As customer demands become more and more complex, organisations and in particular, CIOs, must strive to deliver the best and continue challenging the status quo, as advised by Jan Cenkr, Group CIO of Home Credit Group. Here, he talks about why digital savviness and people centricity are key values for ensuring IT progression and how Home Credit Group operates with this in mind to meet its business goals.
Jan Cenkr has been appointed as Group CIO of Home Credit Group, one of the leading financial institutions operating worldwide and headquartered in Europe. Under Cenkr’s guidance, the organisation is set to prioritise the launch of its new Global Mobile App (GMA) which aims to deliver synergy across its markets.
Building on Home Credit’s drive to level up financial inclusion and at the same time protect its 140 million consumers, the app will enable customers to gain loan approval quickly, transfer money seamlessly, while also managing their loans effectively in a unified dashboard.
Here we speak to Cenkr about the technology landscape, how the organisation ensures compliance with GDPR regulations across its regional markets and about the changing role of the CIO.
Can you tell us about your role as Group CIO at Home Credit and what this entails?
As Group CIO, I’m involved in daily activities across the business. I think the CIO in general has evolved over the years from being strictly IT-driven and basically defining strategy and executing strategy to being more a partner for the business domains. So I’m not only making sure our platforms are stable and providing the services to our customers, but I’m very much involved in helping to shape the business strategy as well.
What are some of the company’s key values and what goals do you have in mind in terms of IT progression?
We have four domains which are centred around eight key values – we’ll focus on two: people centricity and digital savviness. Without people, we obviously can’t do anything – they are a key asset for us. And in terms of digital savviness – as I mentioned, the world around us has evolved and the past two years during the pandemic has shown that digital is the way forward, so now we’re focusing mainly on the digital channels.
How does your tech strategy align with the company’s core values and how does this impact your end-users?
Very much so. Digital savviness and not only helping our internal customers to be more digitally-savvy, but also helping our customers in the countries or markets where we operate, to become better when it comes to usage of digital tools.
Tell us more about the launch of the Global Mobile App – how will it offer IT advantages and benefit your customers?
We have something we call the Global Mobile Application which is a mobile app that should replace the existing tools and applications that we use in various markets and should deliver synergies across those markets. We have products that we offer across those markets and are very similar, and in the past we used to have a single tool usage for each of those markets. We decided to create a unified platform where we can offer our products to our customers – so one of the key benefits that I’m looking for personally is synergies and definitely faster time to market.
Can you outline some of the challenges you face as the CIO of an international financial institution and how you tackle these?
There are lots of challenges and the pandemic didn’t help. I think one of the key challenges we face – and not only me but I believe any other leader – is a shortage of talent. We operate now mainly in south-east Asia and to find and retain key talent becomes a real challenge that we face on a daily basis. I’ve been travelling recently to Indonesia and Vietnam to have a sit down with HR, our leaders and my IT counterparts to see how we can tackle this issue. Without people in general, we cannot deliver what we promise to the business. So people is definitely an issue – a shortage of key talent for the market.
How do you ensure compliance with GDPR regulations across the organisation’s various regional markets?
As you know, we are a financial institution and highly regulated in most of the markets. As we are headquartered in Europe, we have to adhere to the European regulation. So that obviously brings lots of challenges because the regulation differs from market to market and it evolves rapidly. The Asian markets are not as evolved in let’s say, security of personal information compared to the European Union at the moment, but they are evolving rapidly so the changes that they introduce to the GDPR equivalents of the legislation in those countries is fast and we have to adopt it very quickly. It has actually been one of the obstacles for us for cloud adoption, because we want to utilise cloud technologies to be more stable, faster in terms of deliveries and of course the non-existent infrastructure in some of the markets presented obstacles to us to complete the rollout much faster.
How would you describe Europe’s technology roadmap and how do you intend to continue innovating to keep up with demand?
I did some research on this and I found out that there was a white paper which was issued a few years back to the European Commission, which revolves around the cloud strategy for European companies and about where European companies stand today. I think in general, about 40% of the companies are now actively using cloud solutions and we are no different. In reference to our mobile application we talked about previously, it’s purely cloud native. We run it only out of the cloud – we use Microsoft Azure for that and we will be moving more towards the cloud solution and decommissioning the on-premise data centres that we operate across the countries.
What are your thoughts on the changing role of the CIO and evolving expectations – something which is currently a hot topic among industry leaders?
The CIO is no longer let’s say, IT strategy personnel who just defines IT strategy and executes upon it. Today, I see the role of the CIO more of a partner to the business – I’m personally very much involved in defining the business strategies; demonstrating to the business how it can utilise technologies. We’ve recently been piloting Machine Learning operations using feature store that will help us to complete better decision-making faster, pretty much online, for our customers. So, I see the role today as more of an advisor to the business – how they can utilise the technology going forward.
What’s one piece of advice you’d offer to somebody striving to become a CIO today?
Keep learning and keep challenging the status quo because nothing’s impossible. And strive to deliver the best.
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