Driving the People Behind CIMB Group’s Digital Revolution

dato hamidah cimb portrait imageDigital is no longer the shiny front-end of an organisation. Increasingly, backend operations are also being digitalised, as well as disrupted in much the same way as many other industries are.

These technological innovations, combined with increasing digital competition, mean that established players in the market need to move fast and embrace change. Digital business transformation is the ultimate challenge in change management. It impacts not only industry structures and strategic positioning, but it affects all levels of an organization. In particular, the function of HR as a digital driver cannot be underestimated, as an organisation’s people are its backbone and main driver of change.

Group Chief People Officer of CIMB Group, Dato’ Hamidah Naziadin explained that HR, as a strategic pillar of CIMB, works alongside its top leadership to achieve its business results. As its people are CIMB’s strongest assets, driving these results for the group, change needs to come from them first.

In this vein, CIMB Group has embarked on a HR initiative to equip its workforce with digital knowledge and skills appropriate to their jobs. To do this, CIMB has set up a CIMB 3D Academy, which aims to help the bank embrace the digital revolution via a groupwide digital development initiative. The 3D in the Academy’s name stands for Digital, Data, and Disruption. In pledging RM75 million over the next three years to the Academy, CIMB has made clear its intentions to transform itself and to achieve its aspirations of becoming a data-first organisation.

Data-first means digitising the core of the business, and taking advantage of innovations such as AI and Big Data analytics to drive and add value to the customer experience. In order to do that, CIMB recognises the need to ‘future-proof’ its people and make them ‘future-ready’. This involves two aspects: equipping them with the right skillsets and also with the right mindset.


Skillsets of the Future

In terms of skillsets, the purpose of the 3D Academy is to do just that – prepare all of CIMB’s 36,000-strong staff with the right skillsets. The plan is for every CIMB employee will go through 3D Academy training.

Different programmes and curricula will be prepared for each individual, tailored to their pace of growth and learning. However, as a base for learning, the training starts with a series designed to increase staff awareness and knowledge of current technological trends, to enhance CIMB’s delivery of a positive customer experience.

As mentioned, every CIMB employee will go through basic training in digital awareness, in every country in their local language, so they fully understand what the future holds and the bank’s role in it. Further in-depth learning will entail researching about application of these innovations, or even specialising in a niche such as AI or predictive analytics.

Related: The Bank of the Future? Here’s Why CIMB is a Great Place to Work


A Forward-Thinking Mindset

Furthermore, the mindset around digital innovation needs to change as well. As Dato’ Hamidah put it, the work environment is changing, and competition is no longer just from other banks. As part of its ‘data-first’ aspirations, CIMB wants to create a techsavvy, agile working environment. In terms of HR policies, for example, CIMB has introduced tech-friendly working practices like flexible hours and remote working.

The nature of work is no longer office-bound, and CIMB is equipping its staff with a mindset to embrace the fourth Industrial Revolution. Innovation and creativity are what the organisation is looking for, and are values that staff should embrace.

In turn, the practice of HR at CIMB Group is changing as well. In addition to the traditional quotients of intelligence and emotion, a digital quotient is also emphasised. As the digital experience is becoming an increasingly larger part of the customer journey, so too is it becoming a large part of HR. Using digital analytics, CIMB can better manage its workforce using Big Data, for example recognizing staff who are a flight risk, potential high-performing employees, and identifying areas lacking in staff improvement.

Being an ASEAN bank, CIMB has a large footprint, and moving staff around according to business needs may cause unhappiness among employees. Losing sight of good talent is something no organisation wants, and CIMB is trying to prevent that by using digital innovation in HR.


cimb asean scholarship 2018 meeting with leadership

Disruption Innovation

By having an innovative and creative workforce, CIMB Group can better equip itself for survival in the age of disruption. Competition is longer just from other banks alone, and the environment can be disrupted in the blink of an eye. Conversely, as an established player in the market, CIMB is actively working on being the disruptor. HR-wise, this practice starts early, during the recruitment phase. Entry-level graduates from different disciplines are being recruited to work at CIMB, to bring a diverse mindset to the profession of banking.

Furthermore, when they are accepted, CIMB offers graduate trainees the chance to work with organisations which offer more than just the traditional banking experience. Partners of the programme include fintech companies as well as startup incubators. This exposes trainees to different skillsets as well as mindsets, enabling them to think outside the box, capturing at least some of the disruptive spirit CIMB wants to cultivate.

To further inspire employees to break the mould and encourage disruptive thinking, the concept of ‘intrapreneurship’ is also something CIMB is working on. ‘Intrapreneurship’ is acting like an entrepreneur within a larger organization, with selfmotivated, action-oriented people taking the initiative to come up with and implement ideas within the greater organisation. Within CIMB, intrapreneurship is done via their leadership program and training programs.

For the business leaders, CIMB’s INSEAD leadership program consists of action learning projects where managers are allowed to think freely in terms of idea incubation and implementing these ideas. This is done at every level of the organisation to develop entrepreneurial thinking among the staff. Ideation workshops are also held to promote employee ideas to the relevant leaders to assess their feasibility.

Hard Skills Are Nothing Without Soft Skills

While ‘hard skills’ such as coding, technical knowledge etc are essential to the digital revolution, they can be taught easily. On the other hand, ‘soft skills’ like communication, teamwork and leadership traits are harder to come by. While digital hard skills are nice to have, they quickly become obsolete as advances happen quickly in the digital field. However, soft skills retain their usefulness throughout one’s career. Indeed, in contemporary times, an employee lacking in hard skills but with good soft skills will be much more prized over another with better hard skills but is difficult to work with.

Innovation, collaboration, teamwork and leadership are just but some of the soft skills that CIMB is looking for. By changing its recruitment policies, CIMB can filter out those lacking in soft skills. Instead of holding interviews as is traditional, CIMB puts its prospective employees through boot camps and where they are presented with scenarios. Candidates’ problem-solving skills, teamwork etc will be assessed to look out for the soft skills needed to thrive in the fourth Industrial Revolution.

Related: My Department and I


Driving Everyone Forward

As the backbone and driver of change, an organisation’s people are its most important asset. More so as a financial institution, transforming itself to be a data-first organisation. To that end, CIMB has instituted a series of reforms aimed at transforming its people into digital-first employees. By equipping them with the appropriate skillsets and mindsets, CIMB’s HR mission is to embrace the digital revolution and thrive in the fourth industrial revolution.


This article is published on ProspectsASEAN.com with the writers’ consent. This article was written by Ong Xiang Hong and originally published by the HR Asia Media


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.