“People, process, culture”: Inside Lloyds Banking Group’s agile approach to innovation

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

Companies need to look more at people, process and culture when building their martech stacks, according to a senior digital transformation specialist at Lloyds Banking Group.

Speaking at the Financial Services Forum’s November Martech conference, George Cairns, Head of Product: Personalisation, outlined five key approaches which underpin the innovation strategy at the UK’s largest bank.

Sign up for our next Martech conference here.

George has worked in various roles at Lloyds for over 16 years. He started his career in analytics before moving through marketing planning and finally into transformation roles, where he is now.

In the banking world, large incumbents like Lloyds are often painted as slow to innovate, but behind the scenes, the firm has adopted an “agile” approach and is continually experimenting and adding new features.

The company has a huge digital estate and a broad portfolio of brands, from household names such as Lloyds itself to lesser known brands such as private equity firm LDC. This translates to 30 million customers and 20 million digitally active users – 24,000 logins per minute, one of the most used digital services in any industry.

“Marketing technology has to be able to scale to deliver personalised experiences to that number of people,” says George.

He characterises the landscape as a confusing one – with “loads of vendors” and “low barriers to entry”, resulting for example in over 100 CDPs on the marketplace. Meanwhile, leaders report on average that the utilisation of their martech stack capability is just 33%.

In his talk, George set out five steps for addressing martech as well as case studies of these in action at Lloyds.


1. Set the vision

One challenge is that many companies have a “tech-first” approach. Geroge advocated instead “starting with a compelling vision that you can use to bring people onboard.”

This should be something “big picture that excites people”. For example, the vision might be having a super-efficient team. The vision can then inform the objectives, which might be being able to launch campaigns in record time.

“My job is to enable things through technology,” he said, “but I recognise that we need to create a broader corporate vision, translate that into something meaningful to the business.”

For Lloyds, George says, the strategic vision is developing deeper connections with customers. This then leads to the huge focus placed on personalisation.

“So we want to deepen relationships with customers. So how do we do that? Great personalisation. How do we do that through personalising our journey, personalising our products and personalising our service?”


2. Audit your current tech stack

Another challenge with the large number of martech solutions is that people are not tapping into the full value of their existing stack. This could be that existing technology is not talking to each other or specific features are not being used.

He recommends conducting an audit of the martech stack.

“Before you invest heavily in new technology, look at what you’ve got.”

For example, Lloyds has a map of its various different systems and how they connect to each other. This allows the team to see where the gaps are.


3. Partnerships with vendors

George emphasised the need to work with external agencies and vendors to tap into their knowledge.

“Partner with them to get the most out of your systems – understand what capabilities they have and how willing they are to help solve problems.”

This is true even in a large organisation such as Lloyds with thousands of engineers.

However, he cautioned firms to be careful of the total cost of ownership (TCO). As providers move to software-as-a-service, costs can quickly escalate. The low initial pricing may not take account of the cost of support, training costs and internal costs.

“It may look like good value, but when you install it the costs may not line up,” George says.


4. Adopt an agile approach

George encouraged firms to move away from “big, complex, one-off investments” but instead to “break it into chunks”. Under the old model, companies can end up spending months building something, expecting it to be a “magic silver bullet” and then find on the first day that it doesn’t meet anyone’s expectations.

He cited the implementation of a data management platform in 2015, which aimed to connect first party data with paid data. George identifies several mistakes that were made, the first being a waterfall approach to delivery, meaning that no value was realised until the whole system was up and running.

There was also very little experimentation, meaning that lessons weren’t learned as the project progressed. There was also too much focus on the technology itself rather than the processes around it, including the impact on colleague roles.

The end result was that the project took so long that by the time it was ready to implement, the third-party data landscape had changed and within about six months of the DMP’s launch the team had to start talking about decommissioning it and moving onto a new technology.

Today, he thinks Lloyds is doing a much better job. Lloyds fully adopted the agile methodology in 2016-2017, which focuses on “realises value quicker”.

The biggest aspect of this is experimentation, especially for firms that have the luxury of being able to run a proof of concept.

“This allows you to build a case as you go along.”

The example he gives is the firm’s approach to new app features, which continually integrates customer feedback, including from internal customers who use some of the capabilities.

The project runs in two-week sprints and captures feedback after every sprint. There is a focus on experimentation, building out an understanding of what works, what the technology limitations are and what the opportunities are. There is also a focus on value in order to prove to the business and sponsors to ensure delivery both for customers and the business in a sustainable way.


5. Focus on people, process and culture

George pointed out that technology in and of itself is very rarely the answer to any problems that exists.

Rather, it is more about people, processes and culture. In Lloyds, this means building multi-functional, multi-disciplinary teams – “working hand in glove across marketing functions, business functions, and technology functions.”

As an example, he talked about the introduction of a workflow tool to manage campaign workflows from start to finish, everything from briefing colleagues to managing content. These campaigns were taking much longer than they should have done to launch.

“We had a very much unloved legacy tool in place, and the view was that technology was the problem.”

“What we did from the beginning was partner with our business and marketing teams to create one team in the lab building the technology and a team in the business to focus on process and process redesign. The two things fed each other.”

At no point was the technology solution built in isolation; it was always with the explicit understanding that the processes were being improved at the same time. This process meant the teams could see where the actual hurdles were in the process and address these.

While automation could make the processes more efficient, actually much of the inefficiency came from the governance processes around campaign launches, including multiple sign-offs and checks.

The end result is that 30% of the workflow for the internet banking team is now automated, leading to a 50% reduction in time to market for campaigns and a scale-up of content production.

“That all comes from working hand in glove with people, process and culture together, not technology in and of itself.”


Sign up for our next Martech event here.

Previous article

Tony Langham: "There’s not enough magic in financial services"

Next article

GUEST COLUMN: Why racing drivers don’t like guaranteed funds

Get access to valuable thought leadership from the financial services marketing industry

Keep up-to-date with current trends and changes across marketing and financial services is vital in this fast-moving business environment.