also in the trust business. This is a business that TD has been in for over 160 years. It’s part of our DNA.

What the banking industry is grappling with now is how to graft a legacy of trust onto a new banking backbone powered by technology and customer data. It’s no small task.

Many banks have a legacy that’s even older than ours, and with that comes a massive internal technological and cultural transformation. We are moving from a time when we used technology to simply run the bank to working with it creatively to meet customers’ rapidly evolving needs and expectations and engage with them in new ways. We want to predict what our customers need and bring the solutions directly to them and this kind of transformation involves seeing customer data differently.

Data used to be simply a byproduct of our relationships with our customers. Now, powered by new technologies, banks have the opportunity to approach data differently. At TD, we’re focused on using customer data to develop the kind of ultra-personalized experiences that customers have now come to expect. At the same time, by using data to improve business decision-making and operations, we are breaking down internal silos and making it easier to innovate and inspire our teams to invent.

Using data to improve lives

Perhaps the biggest opportunity that banks have is to use data for the public good. When we look at the potential of data and artificial intelligence (AI), we see countless ways to make a difference in the daily lives of our customers:

  • What if we could help customers understand that based on their current spending patterns, there are early signs that they could face financial distress in the coming years: and then help them make changes?; and
  • What if customer data could help us create a more personalized investment strategy that makes it easier to meet retirement goals?

As part of the terms of our acquisition of AI pioneer Layer 6, we supported their desire to dedicate a percentage of their time to AI projects outside banking, such as exploring unique and groundbreaking applications within healthcare. As the stable pillars of most economies, banks have the duty to think responsibly about data and see it an extension of the trust bond that we have with our customers.

Today we are taking a measured approach as we consider how to put that data to work. While being careful may sound like an excuse for going slow, trust can be lost in a heartbeat, and for some technology companies, they’re experiencing that in a very public way.

Michael Rhodes is the group head, innovation, technology and shared services at TD Bank Group. Now based at TD’s headquarters in Toronto, Ontario, Michael has held senior leadership roles at Bank of America and MBNA America Bank and has worked internationally in the United Kingdom, Spain and Ireland. Michael earned his MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and holds an engineering degree from Duke University.

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