Presented by RBC 

It’s no secret that we’re living in an increasingly digital world. Our appetite for digital solutions is only growing and our expectations are shaped by our experiences with leading tech companies. In financial services, it’s no different. Digitization has led to exponential change in a short period — a pace that’s only been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. While keeping up with that pace can be a challenge– and only more challenging for large organizations with legacy infrastructure — it is a critical one to overcome to deliver technology solutions that meet consumers’ expectations in 2022 and beyond.

At RBC, we faced a number of these hurdles — after all, RBC is more than 150 years old, one of the largest banks in the world based on market capitalization and serves 17 million clients in 29 countries, with more than 800 million transactions a day. When I reflect on our digital journey, it’s possibly the largest digital transformation in Canadian history — fortunately, we started early.

In fact, we were already seeing a major market shift take place before the pandemic with an increasing demand for digital experiences. This was driven by clients’ desire to engage differently with us, in real time, from anywhere. In 2014, we were ranked last in digital amongst Canadian banks, particularly for mobile banking. It was a critical time for RBC; we saw the signs, and we needed to transform, yesterday.

RBC decided to face this challenge head on and developed a new transformative technology strategy that would evolve RBC into a digitally-enabled relationship bank. Since its launch, it’s empowered us to develop new exceptional client experiences, get new digital capabilities to market faster, handle growth in volumes safely and securely, and become a place top talent wants to work. I’ll share a bit more on some of the key tenets.

We invested more than $500 million over a five-year period in key areas such as digital, mobile, data and artificial intelligence, cloud and cybersecurity. We retooled our entire development platform (DevOps) and introduced agile as our way to work. We made significant investments in modernizing our core systems and infrastructure to drive operational excellence and improve systems availability. We also built an API platform that improved speed to market and enabled us to more easily engage with partners.

The API platform is one that I am especially proud of. It’s essentially an open-source environment in the bank that empowers our tech teams to benefit from the learning and work done across the bank. It’s a mechanism commonly used by other companies, but we made it our own and it’s been a great catalyst for increasing the speed of our delivery to production by sharing and reusing code. It’s been remarkable to see how successful it’s been in turbocharging our development.

Some great examples are our eSignature APIs that were rolled out across numerous business processes in a matter of months or our loan origination APIs that allowed us to automate the Canadian Emergency Business Account (CEBA) small business loan program during the pandemic. And the technology investments we made in the years leading up to the pandemic are what enabled our 85,000 employees to so quickly be productive remotely.

The platform has matured so much that we now share APIs externally as well with partners. Just recently we announced two separate partnership agreements with Plaid and Envestnet | Yodlee – a move that will use APIs to empower clients to have better access, control and securely share their financial data with applications outside of the bank. These data access agreements will eliminate the need for RBC’s 14 million clients to share their banking credentials — leading to a privacy-focused, secure and streamlined client experience.

RBC clients will also have access to more than 7,500 combined fintech applications, providing them with a wide variety of additional tools to help them manage their finances. These serve as exciting examples of how we can collaborate with leading fintech companies to deliver even more client value.

To meet future client expectations, we’re also building on a single technology stack in digital. This means we can build for the client — and the advisor — at the same time, for cases ranging from cards to retail to commercial. An example of this is the new account open experience we scaled over the pandemic. Previously, to open a checking account, an advisor would have to navigate numerous screens with significant time spent on manual data entry. We were able to reduce the time to open and designed a client-friendly interface — allowing advisors to work with the client to open the account. Over time, we scaled this to remote account open and account open for business clients. Canadians now have three convenient ways to open an account: remote self-serve, remote advisor-assisted and in-person at a branch.

That’s only one example of how we can invest in a solution in one area, and then rapidly apply those learnings across other use cases — for our clients and advisors, across the bank. Working as a team, and across Personal & Commercial Banking and Technology & Operations, we built this idea into a reality and have found huge benefits for both prioritization and delivery.

A key benefit has been the success our single stack platform has delivered during the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, we had about 3% of appointments take place remotely. Now with 72% of appointments remote, the ability to verify an individual remotely, via digital channels, is essential to keeping things moving and couldn’t have happened without the single stack.

In 2021, RBC was recognized by Celent with a Model Bank award for the speed at which we became the first major bank in Canada to offer remote account open experiences (the example from above) and ID verification (IDV) solutions for both personal and business clients. Our single stack platform has also allowed us to scale these innovations rapidly across the enterprise. Powerful stuff.

This success and our rapid digitization of the bank has been enabled by the strength and breadth of our world-class digital team. We’re increasingly looking like a technology company — in fact, we’re often attracting talent from leading tech companies and tech startups. Our teams work in agile squads made up of product owners, designers and developers, which I believe marry the best of digital technology and data with our business team’s deep banking expertise. It’s allowed us to attract and retain great new talent while simultaneously upskilling over 3,000 of our existing team members.

While these investments set us up to pivot when the pandemic hit, it’s clear there was a paradigm shift emerging. And without a significant digital transformation, RBC would not have been able to meet our client’s expectations in 2022 and beyond. Now, we’re a leading digital bank — we received the 2020 Celent Model Bank of the Year Award (global) and just recently received the 2022 J.D. Power Canada award for “Best in Customer Satisfaction” for our mobile banking app.

That said, it’s just the beginning. At RBC, we are constantly looking to create impactful digital experiences that delight clients and make them feel known; offer more self-serve options; deliver exceptional advice no matter where they are; and do so with industry-leading security. This includes being focused on using digital technology to empower our advisors to deliver the best solutions and advice to our clients.

I’m excited about what we’ve accomplished in a short period, and thrilled about the future. One thing for sure: We’re ready to keep investing to continue our digital leadership in banking in 2022 and beyond.

Learn more about Tech @ RBC or check out our latest job opportunities here.

As SVP Digital Technology, Sumit Oberai leads the Digital Technology organization at RBC, helping drive RBC’s shift to a more technology-enabled, digitally-driven bank. He has responsibility for online banking, mobile banking, Avion credit card, direct investing & digital advice, and RBC Ventures. He also has responsibility for RBC’s API strategy, both for internal services and as an external developer platform. Sumit also leads the Operations Technology team with a focus on driving end-to-end digitization from client and advisor to the Operations teams.

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