CEC Bank: From Laggard To Leapfrog With Low-Code
According to research by Cornerstone Advisers, many banks still have a “long, long way to go” to reach their digital transformation ambitions. Its recent study found that just around one quarter of banks and credit unions had launched a digital transformation strategy prior to 2019 and 45% hadn’t started on the journey before 2021. This is not great news for banking customers who want to benefit from easier ways of transacting and managing their finances. But it is an opportunity for financial institutions that can move quickly and get ahead of the competition.
Sometimes, the incentive to modernize comes from the past. A bank that, in the scheme of things isn’t all that old, might feel it has less work to do to keep ahead. As a result it might actually be slower and less organized when it comes to digital transformation. In contrast, banks with a long legacy may feel a greater need to jump forward and leapfrog competitors entirely, overtaking them on digital process improvement.
This is certainly the case at CEC Bank, the oldest and one of the largest banks in Romania, founded in 1864. CEC embarked on a major digital transformation initiative two years ago. Today it is one of the fastest growing banks in Romania and pioneering several digital banking products. However, its digitalisation is part of a belief that people should always come first. Digital is not a replacement for its branches (of which there are over 1,000). It is about enabling both genuine human connection and technology, together.
As a state-owned bank in a former communist country, CEC found it had catching up to do in its adoption of information and digital technology. It relied on outdated and legacy software which made it difficult to respond quickly and efficiently to market needs and changes. Benefiting from a capital injection, in 2019 CEC laid out plans for “growth, results, and investment for modernization”. Digitalisation was a priority, to embed an omnichannel customer approach with products and services available both through branches and online.
Fast tracking with Low-Code
CEC played a clever hand early by realising that not all digital transformation needs to follow the same track. There were the necessary upgrades to essential banking platforms of course, but these are complex projects typically taking several years. However CEC needed a way of addressing pressing issues and launching new digital products to market quickly while these background upgrades took place. It’s answer to this was Low-Code Application Development, a technology that allowed it to build software applications at scale with minimal coding, building process flows and connecting elements such as databases and other software through intuitive user interfaces. This fast tracking really helped to make a quick impact.
Aurachain is one Low-Code platform CEC is working with as part of its digital transformation programme. Solutions developed include an integrated system for monitoring and maintenance of the bank’s ATM and POS fleet, and one for online onboarding of SME customers. A third project is under development – to digitalise online trade finance solutions for SMEs.
Applications in action
The incident management application is now helping CEC identify problems in its ATM, BNA (Bank Note Acceptor) and POS networks as well as monitoring how and when they are fixed. Real time overviews of the entire fleet of devices, and a ticketing system for use by IT, enables CEC to take a more proactive strategy, reduce outage time and increase service availability.
The onboarding platform for SMEs allows completely paperless online contracting of current account packages for SME customers. This is an industry first in Romania with CEC the only institution that allows the opening of online accounts for companies with a complex shareholding structure, or SMEs with non-Romanian resident shareholders (e.g. EU resident shareholders), whether private individuals or legal business entities.
Looking to an increasingly digital future
CEC Bank has made positive progress on its digital journey, but this is only the beginning of a digitalisation process to extend its online banking products using Low-Code to accelerate time to market. Digitalisation through Low-Code has become an essential pillar of CEC Banks’ omnichannel strategy and it is accelerating investment in technology to allow customers to have a unified online and in-branch experience.
While many banks are still struggling to transform digitally at pace, some like CEC Bank are finding that they can accelerate the process and, in some cases, leapfrog the competition through the use of Low-Code application development.