Insights / 08 July 2020

Harnessing digital through the crisis and beyond

Digital solutions will have long-term sustainable benefits

Adapting to a new working and operating environment in this Covid-19 era has demanded a real focus on digital application and, in some cases, an acceleration in roll out of technology platforms.

But as James Young, Group Head of Technology and Change, explains, the digital solutions Crestbridge has implemented in recent months are not just a response to immediate demands, but are designed to achieve long-term sustainable benefits too…

Q: To what extent has IT been a factor in your business continuity response to Covid-19?

It’s clearly been a huge factor- but actually our investment in digital solutions pre-dates Covid-19. We had already recently upgraded our core infrastructure and that meant that within hours of ‘working from home’ being introduced, we had the entire global workforce working remotely. Because we had implemented Microsoft Teams and other conferencing tools some months ago, the tools people use today were not unfamiliar.

What Covid-19 did was give us the opportunity to put the contingency plans and tools we already had in place into action and prove to us, and our clients, that they worked as they were designed to.

Q: Have you had to implement any specific systems to adjust to a new ‘work from home’ model?

No, not at all. We had to increase bandwidth in a couple of places to allow for 100% of the workforce to operate outside the office, but we had all the tools at our disposal to do that. From email, core systems and telephony, we were able to access the tools we needed seamlessly from home – it actually reinforced that the investment we had the foresight to previously make in technology was justified.

Q: What have been the key IT challenges to the current situation?

The challenges we’ve experienced in the current situation have not really been IT-related. We have always operated our IT support function from Jersey, for example, so diagnosing and working on systems remotely hasn’t been an issue. In fact, clients have been impressed at just how seamless the move to working from home has been.

The bigger challenges have been more human in nature - we have spent a lot of time, for instance, on our internal and external communications, ensuring that the right message has been distributed consistently, clearly and reliably to staff across our network and to our global clientele. We’ve also recognised that the wellbeing of our people is critical in the current environment, so we’ve been focused on ensuring they are engaged and supported. What we’ve found is that technology has a key part to play in these areas too, beyond the day-to-day operational issues.

Q: Beyond the current ‘crisis’ context, how is digital informing your approach as a service provider?

Like many businesses, striving for efficiency is embedded in our DNA and this crisis only goes to highlight that there is more to be done with regards to automation and workflow. We’d already made the investment in our digital infrastructure with an eye on the long-term, but our experience through this crisis has sharpened our focus on integrating technology as part of our future strategy. By doing that, our team can focus on the tasks that can add greatest value whilst reducing risks.

We are also working on tools and platforms to be able to connect with our clients digitally – that’s something that this crisis has really highlighted as a key area. We realise that our clients are in similar situations to us and we need to leverage technology to ease our working lives and improve our working relationships.

Q: In what areas of the business do you see particular scope for digital innovation?

As well as drawing on IT solutions to enhance our client communications and build better working relationships, sharing of data and automation are also key focuses for us at present. These are areas that can have a big impact on workflow, helping us to bridge the gap created by teams being geographically distant. In the current environment, of course, our teams cannot just pass a file over the desk, and automated workflow and data sharing systems can help ease that, in a rapid and secure way.

Beyond just the current environment, these are areas we see real long-term potential too. We have a number of manual processes that are ripe for automation, for instance. This will reduce risk, improve speed and allow our human workforce to focus on higher value tasks such as client engagement and ensuring that the quality of service remains high.

Q: Can you outline how digital is supporting both your ability to listen to clients, as well as deliver innovative services and solutions?

Technology and digital services should only exist to improve our service offering to our clients and we undoubtedly see the relationship benefits of technology as being very much two-way – enabling us to speak to clients, but also empowering our clients to feed back to us what their concerns are, how their needs are changing and how we could adapt to support them better.

Our ability to listen to clients and understand them better is a key part of our digital approach – it will ultimately help us to become closer to our clients, build stronger long-term relationships and ensure a higher quality service.