Tech­nol­ogy

At Cana­dian Im­pe­rial Bank of Com­merce, Aayaz Pira is quickly turn­ing ideas into apps, in­clud­ing its new mort­gage one, with the help of its re­cently formed in­no­va­tion hub.

National Mortgage News - - Contents - By penny cros­man

How bankers, techies and in­terns made mort­gages mo­bile

imag­ine get­ting most of the way through the typ­i­cally ar­du­ous process of ex­tend­ing a mort­gage through noth­ing more than a mo­bile phone.

Cana­dian Im­pe­rial Bank of Com­merce in Toronto last year rolled out its Hello Home app that lets home­buy­ers com­plete much of the mort­gage process by snap­ping pho­tos of com­pleted forms.

“We grab 75% of the in­for­ma­tion we need through pho­tos of the doc­u­ments,” said Aayaz Pira, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of dig­i­tal at CIBC. “The rest they can thumb into the phone. The only time you have to see some­one is at the end when we take your wet sig­na­ture at your lawyer’s of­fice.”

Users of Hello Home are as­signed an e-mort­gage spe­cial­ist in the bank’s mort­gage con­tact cen­ter with whom they can chat about ques­tions or around rates.

The app was ini­tially cre­ated in a six-week sprint by Pira’s team in con­junc­tion with the tech team, the mort­gage team and mar­ket­ing peo­ple. The first gen­er­a­tion was avail­able in four months.

Hello Home is just one of sev­eral things Pira ac­com­plished in the last year or so.

Un­der his di­rec­tion, CIBC has also added sev­eral app fea­tures, launched an in­no­va­tion hub, es­tab­lished a fruit­ful fin­tech part­ner­ship and got se­nior man­age­ment to buy in to a mul­ti­year dig­i­tal bank­ing in­no­va­tion plan.

Ob­servers say projects like Hello Home are an ac­knowl­edg­ment of the need to make dig­i­tal chan­nels a place for sales.

“Clearly, on­line and mo­bile are more than just ways to make it con­ve­nient for cus­tomers to mon­i­tor and man­age their money and sav­ings ac­counts,” said Mark Sch­wan­hausser, direc­tor of om­nichan­nel fi­nan­cial ser­vices at Javelin Strat­egy & Re­search. “Many banks are say­ing, ‘What can we do with mo­bile to open ac­counts?’ That is a real strug­gle for many in­sti­tu­tions on many lev­els.”

The Hello Home app was de­vel­oped in a dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion hub called Live Labs.

“Live Labs is my CIBC dig­i­tal baby,” Pira said.

In the lab, tra­di­tional bankers are thrown to­gether with dig­i­tal and tech team mem­bers and young in­terns, and asked to re­think cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence for all parts of the busi­ness. It’s housed in the Mars Dis­cov­ery District, a Toronto “ur­ban in­no­va­tion hub.”

It’s meant to op­er­ate as a tech startup, liv­ing out­side CIBC’s walls but serv­ing all parts of the or­ga­ni­za­tion to re­think client ex­pe­ri­ences us­ing tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion. New ideas are tested here that might not oth­er­wise gain sup­port us­ing tra­di­tional busi­ness case mea­sures. In ad­di­tion to the mort­gage app, the bank’s Ap­ple Watch app was de­vel­oped there, as was a sav­ings goal fea­ture the bank re­cently launched in its mo­bile app.

In ad­di­tion to serv­ing as a re­search and devel­op­ment fa­cil­ity, Live Labs is in­tended to at­tract and re­tain tech tal­ent. And it’s a way to shake up old- school bankerly ways of think­ing.

“We take our bank­ing peo­ple away from the Toronto fi­nan­cial district we call Bay Street to open up minds and be re­ally cre­ative,” Pira said. “We also have healthy col­li­sions with star­tups and other or­ga­ni­za­tions within the Mars Dis­cov­ery District. That’s been a huge ac­cel­er­a­tor for how we think about bring­ing things to mar­ket.”

Ev­ery six weeks the lab tack­les a new client pain point, a new tech­nol­ogy that’s been re­leased or some trend that might change bank­ing in the fu­ture, Pira said.

“We talk about be­ing an amaz­ing client-fo­cused dig­i­tal bank on the out­side and cre­at­ing ex­pe­ri­ences for clients that will de­light them ev­ery time they in­ter­act with us on our dig­i­tal chan­nels,” Pira said. “I think for us to be suc­cess­ful we also have to be that on the in­side.”

Also, to help ac­cel­er­ate prod­uct devel­op­ment at CIBC, Pira creat- ed Mo­bile Quick Re­lease, a mo­bile devel­op­ment team that ships new ca­pa­bil­i­ties to clients ev­ery 60 days. Among other things, they’ve stream­lined mo­bile ac­count open­ing and added Touch ID to the iPhone app and finger­print recog­ni­tion to the An­droid ver­sion of the app in the last year.

The team re­cently launched nat­u­ral-lan­guage pro­cess­ing voice search. So a cus­tomer can hit the search but­ton, say, “Pay a bill,” and they’re dropped into the bill pay­ing flow of events. Or they could say, “E-de­posit” and their phone’s cam­era will open for them to take a pic­ture of a check.

Sch­wan­hausser noted that this is an­other step in a di­rec­tion many banks would like to go.

“The ul­ti­mate Holy Grail is when some­one could talk in nat­u­ral lan­guage to a de­vice and it would feel like you’re talk­ing to a teller,” he said. “We’re a long way away from that.” Ide­ally, rather than hav­ing to give a spe­cific com­mand, cus­tomers could speak nat­u­rally and ask for some­thing with any ver­biage. “Where this is head­ing is an im­por­tant di­rec­tion — to­ward that abil­ity to be able to con­verse.”

Hav­ing such am­bi­tious plans also means need­ing more peo­ple. Un­der his di­rec­tion, the dig­i­tal team grew from 50 peo­ple to 250 in 2016.

Still, Pira said that not ev­ery­thing needs to be built in- house. For in­stance, the bank forged a part­ner­ship with the Cana­dian

al­ter­na­tive fin­tech lender Bor­row­ell, which of­fers “fast, fair and friendly” con­sumer loans.

Bor­row­ell’s spe­cial strength is its speed and client ex­pe­ri­ence, PIra said. What it lacks is scale — it has thou­sands of clients, while CIBC has mil­lions. Through the part­ner­ship, CIBC pro­vides its cus­tomers with Bor­row­ell- fu­eled one- click loans through its on­line bank­ing site and mo­bile bank­ing app.

The ap­pli­ca­tion form is pre­pop­u­lated with CIBC cus­tomer data.

“We pass over all your in­for­ma­tion, and then we drop the money into your ac­count within 24 hours,” Pira said.

“To­gether, we’re go­ing to pro­vide a lot of op­por­tu­nity for Cana­di­ans to make quick loans to take care of debt or ren­o­vate houses or do what­ever they need to do.”

Like many bank in­no­va­tors, Pira says the key to get­ting fund­ing and sup­port for dig­i­tal ini­tia­tives is win­ning over ex­ec­u­tives at the top.

Pira’s team put to­gether a story of what 2020 could look like for CIBC if the bank made “mean­ing­ful” in­vest­ments in dig­i­tal chan­nels — what the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence would look like and how that would af­fect the bank’s net pro­moter score and over­all prof­itabil­ity.

The team told the story of what the bank would look like in 2020 through part­ners and ex­ec­u­tives at the bank, go­ing all the way up to the CEO and board. Then it asked for spe­cific fund­ing each year to make that story come alive.

Was it hard to come up with those num­bers?

“This wasn’t some­thing we did overnight,” Pira said. “This was a good eight to 12 months’ worth of work. It was done with sup­port of many others in the or­ga­ni­za­tion. When you get every­one lined up and say we be­lieve this can drive lots of value for our clients and our bank, it’s hard to say no.”

AAYAZ PIRA

CIBC

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