With Artur Lewandowski, Director of the Department of Application C Portfolio Development and Maintenance at mBank, talked Katarzyna Domańska, Communication Manager in Sii, and Andrzej Kowalczyk, Account Resource Manager in Sii, responsible for cooperation with mBank.
Watching Sii, I can see that your company invests a lot in internal recruitment. I think this is a very good approach: it gives a chance for development to everyone with such intentions and ambition. I often tell my employees that true development must be generated from within, from their own needs, not imposed from above by the organization.
Andrzej Kowalczyk: How big is the team you currently manage?
Artur Lewandowski: At the moment it is about 70-80 people. They represent a broad spectrum of skills and competencies, as we rely on interdisciplinary teams, working closely and in cooperation with business. Such approach enables implementation of various interesting ideas in the end-to-end model, i.e. from idea to implementation and deployment to production.
Katarzyna Domańska: Does IT come up with the ideas or does business?
Artur Lewandowski: Most initiatives come from business or the incubators of innovation, wherein ideas are developed by mixed teams comprising both IT and business. The key, strategic ideas are most often born of close cooperation between IT and business
Katarzyna Domańska: You are the director of one of the bank’s software development departments. How does one get to such position?
Artur Lewandowski: My professional path is closely tied with mBank, where I went from being a programmer to manager. I have been faced with numerous challenges and many interesting projects along the way. In the beginning, I had to overcome too many stereotypes associated with IT and academic education, which some time ago still very much prevailed in banks.
1) Strategy vs. Reality – Even when they know what to do they can’t/won’t make it happen.
This really is two sins in one here but I give value if nothing else. Firstly UK banks preoccupation with strategy and the companies that they use to fuel it.
I have seen first hand this scenario in my time in a bank;
Manager – “So what should we do with XXX in 20YY?”
You can insert any topic in XXX and really any year in the YY here it doesn’t change the dialogue.
Employee – “Well given the market and X, Y, Z I think we should approach this like 1, which will cost 2 and require us to do 3.”
It actually doesn’t matter what you put in here the answer will be the same.
Manager – “Okay that sounds good. Why don’t we get in XXX to tell us what to do and how we should approach it?”
Employee – “Hmm but they will just charge us £1m for a presentation to tell you what I just said?”
Manager – “Yes but lets just and then we are covered.”
Notice this last one is a statement not a question.
UK banks have a massive predisposition to use external parties to create their strategies for almost everything. I fear this might be a 100 years of bad HR management and recruitment practices has led to really very senior bankers just not trusting their employees.
Couple this with anything said, either starting within or ending with, “McKinsey/Gartner/Bain/Forrester says” requiring no challenge from stakeholders to you then I can see why this can happen.
I will come back to this at another date but banks need to realize quickly that their traditional suppliers to banks have all, if not more, of the problems that the banks themselves do. At best the traditional suppliers are only 5 steps ahead of the banks.
This all said, even when banks get someone sensible to put a strategy together their ability to execute this can be pretty poor, if not part of an executive strategy lead planning process. I have seen some of the most impressive strategies (hell I have put them together myself!) be crafted by really true subject matter experts (SME’s) that have resulted in terrible executions being delivered to customers.