Head of Digital at MB Bank Discusses Fueling Growth Through Digital Transformation

Becoming a truly digital-first organization requires a fundamental change in how companies do business.

In today’s corporate world, is there a more highly sought-after term than “digital transformation”? Probably not. COVID-19 is acting as a catalyst in accelerating many organizations’ digital transformation agendas. New technologies and business models are putting many existing players at risk with disruptive forces. Becoming a truly digital-first organization requires a fundamental change in how business is done. Corporate leaders understand the criticality of digital transformation, however, many are struggling with how to advance it.

We had the pleasure to interview Mr. Vu Thanh Trung, Head of Digital Banking at MB Bank. MB Bank (Military Commercial Joint Stock Bank) is one of the largest financial services groups in Vietnam. Over the past few years, MB Bank initiated a multi-year transformation program to become a digital-first bank. As part of the transformation, Prophet worked with MB Bank on customer expansion strategies and helped to pave the way to a more modern, digital and customer-centric bank. In this interview, Mr. Trung provides valuable insights on how to transform and what it takes to be a digital organization today.

What drove MB Bank to embark on a digital transformation agenda?

The banking industry in Vietnam is a nascent market with considerable room for growth. With a wide penetration of the Internet and smartphones and a growing digital-savvy population, Vietnamese consumers are rapidly shifting towards digital and mobile banking. They desire more seamless digital banking services with a more personalized customer experience. To meet the increasingly demanding expectations of customers in the region, MB Bank needed to fully embrace digital transformation to capitalize on the boom of digital adoption.

What has MB Bank done so far to digitally transform?

We started the digital transformation from scratch almost four years ago. A new digital bank was set up as an independent business unit at the end of 2017 with our own balance sheet, separate from the legacy bank. Our digital transformation efforts focus on two fronts: externally, we want to better understand the marketplace and the customer needs; internally, we want to introduce collaborative and nimble ways of working across divisions.

Prophet has been our indispensable partner on this multi-year strategic growth and digital transformation journey to become more customer-centric and more innovative. We started with an in-depth segmentation of our customer needs, behaviors and attitudes. Then we mapped out a roadmap with clear growth moves focused on innovating and transforming our digital offers. An important part of our digital transformation is to instill more agility and cross-organization collaboration. Prophet showed us how to innovate faster, pilot and launch quicker. We were able to revamp the digital banking app within three months, which normally would take 12-18 months.

Lastly, I want to talk about the achievement we have made on the people front so far. We started with a team 100 percent from the legacy bank and then recruited external technical expertise to fill the functional gaps. We now have a well-balanced commercial and technical team (some 400 in-house engineers) and work more cohesively in a start-up-like environment to drive towards our digital transformation ambitions.

What are the priorities for your digital transformation?

Among all things, we focus on our PEOPLE first. Digital transformation is not about technologies, but rather about changing the mindset of our people – our organizational culture and processes. Hence, we think people should be the ones to drive the technology and not the other way around.

As I mentioned, we started off with a team 100 percent from the legacy bank. We want to create a more entrepreneurial environment where people are empowered to make a difference to MB Bank in a more cohesive and dynamic way. This is rather different from the culture of our legacy bank. So, we need to train our people with new skills and more importantly, shift their mindset towards a digital culture while building up our technological capabilities.

“Digital transformation is not about technologies, but rather about changing the mindset of our people – our organizational culture and processes”

Prophet helped us to implement a nimbler way of working to get closer to the customers and shorten the time to market. We set a shared purpose and vision to help our people to be more personally and emotionally invested. We broke down the silo way of working and replaced it with a collaborative approach. With this new way of working, we managed to revamp the digital banking app at least four times faster.

The results so far have exceeded our expectations. In the midst of the pandemic last year, we launched our new digital banking app, which became the No. 1 app in Vietnam surpassing even Facebook and TikTok. Within nine months of the launch of the new app, we had 1.8 million new customers. A feat we are very proud of given the harsh pandemic landscape and lockdowns.

What advice would you give to leaders looking to drive transformation and ensure the organization has what it needs to succeed?

Leadership is an absolute requirement for any successful digital transformation. It’s not only about setting the vision, defining the strategies and building C-suite commitment. Leaders must “walk the talk” to establish a digital culture so that everyone is on board.

The success of digital transformation must be paired with a comprehensive talent strategy that sets your people up for success.  In order to do so, we aligned incentives with staff performance to drive target reaching, providing tools and opportunities for upskilling and collaboration to help employees reach their goals.

Why do you think cultivating an innovative culture is important in a digital transformation program?

To me, digital transformation marks a reimagination of how an organization uses its technology, people and process to fundamentally change how we run the business. Digital transformation doesn’t come in a box. It provides the guidelines to steer people’s behaviors that advance our company’s goals.

A lot of organizations fail in digital transformation by ignoring the importance of culture. For MB Bank, we instilled an innovative culture through new ways of working. The agile way of working spurs our innovation process through cross-functional collaboration—allowing our people to take risks, fail fast and learn.

What are the challenges you have faced in your digital transformation journey?

We are still at the early stage of our journey. We need to continuously work on integrating technology seamlessly into every aspect of our organization to unlock the full potential of digital transformation. We need to reboot the parts of our operating model that pose hurdles for more cross-functional collaboration and operational efficiency. Then there is the holy grail of data — we are reorganizing our customer data as it is currently scattered across different legacy systems. We are in the process of integrating and synthesizing this data more effectively so that they can provide more meaningful, actionable insights for business units.

So, what are your next steps?

We are rebooting our operating model into a more unified structure and working to enhance collaboration across all business units. We need to further instill the innovative culture to fully tap into every individual’s potential and reap the benefits of agile methodology. And finally cracking the data issue across different systems so we can design more products and services to better serve our customers. We are really glad to have Prophet be our partner on this journey, helping us transform and steering us to become the leading digital bank of the future.


Read our case study to learn how we helped MB Bank refresh their brand platform to embark on a digital transformation journey.

If you’d like to discuss your organization’s digital transformation agenda and journey, reach out to our team. We’d be excited to partner with you.

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