How Comerica Maps Its Innovation Plans

“Is it customer-centric? Is it an efficient way? Are we creating value?” These are the three questions Comerica Inc’s EVP and CIO Sangy Vatsa asks himself before every major innovation project.

Vatsa joined the Dallas-based Comerica as chief information officer a little over two years ago, in 2016. Since then the bank’s innovation team has consistently checked major projects off its wish list.

“We call our technology strategy Tech Vision 2020,” Vatsa told Bank Innovation. “Continuous experimentation is a major part of Tech Vision 2020.  To me, innovation means a novel change related to people, process, technology or tools that elevates stakeholder delight. Creating that delight factor and making your business run more efficiently is at the heart of Tech Vision 2020.”

Comerica’s Tech Vision 2020 has five guiding principles, Vatsa explained: “One, Customer centricity; Two, Speed and agility; Three, Embedded security and architecture; Four, Optimizing costs and Five, Empowering our talent ecosystem.”

Through this initiative, the bank recently launched Zelle on its app. The entire process for setting up the P2P service took ten months, a short time, according to Vatsa.

Other innovation projects that were completed under Vatsa’s supervision include the creation of the bank’s in-house platform for fraud detection and prevention. The system lets the bank carry out prevention and detection at half the cost of working with a third-party service provider. The bank deployed over 75 applications to its cloud system over the past nine months and is set to complete the lofty project of digitalizing its entire commercial lending, a nine-stage process from underwriting to closing. This project was initiated last year and is expected to be completed this year.

The key to managing a versatile set of innovation plans is compartmentalizing projects, Vatsa explained.

“We are organized by domains and shared services,” Vatsa told Bank Innovation. “The four domains are payments and deposits, credit and lending, channel management and corporate. The end-to-end accountability of a domain’s innovation plans is owned by the individual domain CIO. We also have five shared service teams.  These are strategy and platforms; architecture and engineering; cybersecurity and technology risk management; enterprise data management and analytics; and technology operations.”

A total of nine teams report to Vatsa.

Several initiatives are on the roadmap for the rest of 2018. Among those is “pursuing realtime payments,” continuing to work with fintechs and collaborators through the bank’s API integration plans. The bank is in the process of creating a data-driven digital advice model to better serve the bank’s relationship managers, portfolio managers to promote attrition and create a pipeline of prospects for customers using big data.

Already, the bank is using AI & ML-focused bots internally, which has increased work efficiencies by 75% in certain areas, according to Vatsa.

Under the Tech Vision 2020, Vatsa and his team of CIOs work on innovation in a twofold approach: Strengthening the bank’s core, which includes embedded security projects, asset modernization as well as talent and culture development. The second part of this approach is what Vatsa calls “transforming the future,” this includes projects on robotics, AI, ML, agile digital delivery etc.

“Innovation is persistent across the enterprise,” he said. “The mantra is to fast fail, learn fast and reapply.”

Of course, a lot of these initiatives are related to the bank’s mobile app.

“Our mobile platform will continue to grow among our customers, so it’s something we pay a lot of attention to,” Vatsa said. He could not disclose further details on this topic.

Based in Dallas, Texas, Comerica has $71.6 billion in assets as of December 2017.

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