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Padma Chukka - Compete With Yourself = Successful Outcomes for Customers

7 minutes reading time

It's in Padma’s nature to question the status quo because she values efficiency. It started at the beginning of her career as a software engineer. Managing the IBM Recipe by Context project's development and deployment in a 300mm chip facility, decreasing the recipe creation from 17 hours to 13 minutes.

She loves to compete with herself more than her competitors, knowing she doesn’t have to limit her boundaries. So far, she has been capable of anything she sets her mind to, yet is hungry to push her horizons. So she strolled through six continents, went to Punta Arenas, the city at the end of the world, and longingly looked at the seventh continent she wanted to set foot on one day. 

She is a mentor and protégée and is not afraid to claim herself a feminist. Her passion project is diversity and inclusion. It led to the creation of the inaugural IBM program and mentoring students and female entrepreneurs. She believes that she is made up of bits of all the people that she has met, and she is currently leading the world's first Financial Services Cloud Ecosystem for IBM.


Your life story is like reading through someone who is a member of the United Nations. Tell us a little bit about how you arrived where you are today at IBM.

I fought with my father to get out of the country so that I could experience different cultures and get a chance to learn from multiple people that I meet every day.

After completing my master's in software design and development, I joined IBM as an engineer. And then got my MBA from NYU stern. While leading the second-largest acquisition integration and raising a baby, call me crazy, but I enjoyed it.

How does one spin so many plates? 

It's an adrenaline rush. You see the goalpost you're running towards and want to do it all. At that point, you just want to do it and test. Test my ability, test the energy that I had. And it was crazy because my mentors and everybody said, you don't need to have an MBA to become an executive at IBM.

At that point, I was not an executive at IBM, and I said it was not about being an executive. It’s about learning. I wanted to learn something different. Is it that fire in your belly? I wanted to take it all in. And at the same time, my mother was saying to me, ‘you’ve got to have a baby.’

So I was like, okay. I'm going to do it for me, and I'm going to do it for the women that are coming after me. 

If some of our readers are facing a little bit of self-doubt about challenging themselves, what advice would you give them?

Do it. There is no question. You can do it. One can do it if one creates a mindset. Don't listen to those naysayers. Don't listen to anyone; listen to your gut and do what you want to do.

And what did you do when you faced those challenging moments that we all have? How do you push forward?

 In the morning or the evening, before I go to bed, I ask myself: What will I learn? How am I going to make a difference in someone else's life? 

Every time I went for every job that I have had in IBM, I have had to go to an interview. Jobs don't just fall in my lap. And I changed my role every two years because I didn't want to do the same thing repeatedly.

The first thing they always ask is, why do you want to do it? And I said to them, I wanted to do it so that I can tell my girls, they can do it.  I  want to show them that Ginni Rometty, Indra Nooyi, or another woman has been a successful CEO. They have done it. You could do it too.

From your vantage point, what have been the significant changes in financial services and the FinTech world? 

More than ever, regulated industries, specifically financial institutions, face many disruptive forces, including ever-increasing customer demand for new, innovative, personalized products and services.

What about FinTechs? They're making all these innovations and trying to jump in with a different type of set of products that they can come up with, that they can think of, that they can imagine. These are all the threats to the banks; before that, there was only one bank, one bank which was brick and mortar.

We are all the supporting cast in an end user's story or a movie, so what do we need to do if we are a supporting cast? We need to make sure the end-user gets what they want. 

So what do they want? They want easy banking; they want to trust their bank. At any point in time, they don't care about these regulatory bodies. They don't care about the databases. All they need is to make sure their money is safe. And they need a specific, easy way of doing business with the bank. 

Everything is changing. And the banks are trying to figure out where to go, what to do, and the massive data they have, and they need to protect this and gain the customers' confidence. They are trying to figure out how to move fast. And if they move fast, they may get into trouble. 

So there are two ways in which they can do it. First, they can double up and then go into the business. Or they can choose which independent software vendor to use and integrate with their solution. However, they must still adhere to these regulatory bodies while moving fast.

And which cloud they need to use. That's another big issue for them. So at this point in the industry, banks have no standard policy framework. 

So that's what we are doing right now. We created that standardized policy framework, from which banks will work but also for the ISVs or SaaS providers that want to deliver their products to the banking ecosystem.

What you've illustrated for us is a balancing act between going fast and managing failure. This is new territory for the banks. And IBM cloud for Financial services cloud has over 2000 compliance and regulation controls built into the platform, giving you a massive head start.

Absolutely.  Take, for example, FLOWX.AI. You have these ready-made journeys, covering all these critical business processes. However, you will be unable to determine all the industry standards or policy frameworks. So, for example, you’re working with one bank, and it will take you about 15 to 18 months to ensure you adhere to their security and compliance standards. And then you go to another bank, and you've going to do the same thing over and over again. With IBM Cloud for Financial Services, the policy framework is built-in already.

When running your solution on the IBM Cloud, you go through these assessments. You will get the check marks, so you know you're compliant. And your clients will know it too. It dramatically speeds up solution adoption. That's the beauty of it. 

So the out-of-the-box controls and services from your side, plus the business processes from FLOWX.AI, come together - it's almost like an unfair head start because you get lifting in the back and front end. 

So I would say it's an unfair head start, but it is a transparent thought-through process to ensure you give yourself a heads up. 

What are the big things right now, as consumers are shifting not only to mobile but omnichannel? Is banking becoming ubiquitous?

You use the word “ubiquitous”; I will add the word “consistent.” We're all busy. It has to be like a habit. You get up in the morning. Brush your teeth. As you go, you put the check here, but the same type of ubiquitous or consistent experiences is what you're looking for from the banks and all of these channels.

And that customer experience with their client is their bread and butter. For the banks and its all contact points of the customer interactions with the banks, interfaces, whatever the interface they built—and providing that seamless end-to-end experience across every touch point with a scalable virtual network of agents guaranteed to deliver the services of the bank at their standards. That's the brand of a bank. 

Have you seen some best practices? How do you build relationships when their customer doesn't come into the branch nearly as much? 

There's no standard way of doing it; that's where innovation comes in. We can do it the omnichannel way because omnichannel is here to stay; there is no question about it. But at the same time, some people also want to go in person to physical branches.

Also, when I get onto a call, I get a bot. And all I want is to talk to a person who can understand me because I have an accent. And they don't understand that accent, and those things frustrate your clients and customers.

And then, on top of it, they have to digitize their business, and they should invest selectively in areas where recent research indicates the best payout, having the cost of day-to-day operations and application development under control. Figure out whether you want to buy or build.

What’s the banking experience you would like as a customer?

If you ask a customer to click twice, you'll lose them; it’s best in one click. For me, it’s the ability to choose in one click. That's what the banks need to be doing today. If I want to open an account or get a credit card, you don't care about me if you ask me to fill 2, 3, or 4 layers of information.  It has to be easy to try. Easy to accomplish.

And now, let's switch to the back office banking world.  What are your thoughts on the role of the employees at the bank and how they can help serve customers?

Let me start with one thing. Happy employees mean happy customers. A bank must ensure its employees have enough tools and technology to do their work efficiently. 

And training. They may not remember everything, give them a chance to do their job at that point, move fast, efficiently, and provide quick service to the customer, which can be provided with the help of modern technology. The handling of information creation, up-to-date monitoring and information systems, and strengthening those internal controls and housekeeping and reporting functions.

That's where innovation comes in. If a person's head is wholly bogged with these activities, doing everything repeatedly, they don't even have time to think. So if we cut this time down, these employees have plenty of opportunities to innovate. 

So that is where my head goes. Create that efficiency for these bank employees, so they can spend more time on innovation, creating value for the customers. So when you go to the bank, sometimes they don't even get a chance to make eye contact because they are so busy clicking away. Sometimes I think, can you just stop and talk to me?

If you want to stay in the game, be the supporting cast for the end-user story, take care of your employees, give them a chance to think this through and talk to these employees and then do it and go back and tell the end-users, this is what we have.

And then you will be not only in the game but also ahead of the game. 

You can reach Padma Chukka on LinkedIn. 


FLOWX.AI is part of IBM Cloud for Financial Services. See listing and more details here.

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