#31 - Sustainable Digital Innovation at BNY Mellon - Johnny Wijaya

 

 

“Your digital agenda is your business agenda. You got to be very deliberate and intentional about your transformation journey. You do it because it’s the right thing to do, and you got to figure out what is that right thing for your organization."

Johnny Wijaya is the Head of Bank of New York (BNY) Mellon APAC Innovation Center. In this episode, we learn from Johnny the sustainable innovation story at BNY Mellon, being an internationally renowned financial institution for over 237 years. Being at the forefront of innovation within the bank, Johnny shared the latest BNY Mellon digital innovation journey and the challenges that the bank had to overcome to rewire the legacy mindset and culture within. Johnny elaborated further what it means to be digital at BNY Mellon, its innovation playbook, and his advice on digital transformation. He also shared his personal transformation journey that he had to go through to put the innovation mindset at his core, which plays a critical part in his successful innovation leadership.  

Listen out for:

  • Career Journey - [00:04:45]
  • BNY Story of Innovation - [00:13:08]
  • Challenges to Innovation - [00:16:30]
  • Dealing with Legacy Mindset and Culture - [00:21:47]
  • Advice on Digital Transformation - [00:23:57]
  • What It Means to be Digital - [00:26:39]
  • Innovation Playbook - [00:28:46]
  • Importance of Integrating with Ecosystem - [00:32:46]
  • Transforming Personally - [00:36:54]
  • COVID Innovation Acceleration - [00:38:10]
  • BNY Innovations - [00:40:14]
  • 3 Tech Lead Wisdom - [00:43:05]

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Johnny Wijaya’s Bio
Johnny Wijaya has over 18 years of experience in business and digital transformation from developing digital innovation strategy, to driving strategic initiatives and blueprint execution. He started his career in technology consulting and system integration firms where for 7 years he worked with clients from different sectors including Telco, Public Sector, Healthcare, and Financial Services.

Before starting his journey in the financial sector, Johnny worked as the Technology Architect at Accenture. He then left this position to work at Barclays Wealth and Investment Management, where he was hired as the Engineering Lead. In this role, he led engineering build of a 3-year project with the goal of integrating behavioral finance with investments, including risk tolerance assessments, portfolio construction and re-balancing, and integration to order management system. His team completed the 3 year project ahead of schedule in 2.5 years, delivering incremental releases utilizing agile methods and rolled out the system to multiple wealth centers in the UK, US, Singapore, Hong Kong, Switzerland and Monaco.

After Barclays, Johnny continued his financial career working with Bank of New York Mellon. Being a 237-year-old internationally renowned financial institution, BNY Mellon plays a critical role in providing infrastructure to global markets. Over his 7+ years at the company, Johnny has expanded and strengthened digital capabilities to execute business priorities in APAC. In the last 2 years, he has led the APAC Innovation Center located in Singapore. In addition, he also sits in the BNYM’s Enterprise Innovation Leadership team. This team focuses on driving rapid execution of ideas and concepts while creating an environment that accelerates and promotes product and service innovation.

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Quotes

BNY Story of Innovation

  • It’s a story of resilience, reinvention and innovation. You don’t last that long if you don’t know how to reinvent yourself.

  • Innovation should be the job of everybody in the company. It’s not a job of a central function.

  • First, it’s about how we cultivate the culture of experimentation, which means how you can be good at trying things. Innovation doesn’t happen overnight. You got to try how you cycle through idea and hypothesis really fast in a way that you can then generate a breakthrough or innovation.

  • The second thing is about how can we be better at embracing the world. There’s so much innovation that’s going on across the world. How can you be good at collaborating with the rest of the ecosystem?

  • The third thing is about how we make sure that we bring all these hypotheses that we have tested along with the best of the world and put it to production or roadmap. In some cases, maybe we can launch a new business model.

Challenges to Innovation

  • The key thing when you talk about innovation is about the art of the possible. How you shift that thinking from the “how” to the “what” and the “why”. That is not easy, because human likes to solve problems.

  • I have to hold myself no matter how passionate I am or how eager I am to solve the problem. What is the what and the why? The how it can come later.

  • We’re all experienced people. We come with our own prior experience and also ways of working. The muscle memory is there. So when you talk about innovation, you need to come with that artist or dreamer mindset in the beginning, how to switch off your prior experience. Not saying that’s not important, but when you explore the possibilities, you need to come in with the beginner mindset. You ask a lot of open questions. You don’t have a judgment. You’re not skeptic about stuff. And when you get to execution, that’s when normally your past experience will become very helpful.

  • People talk about all different ways of working. People talk about design thinking, experience design, strategic design, then you’ve got agile, you’ve got data science. How do you make sense of all these things? These things cannot happen in a vacuum. Great things happen when actually all these things come together. How do you then explain all these different concepts in a way that’s easy for the business, for the rest of the firm to understand?

  • We help you get from 0 to 1, 1 to 5, and 5 to 10.

    • As with any great things in life, it started with this zero amazing ideas. It can happen anywhere, but it’s so abstract. It’s so high level. This is what I call 0. We have a program that can help to get that 0 to 1. Essentially, how do you bring more clarity to the visions? How do you sharpen it? And then you can get a lot more buy-ins from people.

    • 1 to 5 is where you start to pick a couple of thin slices of that visions and start to build something more tangible for people to poke a hole in it and to opine on it to give feedback.

    • 5 to 10 is when you have something and you have got a feedback. More people seeing it, more people get excited over it. Now, how do we start building this properly?

Dealing with Legacy Mindset and Culture

  • Change is hard, especially if you have built that muscle memory for a long time.

  • You need to start inspiring people. That’s the most important thing. You need to take some level of risks. You need to be able to pick some of your low-hanging fruits.

  • If everybody sees what we do and feels inspired by that and wants to copy the playbook, that is exactly what we want to do.

  • You must have that support from the top of the house, that level of commitment. You got to have a discipline in execution as well. Meaning to say that you got to follow it through.

Advice on Digital Transformation

  • First, definitely this need to come from the top of the house. You need the buy-in. You need to understand the importance of us getting on this digital transformation journey, which by the way, is an ongoing journey, and it will never end.

  • The second thing is that you don’t separate your digital agenda from your business agenda. For us, it’s the same. Your digital agenda is your business agenda. You got to be very deliberate and intentional about your transformation journey. You got to be very clear about what objective that you want to achieve, and what are the measures of success for you.

  • The last thing you don’t do it because other people are doing it. You do it because it’s the right thing to do, and you got to figure out what is that right thing for your organization.

What It Means to be Digital

  • It’s not just about technology.

  • Number one is about how can we be truly client obsessed? How do we embed client at the center of everything we do? How do we involve client early in the process of our product roadmap, product iterations? And not only that, how do we put client at the center of our day to day, when it comes to servicing the client?

  • Number two is about embracing the world. How to be open to the world? Innovation is not a monopoly of a particular company or particular locations. There are so many innovations around the world.

  • The third thing is about how do you embed these technologies in your day to day? How you serve your clients, that’s the most important thing.

  • The last thing is, how do you unlock the value of the data? We see it is becoming increasingly important when it comes to decision-making, operational efficiency, as well as deriving insights.

  • It’s not a job of a particular function. Digital is a job for every employee in every location in every office.

Innovation Playbook

  • It’s really important we explain this to the whole organization. You’ve got to explain it and you’ve got to keep repeating it. Then people will really start internalizing it, and over time become a muscle memory.

  • 3 types of a transformation and innovation in the industry:

    • The first one is we call it as a Silicon Valley model. You create these innovation labs. It creates a lot of excitement. It sparks a different way of thinking. But it doesn’t last. It doesn’t change the core. Because it is an outpost.

    • The second thing is we call it as a parallel bank. You create another version of your organization and you call it digital. It doesn’t have to deal with the legacy of people, process, and tools. You can move very fast, but it’s not sustainable as well. Because you are not able to harvest the collective intelligence. It creates a lot of fiction as well. In the long run, you end up with running two organizations, that’s probably not the most efficient way of doing things.

    • The third thing is digitizing this very bank, which is about how do we transform ourselves from inside out? While at the same time, not losing sight of what is going on across the world. How do we change the way we work?

      • The first one is we call it core digitization. We tell every employee, is there anything that is still physical and manual today? Just to keep continue to digitize that.

      • The second is what we call client re-imagination. If you have an opportunity to have a fresh look at your process, your tools, your business or your product, how do you re-imagine this along with the clients?

      • The third thing is about, how do you get into a new space, a new business model that doesn’t exist in the past?

      • When we think about AI, it’s not just about the technology. We have a hard look at it and say that, “Well, it’s actually not AI, it’s actually Human + AI.” How do you harvest the collective intelligence of human and machine? Because machine obviously does what machine does best and human does what human does best. So combining these together, you start thinking about, how do you define the future operating model where you have human and AI work together?

Importance of Integrating with Ecosystem

  • Essentially, we are open to work with everyone who shares the same vision with us. It’s ultimately about making a better client experience. It is about how we bring the best of BNY Mellon along with the best of the solution out there to give our client a choice. At the same time, integrated in a way that is hopefully frictionless.

  • At the end of the day, when it comes to the business, it’s all about win-win. We want to partner with anyone who shares our vision to make a better client experience. You have a goal to improve the industry. We have a goal to improve the industry. I guess we share the same mission.

Transforming Personally

  • What is really important is how you unlearn and re-learn.

  • Your past experience is so valuable. But when you want to embrace innovations, you got to know when to switch it off. And then you switch it on again when it comes to execution.

  • Have the intellectual humility. You may have all this experience, but you might be wrong.

  • There is no one size fits all formula that will work broadly. So you got to figure out what is the model that works for your organization. And that means that you’ve got to try, instrument, pivot, and try again and repeat.

COVID Innovation Acceleration

  • The biggest takeaway is it’s showing that human is actually adaptable. I think that’s the most fundamental thing.

3 Tech Lead Wisdom

  1. A good leader focuses on bringing out the best in the team.

    • More importantly, it’s also about how do you help the team see beyond what is obvious to their eyes? How do you help the team break the artificial ceiling or sometimes a constraint or some sort of mindset that often we just put it on ourselves?
  2. A good leader brings clarity.

    • The world is changing. There are so many changes going on now. How do you deal with the ambiguity?

    • Leadership plays an important role in bringing that clarity. A good leader makes choices, makes decisions.

    • You can empower the team to make decisions, but there will be situations whereby you need to have some level of convictions and make the best decision. And you explain it.

  3. You got to have that intellectual humility.

    • You may not be always right. There are so many smart people around you, and you got to respect that.

    • Continuous learning is part of your life. The world is changing. Best if you can figure out how to master that and to continue to stay relevant.

Transcript

Episode Introduction [00:00:54]

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:00:54] Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Tech Lead Journal podcast. Very happy to be back here again to share with all of you my conversation with another great technical leader in the industry. Thanks for tuning in and spending your time with me today listening to this episode. If you’re new to the podcast, know that Tech Lead Journal is available for you to subscribe on major podcast apps, such as Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, YouTube, and many more. Also do checkout and follow Tech Lead Journal social media channels on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. Every day, I post nuggets of wisdom from the latest podcast episode, and I share them on those channels to give us some inspiration and motivation for us to get better each day.

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For today’s episode, I am happy to share my conversation with Johnny Wijaya. Johnny is the Head of Bank of New York Mellon Asia Pacific Innovation Center. And he has over 18 years of experience in business and digital transformation throughout his career. In this episode, we learn from Johnny the sustainable innovation story at BNY Mellon, an internationally renowned financial institution that has been around for over 237 years. A company that has been around for that long and is still thriving, certainly has a lot of things to admire from, especially in terms of resilience, innovation, and reinvention. Being at the forefront of innovation within the bank, Johnny shared the latest BNY Mellon digital innovation journey and the challenges that the bank had to overcome in order to rewire the legacy mindset and the culture within. Johnny also explained further the concept of what it means to be digital at BNY Mellon, its innovation playbook, and his advice on successful digital transformation. He also shared his personal transformation journey that he had to go through in order to put the innovation mindset at his core, which plays a critical part in his successful innovation leadership.

I hope you will enjoy this episode. And if you like it, consider helping the show by leaving a rating review or comment on your podcast app or social media channel. Those reviews and comments are one of the best ways to get this podcast to reach more listeners, and hopefully they can also benefit from the contents in this podcast. So let’s get this episode started right after our sponsor message.

Introduction [00:04:16]

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:04:16] Hey, everyone. Welcome back to another new episode of the Tech Lead Journal. Today, I have with me a friend long time back. I met him in one of my previous company. His name is Johnny Wijaya. Johnny currently is the Head of APAC Innovation Center at Bank of New York Mellon. So we’ll be talking a lot about innovation today, especially in the context of financial services industry. So welcome to the show, Johnny. Good to have you here.

Johnny Wijaya: [00:04:42] Good morning, Henry. It’s been awhile. Great to see you.

Career Journey [00:04:45]

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:04:45] So Johnny, for people who don’t know yet about you, maybe can you tell us a little bit more about yourself? Maybe you can mention about your career journey. What are the highlights and major turning points so far?

Johnny Wijaya: [00:04:57] Sure. So, yeah, I’ve been in the industry for over 18 years. I grew up in Indonesia, and I finished my degree in Computer Science. That’s where I started my career 18 years ago. Well, it has been an 18 years of interesting journey, at least for me, where I have opportunities to learn from the leaders and colleagues from diverse backgrounds, working on interesting and purposeful missions. My work has also brought me to travel across the globe. So I’ve been working around the region, ASEAN, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and also broader Asia-Pac in Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan, EMEA and the US. I’ve been going through ups and downs. But then all of these have been a valuable experience, and this is really enriching in shaping my perspective, thinking, way of working, and my leadership. So if I may summarize, basically I’ll say there are three chapters of my career.

So I spent about 7-8 years of the first part of my career in technology consulting. I started as a software engineer or software analyst. Later on leading engineering team. And then my last role before I moved on to banking was a technology architect. I would say there’s a couple of really good key lessons during that first chapter. Obviously being a consultant, you got to be very versatile. You got to learn how to deal with unknowns and ambiguities. Every engagement is unique. It comes with its own nuances. You also learn how to be client centric. How do you put your client’s needs and challenges at the center of everything you do? Again, you are hired because the client needs your help. And again, with all these sort of interesting projects, it certainly hone your problem solving skills. Teamwork as well, very important. So I had been in the project team of as small as five people to a program that had hundred people coming together, working together to deliver that big piece of program. Last but not least, it’s also about the discipline around execution. You finish what you start and finish it well and follow it through. So when I look back in this first chapter, this has been really a great valuable foundational skills that actually gained in value as I progress with my career. So this is the first chapter of my career.

But even before I shift to the second chapter, I mean, I definitely enjoy a lot of the adrenaline rush with solving difficult problems, chasing deadlines. But early in my career, I was quite lucky as well, because I also experienced a very important lesson from this one particular project. We were working hard for it for 6-7 months. Six days a week and on some Sundays that actually we came in as well. I still remember, despite working so hard and trying to deliver your best, the first day of the testing, we couldn’t even pass beyond the second test scenario. But again, if I look back, it was a classic waterfall problem, where you spend two months gathering requirements, and you moved on, and then happily do your build in vacuum. And then you returned to show the clients afterwards. I mean, as you could imagine, within the four months, there’s just so many things have changed. The requirements, the assumption, and all those kind of stuff. So again, expensive, but it’s a valuable lesson. It’s painful. But it’s good to kind of learn it early, right? And then towards the end of the chapter, basically, where I figured that I’ve this strong call that whatever I do, I just want to make sure that I truly make an impact. And I feel like, as a consultant, I learned a lot. But, to truly understand the client’s needs, you sort of need to empathize deeply, or at least to some extent. And that is why I feel like I need to pick a particular vertical where I can actually build a deep empathy. So that is where I started to look into financial services. And that’s then jump start my career into banking.

So that’s kind of led to chapter two of my career. When I moved to this global private bank that was just embarking on a massive three years transformation program. Setting up their next generation banking system from ground up. This is where I met you, Henry. You are working on a different workstream. I was hired as an engineering lead for a workstream that was looking into integrating behavioral finance into investment. How do you bring behavioral finance into a risk tolerance assessment? To portfolio construction and rebalancing? And once you built that portfolio, how you push it down to the order management system. So, it was a great experience. I was working with product owner, program manager, business analysts who are based in UK. We were building the system from ground up, and got to work also with a lot of very smart PhDs in behavioral finance. And eventually the system went live to all the key market in the UK, US, Singapore, Hong Kong, Geneva, Monaco, and so on.

It was good fun, and I learned a couple of more skills there. That was the first time that I actually learned agile delivery. I was really fortunate back then that we had an agile coach who was very experienced that actually worked from us in the beginning. I guess I’ve seen many failed attempt in agile adoptions where teams are sent for training and expected to be expert the next day. Quite frankly, that’s given a bad press for agile. I was pretty proud to be part of the team because we are able to deliver what could have been a three years worth of work in two-and-a-half years. The second thing is also it’s really honing my engineering skills back in that bank. Because I was very fortunate to be surrounded by great engineers, or maybe today people call it what 10X developers, including yourself, Henry, right, who are not just good at writing code, but also care about architecture design, developer productivity, understand the importance of good engineering practice and hygiene. And these are all the stuff that is really important if you really want to do an agile delivery or continuous delivery. This is talking about separation of concern, test-driven development, how do you build your pipeline from unit tests to coverage testing, integration test. Back then, we built all this pipeline on Cruise Control, and then we published the artifact to Nexus. And again, it’s also talking about how do we manage dependency and auto deployment? These are all the good stuff that years before people talked about DevOps and microservice architecture. So it was good fun. I learnt a lot.

And then the third thing is it’s also important that I learnt a lot as well in terms of how do you build a reliable, scalable and maintainable applications. So when I used to work as a consultant, it’s just the nature of the job. You finish a project and another project waits for you, and you just keep moving on from one project to another project. Just like anything in life, your design is going to get tested over time. So this is where because you work in the bank, end user environment, you build a system and support it. And this is where you start to learn about the impact of some certain design decisions that you make. So I learned a lot, in terms of the best practices, the consideration for building truly reliable, scalable and maintainable applications. All together, more importantly, how to be a good engineer. So that is really a valuable lesson. People call you at 2AM, 3AM. Now you start understanding why, and all those good stuff. So that’s kind of like the second chapter of my career. If I may sum it up, it’s really about picking up agile delivery, good hygiene, good engineering practice.

And again, I learned a lot from engineering perspective, but it doesn’t really satisfy my craving for wanting to learn more about the business or getting closer to the business side, and really to become the bridge within the business and technologies. So that is where I got a call from a headhunter, that landed me a job into Bank of New York Mellon where I am. It has been good fun. Seven years of journey. I’m still here now. And basically, I started my career there with the missions back then, the team is looking to strengthen our international technology team based out of Asia. Really focusing about how we better serve our growth and the region as well as the clients. So we’ve done many things. From setting up a new lean team through delivering greenfield projects, such as setting up our FX trading hub for Asia G10 currency based out of Singapore. For example, implementing multiple solutions and systems that allow our business growth. Including four years ago, very deeply involved in setting up our innovation lab in Asia based out of Singapore. So I would say it has been a journey of intrapreneurship and innovation so far I’ve been in Mellon. Very empowered to really be able to translate, take ownership of some of our key priorities, launch it, execute it. It’s good fun. And I know we’re going to talk a lot. But I guess the last bit I would say is that the last four years doing all this innovation thing has truly rewired my whole brain. And I’m happy to share more what does that mean.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:13:03] Thanks for sharing your story, Johnny. I think it’s been a while since we met back then. Time flies, really.

BNY Story of Innovation [00:13:08]

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:13:08] So, maybe you tell us a little bit more. I’m very interested when you say you have to rewire your brain. I’ll let you give a little bit of context to our audience here. So what kind of challenge are you seeing and facing in BNY Mellon that will lead you to a lot of innovations within this APAC center, I would say? So what kind of things that BNY was traditionally known for? And what do you need to do in order to innovate within the bank?

Johnny Wijaya: [00:13:33] Sure. So Bank of New York Mellon is actually one of the oldest financial institutions in the world. We are 237 years young financial institutions that have been around. Today, we continue to play a critical role providing the market infrastructure for financial services. So what does that mean? We are trusted by clients to custodize and administer 41 trillion of assets. That’s a huge amount, right? It’s about 20% of the world asset, probably if not the 30%. We are the top seven largest asset manager globally, with more than over 2 trillion assets under management. On a daily basis, we process nine trillions of government securities and clearing transactions. So all these kind of come together and has positioned us to be a global systemically important financial institution that’s playing that critical role in the financial services. As you could imagine, 238, that’s a long time. So how does the bank last for that long? I think that is also what attracted me, and very proud to be part of that story now.

So, really it’s a story of resilience, reinvention and innovation. You don’t last that long if you don’t know how to reinvent yourself. So I think we actually started with a very good start because innovation is already a part of our DNA. The question really is about, how do we evolve this innovation DNA and operating system along with time, right? So that then we can stay relevant and be around for another 200 years. So that is really the focus of what my group is doing, which is again, is actually an integral part of our digital transformation strategy. Like I mentioned, it’s already part of our DNA, but the question is that, how do we accelerate it? How do we upgrade it? Just to be clear as well, I think innovation should be the job of everybody in the company. It’s not job of a central functions.

So really three things that we spent a lot of effort on this, in term of building that hopefully new muscle memory for everybody in the firm. So first, it’s really about how do we cultivate the culture of experimentation. Which really means about how do you be really good at trying things. Because again, innovation doesn’t happen overnight. You got to try, how do you cycle through idea and hypothesis really fast, in a way that you can then generate a breakthrough, or innovation and all this kind of stuff. The second thing is really about how we better embrace the world. There’s so much innovation that’s going on across the world. How do you be really good at collaborating with the rest of the ecosystem? And the third thing is really about how do we make sure that we bring all these hypotheses that we have tested along with the best of the world and put it to production or roadmap. And while at the same time as well, in some cases, maybe we can launch a new business model. So these are the three things that kind of like our focus. We created a lot of different programs or enablers, if you may, that allow the bank to experience this new way of working. Again, a lot of focus of changing the way we work as part of the upgrade. And then the byproduct of this is basically you’re going to see more and more innovations.

Challenges to Innovation [00:16:30]

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:16:30] So, I’m very intrigued when you say the bank has been around for like 237 years. That’s pretty long time. That is quite amazing. So, being introduced in this position in the innovation lab to innovate, I’m sure there are a lot of challenges. So from your personal experience, what were some of the toughest challenges that you have to overcome during this last seven years in the bank?

Johnny Wijaya: [00:16:54] Sure. So this is why I kind of touched on earlier that I myself go through a lot of rewiring. I think first let’s start with myself first. Because again, I think key thing is when you talk about innovation is really it’s about the art of the possible. And really about how do you shift that thinking from the how to the what and the why. That is not easy. Because human like to solve problem. People come to you, “Okay. Let’s figure out a solution for this.” But again, a lot of time, you’re not really solving the right problem. Or you might be just solving a symptom of the problem. So that’s number one. So I myself have to hold myself no matter how passionate I am or how eager I am to solve the problem. But you know what, Johnny? What is the what and the why? The how, it can come later. So that is one aspect.

The second thing is that we’re all experienced people. We come with our own prior experience and also way of working. The muscle memory is there. So when you talk about innovation, you really need to really come with that artist or dreamer mindset in the beginning, how to switch off your prior experience. Not saying that that’s not important, but when you explore the possibilities, you really need to come in as that beginner mindset. You ask a lot of open questions. You don’t have a judgment. You’re not skeptic about stuff. And then, when you get to execution, that’s normally your past experience will become very helpful. So that is really the second thing. Again, how do you hold it? That two keys to that two doors, and know when to switch it on and off. That is hard, right?

The third thing is really about, people talk about all these different ways of working. People talk about design thinking, experience design, strategic design, then you’ve got agile, you’ve got data science. How do you make sense of all these things? And again, this thing cannot happen in vacuum. Great things happen when actually all these things come together. So that is the kind of stuff that I also spent a lot of time, like trying to understand, “Ah, okay. You know what? This is why people talk about CX for example strategic design, right?” It’s really about building that true empathy. What is the problem you’re trying to solve? Who are we solving for? Which persona? What is the aspiration for that persona? What are the values that are most important to the personas? What are the user journeys of the persona that the person is having an issue? Those are strategic design stuff. And then it doesn’t stop there. When you start understanding that, then you’ve got to start to bring it into some level of visuals, where people can actually appreciate what you’re talking about. And that gets translated into a UX UI kind of mock-ups, and then, how do you bring it forward? You go through your usability testing and all those stuff. Then how do you pass it on next to prototyping? How do you translate it to epic user stories? And then, as usual, engineering will pick it up, whether data scientist and so on and so forth. So all this thing, it cannot happen in vacuum, and you got to be able to string it all together. And then you become, “Ah, okay. Now I see. I see what do you mean, by this new way of working. It just feels so good, and I don’t want to go back to the past.” So that is a lot of internalization and learning.

So the last bit that I just want to also add as well, is that how do you then explain also all these different concepts in a way that’s easy for the business, for the rest of the firm to understand? So kind of like this day, I try to explain to people what we do is that we help you to get from zero to one, one to five, and five to 10. So what does that mean? As with any great things in life, it started with this zero amazing ideas. It can happen anywhere, as you’re walking on the road, or you’re eating and you’re seeing something. But then you tell your friends or you tell your colleagues, people get excited. But so what? Yes, we are excited, but again, it’s so abstract. It’s so high level. This is what I call zero. So then we have a program for people like that who come up with this great idea, so excited. You talk to a lot of people, a lot of people say, “Do it, it’s the right thing to do.” But then, so what? So we have a program that can help to get that zero to one. Essentially, how do you bring more clarity to the visions? How do you sharpen it? And then you can get a lot more buy-ins from people. And then once we get that, so what again next? That is where I talk about one to five where you start to pick couple of a thin slices of that visions and start to build something more tangible for people to poke a hole on it and to opine on it to give feedback. And then five to ten is really it’s about, when you’re sort of like, " Oh, I have something and I’ve got a feedback. More people seeing it, more people get excited over it. Now, how do we start building this properly?” And obviously ten to hundred is not what we do within the center. Because otherwise we all become production support. No longer able to innovate. Yeah.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:21:33] I like the way that you so-called framework it like zero to five, one to five, five to ten, ten to hundred. So it’s really a good analogy, I would say, in terms of building from ideation up to the real product that many people are using.

Dealing with Legacy Mindset and Culture [00:21:47]

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:21:47] So I’m sure in the innovation world, one of the key challenges is actually working with the existing culture and people. Whereby people might be comfortable in what they were doing, not necessarily want to change and taking risks and innovate, so to speak. What are some of the memorable challenges in your opinion, in your experience on dealing with the legacy mindset and the culture that are existing?

Johnny Wijaya: [00:22:13] Well, I think the reality is that change is hard. And especially if you have built that muscle memory for a long time. It’s just applied to everybody. I would say, I think that the fact is that we have been in this business for four years and we continue to double down on this is obviously memorable for me. Because you started with this shiny place where I’m sitting now, then what? Is it just the furniture? So it’s just a space. So the space creates that environment where you can foster creativity and collaboration. So I would say that obviously you need to start inspiring people. That’s the most important thing. And you need to take some level of risks. You need to be able to pick what are some of your low hanging fruits. Obviously, with anything new, people have to go through what exactly these people are doing. Does it make sense? This is where you got to pick the right low-hanging fruit, you’ve got to pick the right risks, and just keep iterating through that. And then, people start to seeing it. Over time people start to, “Wow, why can’t I do this?” In fact, to us, I think is that, if everybody’s see what we do and feel inspired by that and want to copy the playbook, that is exactly what we want to do.

Then we can go and start thinking about what is that next level of upgrade. I know it sounds cliche, but this is the thing we’d change, and I think more importantly is that you must have that support from the top of the house, that level of commitment. You got to have a discipline in execution as well. Meaning to say that you got to follow it through. We’ve seen too many people just starting stuff and then never finished. And that is bad for something like this, because you kind of like show me something shiny and then you give me a promise of a better way of working. You then bring me into some sort of experimentation, and halfway through, you give up yourself. So that is bad, right? So you got to follow through. Along that journeys, people will learn, a couple will get inspired, and then the chain reaction will happen.

Advice on Digital Transformation [00:23:57]

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:23:57] This is also what I see in my personal view. So there are many, many digital transformation journey this day. Almost every company would like to embark or if not already embarking on that. And a lot of such innovation centers are created as well because of this moment to transform the whole company. What I see as a challenge, right? So when you embark on this digital transformation is the patience. So how would a company, especially coming from the traditional legacy mindset being able to transform? And the expectation normally I would see is that they wanted to do it fast. But sometimes it’s a little bit challenging because like what you mentioned, innovation doesn’t come in vacuum. There are so many disciplines come together. So many people and culture that you need to change. So maybe, as someone who have done it, what will be your advice to people who are also embarking on this journey about how to execute well? And what kind of reasonable expectation coming out of this transformation journey?

Johnny Wijaya: [00:24:53] Sure. So my advice is a couple of things. First, definitely this need to come from the top of the house. You need the buy-in, and we are very fortunate. Because our top of the house, from the board of directors, to the CEO and the whole leadership team, really understand the importance of us getting on this digital transformation journey, which by the way, is an ongoing journey and it will never end. The second thing is that you don’t separate your digital agenda from your business agenda. For us, it’s the same. That is why our Head of Digital is also our CEO for our largest business line, Asset Servicing. Your digital agenda is your business agenda. But that thing is that you got to be very deliberate and intentional about your transformation journey. You got to be very clear about what objective that you want to achieve, and what are the measures of success for you. And for us, we are very clear on that. So what I mean by that is that we are very clear what does it mean to be digital for us. We are very clear in term of, how do we want to transform this bank? We call it digitizing this very bank. I can explain that later if you’re interested. We have formed a cross-functional team, even at the leadership level, that constantly making sure that, to your point, we continue to discuss progress, we collaborate, we define our priorities, and then more importantly, we don’t end up in a parallel track, end up building technologies that nobody wants to use. So all of these things coming together is really important. The last thing, I would say that you don’t do it because other people are doing it. You do it because it’s the right thing to do, and you got to figure out what is that right thing for your organization.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:26:28] Wow, thanks for that. I think it’s a very good reason to actually embark on digital transformation. So don’t do it because other people are doing it, and you’re like missing the boat if you don’t. Do it for the right thing.

What It Means to be Digital [00:26:39]

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:26:39] So the other thing that I see a lot of digital transformation is about putting technologies, jargons, the latest tech, the brightest tech, sprinkle all over the organization. So things like, for example, AI and ML, or do things like agile transformation, or blockchain, chat bots. I don’t know how to see this personally because a lot of times, yes, you need to innovate and introduce new technologies. But when you said just now, what does it mean to be digital? Maybe you can share it a bit. What does it mean for you and the company about digital? What exactly are you transforming?

Johnny Wijaya: [00:27:13] Great question, Henry. So yeah, as I mentioned, we are very intentional, and we do actually think hard about it, and we do actually have a clear definition of what does it mean to be digital at BNY Mellon. So absolutely, it’s not just about technology. For ours is really about four things. So number one is about how do we be truly client obsessed? How do we embed client at the center of everything we do? How do we involve client early in the process of our product roadmap, product iterations? And not only that, how do we put client at the center of our day to day, when it comes to servicing the client?

So number two is also about embracing the world. How to be open to the world? Innovation is not a monopoly of a particular company or particular locations. There’re so many innovations around the world. So we are proud today that we partner with FinTechs to the large Tech, or in some cases also with our competitions, and obviously with our clients.

The third thing is also about, you mentioned about all these great technologies, blockchain, AI/ML, and all those stuff. But really, about how do you embed these technologies in your day to day? How you service your clients, that’s the most important thing.

The last thing is that, how do you unlock the value of the data? We are invested heavily in the foundation of our data capabilities. We see that that’s becoming increasingly important when it comes to decision-making, operational efficiency, as well as deriving insights. So the last thing is that these four things that I mentioned, is really it’s not a job of a particular function. Digital is a job for every employee in every location in every office at BNY Mellon. So, that is what it meant for us.

Innovation Playbook [00:28:46]

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:28:46] So this is also coming back to what you said, right. Innovation DNA, the playbook that you want everyone to be aware of, that’s the first thing, and wants to follow. Maybe if you can summarize, I know it might be tough, what is this playbook actually for the whole organization to adopt? How does it look like?

Johnny Wijaya: [00:29:04] So Henry, we see there are three models in the industry, and that it’s really important we actually explain this to the whole organization. I think exactly to your point, you’ve got to explain it and you’ve got to keep repeating it. Then people will really start internalizing it, and over time become a muscle memory. So we see there are three types of a transformation and innovation in the industry. So the first one is we call it as a Silicon Valley model. Which is really about, you create these sort of innovation labs or whatever you want to call it, garage or whatever, at all this FinTech centers in all over the world. It could be in Singapore, could be in London or even Silicon Valley. It creates a lot of excitement. It sparks a different way of thinking. But it doesn’t last. It doesn’t change the core. Because it is an outpost.

And the second thing is that basically, we call this as a parallel bank. Which is really about you create another version of your organization and you call it digital, or whatever you want to call it. Which is again, doesn’t have to deal with the legacy of people, process, and tools. You can move very fast, but quite frankly, it’s not sustainable as well. Because you then sort of like not able to harvest the collective intelligence, which is that 230 years of institutional knowledge. I do see that it creates a lot of fiction as well. In the long run, then you end up with running two organizations, that’s probably not the most efficient way of doing things.

So for us really, we call it digitizing this very bank, which is really it’s about how do we transform ourselves from inside out? While at the same time, not losing sight of what is going on across the world. That itself really is about, how do we change the way we work? We have a very structured approach to this. The first one is we call it core digitization. Really about, we tell every employees, is there anything that is still physical and manual today? Just to keep continue to digitize that. The second bit is really about, we call it client re-imagination. If you have opportunity to have a fresh look at your process, your tools, your business or your product, how do you re-imagine this along with the clients? And the third thing is about, how do you get into a new space, a new business model that doesn’t exist in the past? And again, this three thing is supported by digital capabilities that we have been investing over the years. I mentioned about client experience. How do you embed that human center approach in your day-to-day life? Human center approach is not about just building a software, right? It’s a way of working. Then we talk about data. So you could invest in that foundational data capabilities. From your data management, to your data distribution, to your data catalog, to your data studio, all those kinds of stuff.

The third thing is which is the innovation center where I spend a lot of effort. How do you be really good at cycling through ideas? How do you be really good at experimenting? Digital partnership or collaboration is also integral part of our strategy. How do you build connectivity? You say you want to embrace the world. How do you build connectivity with all the ecosystem around the world? How do you come up with the different programs that will make it easier for the startup to work with you? And then for those startups that’s already working with you, how do you enhance that relationships? The next bit is when you start thinking about, you mentioned about AI. To us when we think about AI, is really first thing, it’s not just about the technology. We have a hard look at this thing and say that, “Okay. Well, it’s actually not AI, it’s actually Human + AI.” How do you harvest the collective intelligence of human and machine? Because machine obviously do what machine does best and human does what human does best. So combining these together, you start thinking about, how do you define the future operating model where you have human and AI work together? So this is where we start talking about how do you democratised technology? So, these are stuff that I am trying my best to summarize it. It’s a lot of things here.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:32:27] Thanks for trying to explain that to us. The key thing, I mean, throughout this conversation, what I pick up as well, I like the way that you mentioned that it’s all about the client. Re-imagining what do you do with your client, with your existing clients, and always trying to innovate how to serve them better through the human center approach. So I really like that.

Importance of Integrating with Ecosystem [00:32:46]

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:32:46] You also mentioned a couple of times now about playing a part in the ecosystem, partnering with the startups, small FinTech, large FinTech and even competitors. Why do you think it’s important to play a part in this ecosystem from the innovation point of view?

Johnny Wijaya: [00:33:01] Sure. Let me tie back a little bit to our business. So that then it’ll bring a little bit of more context and relevance. So if you look at us as the world’s largest global custodian, I’m talking about the 41 trillion of assets under custody and administrations. So we are not just focusing on being great at asset servicing, which is what global custodian does. But also we are investing heavily on how to bring relevance directly to the front office. So front office are essentially, these are the people that’s making investment decisions. So again our clients is always looking for best of the breed solutions that can differentiate themselves. And this is exactly why we launch OMNI platform. OMNI is our branding for our securities platform. It is an open and modular platform, that is integrated with third party capabilities, so that then our clients can pick and choose what will work best for them.

I give you example. In the order management system, today we have partnerships with the market leading OMS from BlackRock Aladdin, to Bloomberg, to SimCorp, to Amundi ALTO. So if our client is on that platform and they’re using us as a custodian, we are there already and it’s integrated. And it doesn’t stop there. You talk about front office, you got to talk about the risk manager as well. You got to talk about the trader. You got to talk about the sales, and then all the way down to middle and back office. So this kind of like gives you a sense, we are working with all the best providers out there, and building that partnerships. Essentially, we are open to work with everyone. We share the same visions. Ultimately about making a better client experience. If I were to summarize, so that’s roughly translated into our platform, which we call it OMNI, Open Modular Network Integrated. It really is about how do we bring the best of BNY Mellon along with the best of the solution out there to give our client a choice. But at the same time, integrated in a way that is hopefully frictionless.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:34:54] So, yeah, I mean like, working with the best of the breed, definitely is something for me as a client, I would like to do so as well. A lot of these companies popping up, so-called the disruptors. I would love some of these capabilities to be integrated with the existing, traditional companies like the banks and whatever the companies that have been around in the history of human life. So, I think building these ecosystems certainly makes sense. But for people to actually be able to cooperate. Like in business, it’s like competition. People sometimes don’t want to share what they have. What are some of the challenges for you to actually influence other people to be on board on this platform?

Johnny Wijaya: [00:35:33] Well, I think at the end of the day, when it comes to the business, it’s all about win-win, right? I think if you come in with that kind of attitude, it’s about win-win. We want to partner with anyone who share our vision to make a better client experience. Say this is a starting point. You have a goal to improve the industry. We have a goal to improve the industry. I guess we share the same missions. So again, it’s a win-win proposition. I guess the key thing I would say that, I mean, people talk a lot about disruption, I would say that these days more about collaborations. If I look four years ago to today, I mean, I think the tone has changed a lot. Because obviously, both whether the startup, as well as the incumbent, both have their own strengths, and they both need each other, actually. If I were to use BNY Mellon, again we are very intentional. Like I say, because we want to build an open modular network, and integrated platform. We’re really mastering the art of collaborations. This is where we have that capability as part of our strategy.

As I mentioned to you earlier, how do we make it easier for startups to work with us? I just give you a bit of example. We have a program that accelerate the third party governance. Again, we are regulated environment. But again, how do we help it to make sure that some of these startup who is not exposed to the type of regulations that we are subject to will understand, but at the same time as well, they’re able to accelerate. We are building a sandbox that allows us to quickly proficient environment to work with a startup and so on and so forth. These are just some of the example, Henry.

Transforming Personally [00:36:54]

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:36:54] So, in the beginning, when you share about this story, obviously, one of the first challenges is to transform yourself. So I would like for you to share your key learnings and how you learn. Especially for those people who are also heading this kind of digital transformation. How do you actually transform yourself in order to be able to lead this effectively?

Johnny Wijaya: [00:37:14] Well, I think it has gone to the next level. In the sense that it’s not like the kind of learning that you have when you’re in your early twenties or maybe thirties. I think what is really important is how do you unlearn and re-learn. That’s important. Second thing, as I mentioned earlier, your past experience is so valuable. But when you want to embrace innovations, you got to know when to switch it off. And then, you switch it on again when it comes to execution, as I mentioned earlier. This is really important. And the last thing is having intellectual humility. You may have all this experience, but you might be wrong. So having intellectual humility absolutely helps. And the last thing is that you can read as many books as you like, or you can talk to as many people, but the reality is that there is no one size fits all formula that will work broadly. So you got to figure out what is the model that works for your organization. And that means that you’ve got to try, instrument, pivot, and try again and repeat.

COVID Innovation Acceleration [00:38:10]

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:38:11] So in the last one year or so, right? I think we are all having great difficulty responding to COVID. And COVID is something that I think sparks a lot of innovation and digital transformation journey. Because people now have to work from home and they have to work over like video calls, something like this. So COVID is definitely one of the accelerator in terms of innovation. So in your view, what would COVID bring in terms of innovation? Like apart from these new technologies, working from home that we have to do, what do you think are the accelerator that actually COVID brings to innovation?

Johnny Wijaya: [00:38:45] Yeah so, as you rightly pointed out, obviously this is an unprecedented event that nobody expect. It is painful. But I think the biggest takeaway is it’s actually showing that human is actually adaptable. I think that’s the most fundamental thing. We are all adaptable. So just to give you a sense, for us, we are able to shift to, you know, more than 90% people work from home within the first couple of weeks of this pandemic. So if you think about it, I mean, whether it’s a global financial crisis or the World Trade Center event, nobody designed BCP site with 95% people work from BCP side. And I think all the past crisis doesn’t have data around how do we deal with this pandemic actually last that long.

So I think for us a couple of things. Number one, it’s certainly is a good stress test, and validation to our digital transformation strategy. We are very happy for that in a way that we are proud that we are showing that nimbleness. We are able to move more than 90% of our workforce to work from home within couple of weeks. And not only that, in the first month of February, March, the early part of the COVID, obviously you see a lot of market volatility. That obviously translated in higher volume of transactions. And yet, we’re able to make sure that we execute on behalf of our clients. That’s really important. We have also seen accelerated adoption of our digital tools, whether through our portals or APIs, and yeah, it’s proven to be relevant. In fact, to your point, I think broadly across the industry, we all would agree that COVID does have accelerated digitizations.

BNY Innovations [00:40:14]

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:40:14] So, Johnny, we talk a lot about innovations, the things that you try to change internally. Maybe you can share some of the biggest examples? Publicly shareable stories of what are the innovations that BNY Mellon has successfully introduced, and you are really proud of those.

Johnny Wijaya: [00:40:30] Sure. It’s a lot, actually. So first I mentioned about our OMNI platform. It is an Open Modular Network Integrated platform. I think we are the first one that come up with such a holistic, and also not just talk about the concept, but to actually bring together the integration into the platform that truly gives our client choice. We are there when our clients are making that choice, because we are integrated to the 3rd party (providers). The second thing is we launched our Data and Analytics business. We now have cloud native data management capabilities, leveraging our 30 years of experience in data management. We own this FinTech company called Eagle Investment. So now we are putting it on the cloud, and further invest in it in partnership with Microsoft, which we call it as a Data Vault. So there’s this data management capability, multitenant, comes with the taxonomy and all the good stuff that you need for data management is now available through Data Vault. And not only that. On top of that, we actually launched a suite of data analytics toolkits that will help data scientists, as well as investment professionals, to derive insights.

So last year we launched two applications called ESG app and distribution analytics applications. Both are award-winning applications that win recognition from the industry. The ESG app uses AI Machine Learning, data analytics techniques to crowdsource ESG factors to help the investment managers to make investment decisions. Distribution analytics is leveraging the power of our data management. We are able to predict, forecast the buying patterns that help the asset managers, product team to design and launch a product. As well as their marketing team, in terms of planning for the distribution of the products. This is just to name a few.

And then we talk about AI and Machine Learning. As I mentioned, we started with this thinking not just about just applying the AI. What’s that really mean for us? When I say about AI working along with the human, right? So today, our operation staff, in some cases they do have augmentations that help them from AI. Such as document extraction, automated processing of the documents, reconciliations, and stuffs like that. Or even to getting more insight driven kind of a generation. This is where we talk about, for example, forecasting the liquidity, end of day liquidity balances. To even predicting the movement in securities lending fees. So this is just some of the few, and I can go on and on.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:42:47] Thanks for sharing the great success stories from your innovation center. So Johnny, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. Thanks for introducing a lot of way of thinking from the innovation point of view. Especially in terms of financial services, and how you do it from traditional companies who have been around for hundreds of years.

3 Tech Lead Wisdom [00:43:05]

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:43:05] So I have just one last question which I would normally ask for all my guests, which is for you to share your 3 technical leadership wisdom that you want to share with people.

Johnny Wijaya: [00:43:14] Sure, sure. So I think the first one is I think a good leader is focused on bringing out the best in the team. And I think more importantly, it’s also about how do you help the team to see beyond what is obvious to their eyes? How do you help the team to break the artificial ceiling or sometimes a constraint or some sort of a mindset that often we just put it on ourselves. I think that is important. I believe in that because I’ve benefited so much from all the great leaders I’ve ever worked with before.

The second thing is that I think a good leader brings clarity. The world is changing. There’re so many changes going on now. Beginning of the year you can try to plan as much as you wish, but the reality is that the world is changing. So how do you deal with the ambiguity? I think leadership plays an important role in bringing that clarity. I think the good leader makes choices, makes decisions. Because again, you can empower the team to make decisions, but there will be situations whereby you need to have some level of convictions to say that, “Guys, this is the best decision that we have to take in this kind of situation.” And you explain it.

Last but not least, as I mentioned earlier, I think you got to have that intellectual humility. Because you may not be always right. There’re so many smart people around you, and you got to respect that. If I may add on to that, which is kind of like what I keep telling my team as well. Well, continuous learning is part of your life. The world is changing. Best if you can figure out how to master that. And I think you can continue to stay relevant.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:44:37] Thanks for sharing your wisdom. So Johnny, for people who would like to connect with you and know more about your journey, where can they find you?

Johnny Wijaya: [00:44:43] You can hit me on LinkedIn. Just search Johnny Wijaya, BNY Mellon. I’m sure it’s there. So yeah, happy to connect.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:44:50] So thanks so much, Johnny, for sharing your story. It’s been a pleasure. So I wish you good luck for more innovations in the future.

Johnny Wijaya: [00:44:56] Thank you, Henry. It’s been a while. It’s great to connect again. Yeah. Catch up soon.

– End –