• Securities Services

    Hacking for good

July 2019

With the right amount of camaraderie and energy, hackathons can quickly identify common client pain points that can be remedied with small pilot projects. flow looks at how this form of collaboration is driving a digitalisation and innovation culture in Deutsche Bank

What happens when nearly 70 developers, business experts and university students from diverse backgrounds get together under one roof? The answer: a buzzing hub of creativity, collaboration and coding. A commingling of banks, clients such as asset managers and universities sparked such effervescence at the recent Symphony Innovate Asia Hackathon 2019, and openly worked together to create tangible solutions in less than a day.

Hackathons like these befit the current trend in client-driven innovation, where the best solutions are those that are co-designed with clients, some of who spend days in their bank provider’s office to jointly determine a problem and develop a solution. It’s with this ethos that 14 teams got together at the Symphony Innovate Asia 2019 Hackathon in Singapore, co-hosted by both Symphony and Deutsche Bank with the single aim: enabling organisations to be more “hyperconnected”. This meant co-identified problems and designed solutions using the Symphony platform to break down silos – across firms and within them. This creative agency of drawing people from diverse talent pools, working together across firms in an agile, fail-fast and without bias environment, was at the heart of the Symphony Hackathon as the teams were challenged to quickly came up with problem statements with clients and single projects to address those.

And in a fast moving digital world, where investors are demanding faster and more real-time access to actionable information and services1, nowhere can this demand be better served than when the same approach to digitalisation and innovation is applied in the securities services world.

It’s for this reason that the external Hackathon marks a significant milestone for Deutsche Bank’s Securities Services team who embarked on the innovation journey, inspired from an openness to collaborate, and a diversity of mindset when employing new technologies to solve client problems. Core to this journey is interconnectivity across firms and within them using Symphony, the cloud-based communication workflow platform, which is venture-funded by more than 20 banks, including Deutsche Bank.

Ready, get set, solve…

So with a buzz of excitement, the Hackathon teams set to work within the vibrant and open space environment at the Deutsche Bank Singapore office meeting rooms, cross pollinating ideas and using Symphony as a basis for collaboration and creative problem-solving. Six Deutsche Bank teams took part in the Hackathon seeking to look beneath the hood of Symphony, beyond its usual chatroom and file sharing features, and use APIs and newer technologies to drive the sense of community and common approach to understanding of client problems and connectivity in solving them.

Robotic process automation (RPA), optical character recognition (OCR) and natural language processing (NLP) are some of the technologies which are enabling more efficient ways of doing things, removing manual intervention and having a positive impact for clients in terms of workflow efficiency2. The Deutsche Bank team adopted a collaborative and agile delivery approach to embracing these technologies that deliver benefits to clients in the near-term.

Working at an energetic pace, the teams explored the potential and landed on two specific projects:

  1. Validation and automation of document checks and allowing client self-service to subscribe to our data service
  2. Improving the matching and sharing of unique trade/swap identifiers used industry-wide

In the first project, the Deutsche Bank Securities Services team simulated a live investor client and created a conversational, intelligent bot to handle customer account balance queries, support document validation for the know-your-customer (KYC) process and enable client self-service to their data needs. This validated and automated document checks for client trade requests.

Commenting on the importance of community fostered during the Hackathon for the collective problem solving among firms to the wider industry, Jeslyn Tan, head of product management, Securities Services, Deutsche Bank stated: “Collaboration across different groups, breaking down silos and driving a front-to-back engagement is hugely important for us to deliver better outcomes for our clients.”

One team, one dream: Deutsche Bank Securities Services team flex their creative muscle to develop a chatbot to handle customer account balance queries, automate document checks and subscription to data services

In the second project, Deutsche Bank Global Markets team created a bot and developed an application to help with price discovery documentation checks and reporting for over-the-counter (OTC) products. This workflow speeds up the resolution of post-trade queries in a chatroom and improves the matching and sharing of unique trade/ swap identifiers used industry-wide.

The projects won prizes for their innovative solutions, and were presented to executives, developers and industry experts (see Hackathon highlights video here).

Winning team from Deutsche Bank Securities Services (L-R): Poornima Govindan, Wee-Kuan Lee, Chendi-A Fu, Dhineshkumar Kathirvel, joined by Chris Bezuidenhout (CIO, CIB APAC Technology)

Driving change through culture

Through the agile and collaborative working approach applied during the hackathons, Securities Services has embedded these tools as part of an organisational change that is driving the digitalisation and innovation culture in the bank. Last year, during the Symphony Innovate 2018 event, a collaborative partnership between Deutsche Bank Securities Services and BNY Mellon was announced when the two collaborated to launch a chatbot solution on Symphony to provide clients with instant answers to their trade settlement queries on the Hong Kong Exchange.

Since the launch of the Debbie chatbot, the business has progressed and identified common client pain points that can be solved using these new technologies and an openness to collaborate across multiple talent pools both internally and externally. For example, the Debbie chatbot functionality has been rolled out to multiple countries within APAC with many more new product features planned for future releases.

What’s next?

Going forward, Deutsche Bank plans to drive community collaboration by further enhancing its use of Symphony to improve internal operations and help clients, and to build many more automated features, including automated workflows, to conversational client bots, internal chatbots trading bots for pricing/execution, harvesting conversations and using machine learning to automatically reply to customer queries over time.

Commenting on the value generated by such an approach for the financial institutions using the platform, Symphony Founder and CEO David Gurlé said: “Collaborative approaches to innovation and identifying client problems, then solving for them collectively leads to single projects that deliver tangible outcomes for many and a more efficient experience for the end user.”


1 See Transitioning into the future of securities post-trade at corporates.db.com
2 See https://bit.ly/38C7vrx at information-age.com

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