Fueling growth in a technology renaissance

Fueling growth in a technology renaissance

Chicago-based Amir Arooni, Executive Vice President and CIO, Discover Financial Services, tells us how the digital bank is embarking on its own technology renaissance through its Discover-run Runway program. He says: “Through Runway, we are providing consumers what they want, faster and growing our capacity to offer even more.”

Amir Arooni, Executive Vice President and CIO, Discover Financial Services

How has technology pervaded every aspect of society?

We live in a technology renaissance. Technology is everywhere. You can now use your phone as a form of payment, a camera, a map… you get the idea. Today, the average American has access to more than 25 connected devices in their house according to a recent study by Deloitte, and we use those devices to do everything, including our banking.

What does this mean for digital banking organizations and their technologists? Not just engineers, but solution architects, cybersecurity analysts, IT operations, scrum masters and others that are working on the next great feature or service.

For organizations, it means they must-have the right technology capabilities, organizational structure and upskilling opportunities for their people, so they are able to act and react quickly, consistently and securely. And for technologists, a technology renaissance means an exciting and challenging career at a minimum. For some – those who work at organizations that invest in them – it also means access to many valuable opportunities and support that can enable them to grow their skills and experiences while on the job.

More specifically, what has this meant for your industry?

Let’s talk more about the organizations first. In our industry, technology no longer plays a supporting role. For Discover, technology is the business model. We can no longer win based solely on the products we offer. Thinking back to the beginning, when we were the first to offer a credit card with no annual fee and cashback rewards, that product gave us a competitive advantage. For a moment. And then our competitors used their technology to offer the same or very similar features. Just like today’s competitors already have or will soon offer the same technology fuelled features we offer with the Discover it card.

While tech-based features are important to our customers, and are absolutely necessary for us to provide, they are simply not enough to retain a competitive advantage. Doing that today requires both the technology and the ability to deliver it easier and faster, which requires a new and agile way of working.

How have you managed to stay ahead of the competition?

To stay ahead on the technology and innovation front, we introduced our signature Runway initiative two years ago, to better position us for the future by shifting from a project-based mindset to a product-driven structure rooted in the agile way of working.

By turning to smaller, autonomous, product-focused engineering teams, we have been able to deliver new products and enhancements faster and more reliably to our customers, while simplifying how we work through technology optimization and extreme automation.

Can you give any examples of the value you’ve added by modernizing?

Two examples of value we’ve driven through our Runway modernization efforts involve increasing the speed that we deploy code and release products; in some areas we are releasing 4x faster than before.

Through Runway, we are providing consumers what they want, faster, and growing our capacity to offer even more. For example, reduced deployment time for our Authorized User team means new Discover Card users can be added to an existing account and receive their cards quicker, resulting in an improved banking relationship.

For our Line Increase Request team, an already high performing group in the organization that provides an instant decision for 98% of customer requests received, this entails delivering an even greater, differentiated customer experience.

By the end of 2022, the majority of our teams will have transitioned to a product model structure and gone through the necessary training. Those teams will be working smarter and faster due to new metrics reporting capabilities, a more advanced technology portfolio, such as our internal Trident pipeline that delivers high-quality software through automated releases, and so much more.

This will directly benefit consumers with access to the latest banking products and features faster, as well as unparalleled security, reliability and customer service.

Can you tell us about some of the company’s recent technological successes and plans for the future?

In year three of our Runway journey, we will have gone from developing our flight plan in 2020, to throttling up in 2021, and now we are climbing to 80,000 FT (executing) in 2022…and beyond. The journey doesn’t stop after this year. After this phase, we’ll take everything we’ve accomplished and learned and continue improving and innovating moving forward, because that’s what the best technology companies do and that’s what our customers expect from us.

This all brings me back to the technologists. To fuel the smart, fast, high-performing and empowered teams that are necessary for us to continue to delight our customers, we must continue to develop and invest in our workforce so they have the tools, confidence and ability to do their work easily, effectively and efficiently.

And to have fun doing it. To meet this objective, Discover rolled out a one-of-a-kind interactive platform, known as the Discover Technology Academy (DTA) in mid-2021, that empowers employees to strengthen their craft, elevate their careers, build and engage with their communities, innovate better and have fun. More to come on this unique platform, that has already delivered improved experiences for both our customers and our people.

And so in this technology renaissance we find ourselves in, it’s important to routinely take a step back and really look at where we’re currently at, where we were and where we’re heading. There is no one-size-fits-all technology roadmap to follow. For me, it’s an unprecedented and exciting time to be a part of a leading digital bank.

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