Canada’s leading digital bank moving boldly into digital future

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For many organizations that came into being before the birth of the Internet, “digital” was something they had to learn to be. Tangerine Bank, however, is a different animal, having been born in 1997 as ING Direct Canada. According to the company’s CMO Nicole German, there never was – and still is not – a “push to go digital” as digital is embedded in this young and dynamic organization’s DNA.

“We are Canada’s premier digital bank, focused on delivering premier client experiences,” said German. “When it comes to digital innovation, for us it’s not so much about if we can do something but how fast, and what’s in our pipeline. Canadians have gone through so much in recent years, and they’re still in tough. We owe it to them to continue to push the digital envelope, bringing forward the very best experiences.”

Nicole German - CMO, Tangerine
Nicole German – CMO, Tangerine

Cultural Component

Whatever Tangerine has been doing has worked. The bank was awarded Canada’s highest client satisfaction rating among mid-sized banks by J.D. Power. German said she linked Tangerine’s success to its innovation-geared culture.

“The spirit of innovation spans our entire organization,” she said. “We go with a test-and-learn concept. Our various groups – and each person inside them – are not scared to try new things, to play in that creative space. What I think sets us apart is that for us innovation is about learning. Success will come after you’ve learned what doesn’t work, and we don’t shy away from this.”

Structured Innovation

But Tangerine is not a Wild West, with employees popping up daily with zany new ideas and tossing them against the wall to see what sticks. Rather, as CIO Kerry Joel said, Tangerine innovation is highly structured – creative but logical.

Download free report: “Profiles in Innovation Series: Financial Services”

“Innovation can’t come wildly out of left field,” she said. “We have agile, highly talented individuals and teams, but we innovate properly. What we do makes sense – we know why we’re doing something. It’s not just a matter of innovating to be stylish or because our competitors are doing something. As digital leaders we always want to be out front.”

Cloud Drivers

Cloud is one area where logic has always dictated direction for Tangerine. Joel said the company looks at three drivers when it comes to cloud:

  1. Consumption – “We pay for what we use. It gives us an efficiency, allowing us to scale and grow. This model gives us an advantage over a traditional bank that might be maintaining a huge infrastructure in house.”
  2. Tools and Mindset – “Whether you call it the developer experience or operational efficiency, how you are able to innovate and build using cloud-based technologies is key for us. You get transparency across what you’re building, and you’re able to deliver those incremental changes at scale.”
  3. Data – “For us to be able to build products and services for our clients, we need to understand them – to know what’s working for them, what isn’t, and what opportunities lie before them and us to do things better.
    “Banking is data-driven. Leveraging data tools allows us to gain a deep understanding of our clients. The foundation of every product and service we build is data and metrics. Having that link between what you’ve learned through data and what you do is how we deliver value to customers.”

German said Tangerine as a whole is tuned in to the connection between data and relevancy and, ultimately, opportunity. “We’re focused on personalization and relevancy and the right opportunity and channel, so if we have access to more and better data we can only get better.”

The Magic Sauce

It’s one thing to focus on data, said Joel, but another thing to turn it into something useful and actionable. “We have properly tagged data, metadata – important elements when you’re looking to derive meaning. But the real ‘magic sauce’ is in finding relevant use cases, and in all of us operating as a single entity as opposed to a group of fiefdoms. In an open, silo-less environment, data is easily shared across lines.

Kerry Joel - CIO, Tangerine
Kerry Joel – CIO, Tangerine

“Innovation can’t happen without partnership, not only externally but within the walls of your organization,” said Joel. “For our lack of silos, we’re very nimble. Our people have that ability to work together as one. We come together and find those niche use cases on which to focus. We don’t try to solve big data globally, but instead ask ‘What’s something that would make our clients’ lives better?’ This is where we put our energy.”

Forward Banking

Speaking of partnerships, Tangerine has enjoyed a fruitful one with Artefact Group. Artefact helped Tangerine reimagine what it offers customers through its “Forward Banking,” which is a rethink and personalization of customers’ entire financial journey, from onboard to everyday bill-paying to long-term planning and goal-setting.

“Artefact has helped us concretize our design process, and stay up on the latest design innovations,” said Joel. “We ended up clear guidelines around implementing new features within our design system. This has made our various groups tighter and more collaborative, and we’re now able to scale and expand as the situation demands.”

Learn more about Tangerine Forward Banking

What’s Coming

To the question of what the future looks like, German and Joel agreed that whatever happens, Tangerine’s focus will remain on the customer.

“That people want to have control over their data points us in the direction of technologies that help us ensure that,” said Joel. “We’re already embracing many such technologies. The right partnerships will be key for us going forward.”

Tangerine, said German, is taking the future seriously, especially at a time of economic instability. “We didn’t think we’d be where we are right now, with interest rates and stock and crypto instability. However, for us the anchor remains the service and support we provide our customers. We’ll continue to look for ways to deliver and drive innovation.”

Download free report: “Profiles in Innovation Series: Financial Services”


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Glenn Weir
Glenn Weir
Content writer at IT World Canada. Book lover. Futurist. Sports nut. Once and future author. Would-be intellect. Irish-born, Canadian-raised.