Interface Magazine speaks to BBTS CIO, Alexandre Souza da Conceicao, regarding his various roles executing digital transformation within the Brasilian banking sector…
Alexandre Souza da Conceicao is moving onto pastures new, but his love for his sole employer, up till now, is palpable. “A job at Banco do Brasil is something really desired by the Brasilian population,” Conceicao explains. “You find one of its branches everywhere you go in this country. It’s a big company and one of the best places to work. The company’s very kind to employees and everyone loves working for BB.”
BB Tecnologia e Serviços, BBTS is a Brasilian state-run technological solutions provider controlled by Banco do Brasil (99.97%). Focused on information technology outsourcing (ITO) and business process outsourcing (BPO), BBTS was founded in 1974. Alexandre Souza da Conceicao has been working for BBTS and its controlling owner for some 35 years, the outgoing CIO at BBTS having joined Banco de Brasil in 1985, as an office-boy in a local branch when he was just 14 years old. His entire career thus far has been working for the same company and during those 35 years, he has delivered numerous innovative projects across the bank, its numerous business units and now its subsidiary, BBTS.
Conceicao’s final role for the bank – and the one he is about to depart – placed him in charge of the technology, directory and digital products and services at BBTS, pretty much overseeing the overall operation of the company in terms of IT processes and systems development. “I’m enhancing and improving the digital solutions we are offering, not only to Banco do Brasil, but to other banks and companies in the market too,” he explains from its Brasilia headquarters.
BBTS is a solutions provider primarily focused on the banking industry. “Because that’s pretty much our DNA, right?” Conceicao explains. “A lot of our time is spent in the banking industry just serving Banco do Brasil, since the bank is really big. We serve the organization all over the country and through that work we developed the muscles to support any bank, because Banco do Brasil is pretty much the largest banking branch network we have in Brazil.”
BBTS has 35 regional technical assistance units that provide services for over 3,500 Brasilian municipalities, including equipment installation, corrective and preventive maintenance, monitoring and equipment support. It also offers security equipment such as CCTV surveillance, revolving doors with metal detectors, access control, and alarms, as well as our own PSIM (Physical Security Information Management) software to monitor all the security alerts as an integrated solution. BBTS also offers contact centers, collections center, helpdesk and telemarketing services, as well as document management and printing, software manufacturing and testing, phone system outsourcing with telecom management including mobile and telephony services billing. When Conceicao stepped into BBTS for the first time in 2019 – having departed a role in IT for the bank – his biggest challenge was to push the company towards innovation and change. “There was a lack of transition or transformation, let’s say, to a more digital operation,” he says. “It was a technological environment, developing products and serving customers with technology and yet, the company itself was not so invested. They didn’t push so hard. It was much more geared towards the demand of the customer, but not for themselves, or the internal units and departments.”
Alex sparked an immediate sea change at BBTS and pushed towards digital solutions. “Every time I had a meeting or a conversation, I found an opportunity to push for a better way of doing things. It was a very interesting time, and by the end of 2019, we were already able to deploy a brand, new platform that was capable of automating the decision-making process. Instead of getting everything written on paper and getting things signed, we created a digital workflow where at the different levels of the organization, we could interact to get the right approvals from every department and back to the board. With this movement, I could expedite and increase the speed of the decision-making processes in the company. In fact, that was key to helping us during the pandemic this year.”
Conceicao has overseen major digital transformations at Banco and BBTS having cut his teeth in IT while working in North America for the bank in 2007. Alex spent six and a half years in the US – in New York – helping to establish a stronger US presence for BB. “During that time, I had the chance to establish Banco do Brasil’s sponsorship of the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) CISR (Center for Information Systems Research), which fosters and promotes the digital transformation of organizations. They do a lot of research and share experiences and use-cases. They come out with a dozen of frameworks on how you could apply a digital strategy, right?”
In 2013, Conceicao returned to Brasil with the knowledge and expertise garnered from his time in the US. “When I came back, that’s when my digital transformation approach became stronger within the bank, because I came back to the IT area as a general manager to promote a better IT governance process and mitigate the risks of IT, while increasing the value delivery. I pushed harder in terms of digital transformation, cultural change, new methods of development and applications redesign. Lean IT and agile methods were the key methodologies I implemented, to make IT leaner and lighter while making the value delivery stronger for the bank.”
One of the key challenges Conceicao faced when returning to BB in Brasil was altering the mindset of the board and its executives. “Most of them came from a different time when everything was transactional and mechanical,” he explains. “There was no economic explanation or understanding of how digital could promote exponential growth for the bank.”
Conceicao created a workshop for the executive board, so they could undertake a journey in terms of understanding use-cases of other banks from around the world, and uncover what the bank should be doing to push further in its digital transformation. The workshop was co-created by Peter Weill, the Chairman of MIT’s CISR.
One of the biggest projects Conceicao undertook at the bank was the Technology Transformational Program; a group of projects that reconstructed the platform of the bank through the applications, and the creation of components that could be regrouped to a more scalable architecture. “That’s what the market called SOA, or services-oriented architecture,” Conceicao explains. “We pretty much pushed that approach forward so that everything would be based on the customer journey. Instead of delivering a product based on the capacity or characteristics of the product, we changed the approach, and created a customer journey, and said, ‘What would be the point of access of the customer with the organization, and how can we enhance that experience?”
“Using those components, we broke them apart, and put them back together, in a way that could deliver a better experience. We put everything in a brand, new web interface, which was much more friendly. Then, we created a certain architecture of reference that searched for every other product we started to develop. The first initiative was pretty much the credit or loans and how we served customers with loans that used this new architecture we deployed. We put those in different tracks although we could reuse the components every time we had to go back to a new project. This was giving us speed and reduced a lot of effort in time and cost and in terms of the development of other products. That happened during 2014 and 16’, and ’17, ’18, I had the chance to transition to other units fostering the bank’s efficiency with projects for internal processes, cost reduction and better backoffice support, until I joined BBTS, in 2019.”
When Conceicao joined BBTS in 2019, he faced similar issues to that of the bank. The structure at BBTS was the same as the bank before, with no agile methods being employed. “We pretty much had to start something very similar, but I could make it faster, because the company is much smaller. I could push the culture to change a little bit more intensely, because there were fewer projects than at the bank.”
One of the contracts BBTS implemented for Banco do Brasil was a customer collection center, offering a multichannel interaction process, which helped BBTS choose the best approach to reach customers through a variety of channels including an automated text assistant, called VIC, which uses artificial intelligence to interact with the customer, and negotiate condition for the payments of debt. “We could really increase the speed of the communication to the customer and enjoy a greater precision in terms of approach and interaction,” he says. “Out of more than 400K customers contact during the last two quarters of 2020 VIC was effective in more than 46% of the times she’d interacted with the customer, avoiding the need of human support. And we are working to make it even higher.”
Another big project Conceicao has overseen at BBTS is Hiveplace, which allows BBTS to serve consumers and suppliers of banking or data services making an easy, simple and cheaper integration. It’s focusing to adapt to the regulations of open banking and the data protection laws pushing the banks to create APIs, to ensure that they can be connected to any other institution that would like to share information – or if the customer requests to get their data back to another company or bank. “The financial organizations are really pressed by the law, because they don’t own the data,” he explains. “The data belongs to the customer. And for many years, they (the banks) believed that the data belonged to them, and they could use the data by themselves, or just for the benefit of the business. But that’s actually the other way around. It belongs to the customer and so they have to have consent to use that information in any way, from the customer. With that law in place, the landscape changed completely. Now, you need to interact with multiple companies, banks, or fintechs, so the data belonging to the customer can flow into that organization as the customer requests.”
Alex and his team developed a partnership with Skilltech to build the digital ecosystem Hiveplace that could be offering single integration with multiple peers. According to Conceicao, a bank that’s willing to offer a product like a loan would be a provider in this hub. But a credit fintech, say, would be consuming that API, while also connected. “Hiveplace reduces a lot of the effort and time to integrate multiple institutions. It’s a single integration that you have with your product. Let’s say you have an investment fund; you can make that fund available for investment from multiple customers, allowing any fintech to connect. It’s a single integration instead of developing the integration to each one of those fintechs or start-ups. The platform was launched this month, and we are scaling it, so we are connecting more companies, establishing agreements and creating ample use. We are a subsidiary of the bank, and we are working with many different business fronts of the bank, but also offering this platform to the market. From a security perspective, for instance, we could check the records from a database of customers as a proof-of-concept experiment just to be sure that we can double check the data. We connected to 11 bureaus of databases of customers, and we check that data against the database the bank has sent to us. They started with 5,000 customers just to check how many we could confirm are positive and authentic records, rather than fraud or the result of misleading information in the records. We found almost 10% of it was fraud and we gave that back to the bank. And they liked that. It’s a good sign as it shall become a product or business in Hiveplace in a way that they could benefit from.”
You don’t spend your entire career, with a single employer, unless something is working for you and with his time at BBTS and Banco drawing to a close, Conceicao is foreseeing new market opportunities within the openbanking space. “This is the future of the financial system and there will be many services, creating multiple lines of revenue,” he says. “With very low interest rates, banks are not making money as they used to do and that’s the biggest challenge. Banks’ payroll is still a high-cost item in the financial statements and we may see a reduction as they push to the digital landscape. Banks won’t be able to charge services as they used to do.
“I truly believe that banking-as-a-service will be a new frontier. You have to understand banking-as-a-service and foresee a forgo of the building full of bricks, with a safe inside. That cash handling may be quite down in the next coming years. And that’s certainly how I see my next challenge and the next transition in terms of the business, and technology.”