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The banking jobs : Digital & Innovation Officer

  • Wye Houn Leong Digital & Innovation Officer
  • APAC region
  • 28.09.2018

From the aerospace industry to the banking sector, Wye Houn Leong has specialized in new technologies throughout her career. Now in charge of digital innovation in the Asia-Pacific region for BNP Paribas, she has moved from aircraft engines to financial products, where she imagines and designs new banking experiences. Let’s find out more.

What do you do at BNP Paribas?

I’m part of the IT Architecture and Digital & Innovation APAC team, spread across Hong Kong and Singapore, where we support and accelerate the digital innovations of different banking businesses in the APAC region from ideation to POC, MVP through to commercialization. 

I have three priorities. First and foremost, being a digital and innovation evangelist by putting innovation at the heart of everything that we do, from incremental to blue sky innovation; ensuring the inseparability of innovation and business strategy, that is infused with an intrapreneurial culture, through continuous engagement with an open innovation and  ecosystems approach and partnered collaboration with startups, established companies, universities and governmental bodies; and finally,  securing governmental funding. 

I also work with HR & Learning and Development on the strategic side, to be future ready by identifying the future skills required, recruiting new talent to meet technology needs (things like A.I etc.) and upskilling current employees via dedicated training programs. Our goal is to help accelerate the Group’s transformation so it remains an innovation pioneer within the sector. Going forward, every company, regardless of its business focus, will be a tech company and we must be well positioned for that future.

Our goal is to help accelerate the Group’s transformation so it remains an innovation pioneer within the sector.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

I’m highly involved in competitive intelligence (CI) and infusing that practice across the businesses. This is achieved by scanning the external horizon for important factors that could impact the strategy of the bank, for example, emerging technologies, competitors, regulation changes etc., and turning that information into actionable insights.  

With CI cognizance, I’m supporting several business lines to identify exciting new business models, so we can seize the long-term lucrative opportunities created by digital. I’m a strong believer in open innovation, and I also identify many key companies and universities for potential technology collaborations and developments, through startup accelerators and incubations and potential R&D projects for revolutionary algorithm developments for product ionization. I also work with L&D to train our employees in emerging technologies, aiming to get them to work hand-in-hand with these new tools. 

What makes digital technology and innovation so important for BNP Paribas in the Asia-Pacific region? 

BNP Paribas has made the digital transformation a geography-agnostic priority for the Group. In its roadmap for 2020, it set an objective of accelerating this transformation because innovation is an end-to-end journey encompassing different ways of working, information systems and new business and operating models. In the Asia-Pacific region, as in any other region where the Group operates, we aim to do our part both in the back office, by improving our processes, and in the front office, by developing innovative customer pathways tailored to new needs. 

You joined BNP Paribas in this position just six months ago, after a career in aerospace and engineering. Why? 

I chose to join the Group, the 5th ranked bank in the world* at a pivotal moment in the banking industry. I’ve been passionate about technology and innovation throughout my career. I started by developing revolutionary machine learning and knowledge management techniques for jet engines and analysis of UK Naval Marine engines before venturing into corporate global strategy for aerospace. 

I chose to join the Group at a pivotal moment in the banking industry. I’m very thankful to have been given the opportunity to be part of the challenging and exciting transformation journey of BNP Paribas

I’m very thankful to have been given the opportunity to be part of the challenging and exciting transformation journey of BNP Paribas, and working in a really fantastic team! I really wanted to use the knowledge I acquired during my previous positions at Rolls-Royce to cross leverage and share the best practices of the many fundamental similarities between the two industries, such as clever ways of quantifying risks and quality of service and leveraging big data, A.I and machine learning to come up with new business and operating models. What do I bring to the Group as an engineer? An innate passion for innovation and technology, a future-oriented way of thinking and an ability to think outside the box, observe trends and imagine the scenarios that might enable the company to maintain its edge over the competition. Here’s just one example: I can now apply to BNP Paribas’s businesses the same kind of predictive pattern recognition techniques in both engineering and corporate strategy to holistically advance innovation in the company. 

This process includes infusing the intrapreneurial culture that is one that spots opportunities and continuously reinvents itself to create innovative products, solutions and services to better serve our customers.  

*Source: Bankers Almanac, May 2018

BNP Paribas has made the digital transformation a geography-agnostic priority for the Group. 

What qualities does one need to succeed at this job? 

I think you need to be able to find links between ideas that have no obvious connections and ask yourself “what comes next?” For example, what impact might a given event have on the Group over the long term? An innovation leader also needs to communicate and encourage transversal business collaborations, convince and win over the hearts and minds of employees who have different skillsets–those who work in business lines and operations or as developers, technologists or data scientists – while also being able to bring them on board the transformation dynamic and translate innovative technology into a business asset. 

“ I want people to know that BNP Paribas is a digital transformation pioneer. Joining the Group means being part of a big, innovative and dynamic family. Remember also that the Group is open to many different people, because it knows that diversity drives innovation. It gave me a chance, so why not you? If you’re creative, resilient and love working as part of a team, there’s room for you at BNP Paribas.   ”

Wye Houn Leong

Digital & Innovation Officer

What is your biggest challenge?

There are so many opportunities, because the innovation world is vast, but there are only 24 hours in a day! In every part of the job, one should constantly be thinking “How can I improve this?”, “What might this look like like in short, medium or longer term?” and “What is the leapfrog solution?” 

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