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Bank meets startup
Since 2016, Deutsche Bank has been operating its digital research and development center, Digital Factory, just outside Frankfurt. Today, more than 400 software developers, IT specialists, compliance experts and, of course, traditional financial experts work on the digital future of banking under one roof in Sossenheim. They design new products and program the corresponding apps and banking applications. In addition to its own employees, the Digital Factory also offers workspaces for several startups and young technology companies, thus promoting their development and the exchange of fresh ideas.
Not only the location but also the working environment have little in common with the towers in downtown Frankfurt and rather resemble a startup: large, open rooms with colorful walls and seating areas dominate, and employees wear hoodies instead of suits.
To support software development according to the Scrum method, the workplace, equipped with bar tables, large screens and many writable walls, is adapted to agile methods.
In addition to software development, the Digital Factory also conducts customer research. For this purpose, users of digital products are regularly invited to provide direct feedback on new functionalities. In particular, the Digital Factory uses the eye-tracking method to objectively analyze user behavior and to then design user-friendly and intuitive applications.
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Digital Factory: a digital window also facing inwards
Not only does the Digital Factory serve Deutsche Bank as a development center, but also as a trailblazer for internal departments to help achieve the desired evolution from a traditional bank to a technology company.
To this end, Digital Factory employees offer workshops and training sessions on agile working methods, modern leadership, digital customer needs, and much more. New technologies, such as digital flip charts, are piloted here and, if successful, implemented throughout the entire bank.
Despite all of Digital Factory’s achievements, it also reveals the problems and obstacles banks need to overcome in their digital transformation. Young, dynamic and creative minds meet traditional bankers, modern apps meet outdated IT systems. This creates conflicts and concerns about business cannibalization between the old and new worlds, which requires a particularly cautious approach and many compromises. After all, the development of digital service offerings within such a large and complex bank cannot be carried out as a “greenfield project”.
Digital asset management using Robin
Following the guided tour of the Digital Factory, one of the persons responsible showed some of us a particularly exciting product that was developed here: Robin. Like many other banks and startups, Deutsche Bank aims to digitalize asset management with its robo advisor.
The robo advisor carries out the advisory service for the customer in an entirely digital manner, gathering their personal data and investment preferences. On the basis of this information, it compiles an tailored portfolio of securities for the customer which is regularly reviewed and automatically adjusted. This offer is embedded in Deutsche Bank’s online banking system. The customer can constantly monitor the development of their portfolio and, if necessary, make adjustments, e.g. to the monthly savings amount or their risk tolerance.
As yet, the integration of this digital offering into existing structures remains to be finalized, and, along with the expansion of the offering to include new features, represents one of the biggest challenges for the industry in general.
In the meantime, we say thank you for the invitation and the fascinating insights!