Frédéric Kieffer (ING):

Agile transformation

Changing consumer behaviour is challenging traditional business models. Frédéric Kieffer, Head of Retail Banking, describes how ING is adopting the Agile method to support this change. Interview.

Can you briefly present Agile management? 

Agility describes the rapid development of a product or process, with the aim of reducing the time to market or implementation. Traditionally, banks were organised into departments, each working on projects led by steering committees which would meet periodically. The Agile method assigns multidisciplinary teams to specific projects. Six to nine people seconded from different departments work together to create and to sign off on a product or process.

Their profiles can range from project manager to business analyst, from IT developer to marketer. The Agile programme operates in six-week cycles during which a team focuses on a specific project. Teams form squads and several squads make up a Tribe, led by a Tribe Leader. Each team is assigned its own goal. For example, the lending Tribe looks at all credit-related products and processes. Within this Tribe, one team can be in charge of digitisation or reporting to the CSSF, while another team can be responsible for updating the online credit application system. All credit-related aspects are assigned to this Tribe.

“We measure the benefits of the Agile method in time to market, employee satisfaction and retention of talent within our organisation.”

How did ING implement this way of working?

We all face a rapidly changing world. At ING, we saw this way of working as an opportunity to breathe new life into staff management. The seniority-based promotion system within a vertical hierarchy is becoming obsolete. Young people are particularly stimulated by this new environment, which enables them to demonstrate their added value on a daily basis. The Agile method is famously applied by Netflix and Spotify, two companies which have had to evolve very quickly on a global scale, without creating traditional large departments. ING was inspired by them and first began working on Agile projects in the Netherlands more than two years ago; its other European entities then followed suit. Luxembourg is no exception: launched on 2 December 2019, the project has benefitted from lessons learned in other countries. Our organisational charts and structure have been adapted and new positions have opened up: among other things, we needed to find Tribe Leaders. However, this transformation does not concern the entire bank; it has primarily had an impact on the teams responsible for deliverables including IT products and assets. The Tribe Leaders meet every quarter with the bank’s management committee. Together, they decide on priorities and provide a cross-functional link between the teams.  

How do you assess the benefits of this method?

We measure the benefits in terms of time to market, employee satisfaction and retention of talent within our organisation. These indicators are not misleading. The aims of the Agile working method are staff development and the successful completion of more projects with the same budget: it’s all about increased efficiency. Team members meet every morning to share their progress and to redefine their tasks. “Fail fast, learn fast” is at the heart of the Agile method. Autonomy remains the key word and it is up to the team to ensure project delivery, without involving a “management board”, a concept which is increasingly becoming obsolete. 

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