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CIO interview: Fraser Ingram, Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank

Fraser Ingram joined the Clydesdale and Yorkshire banking group as CIO just at the right time – as it was embarking on its digital journey

As a measure of his role, Fraser Ingram’s job title at Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank is director of innovation – but to everyone else, he is the CIO.

Ingram and his team are currently transforming the bank through digital technology.

The Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks, as well as app-based bank B, are part of the CYBG holding company. It is the latter, and the platform it sits on, known as iB, which is driving change at the bank and for its customers.

As financial technology (fintech) shakes up the banking sector with consumer friendly banking apps, the traditional players have been investing in their own offerings – and CYBG is no exception.

B was built on CYBG’s iB digital platform through a £350m investment. It now has 190,000 customers and £1.8bn in deposits.

The app-based bank’s success has instigated the migration of the Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks to the platform.

Ingram came from a business background in the banking sector until, in 2008, he took up his first IT role with the Royal Bank of Scotland group. He later joined Citizen Bank in the US, which RBS then owned, as CIO. Then, after a stint in London with another bank, he joined CYBG about two and a half years ago.

“We use B to test things quite a lot because it has a more tech-savvy customer base”

Fraser Ingram, CYBG

He leads a team of about 900 people, including IT, procurement and change management staff. About one-third of these are IT professionals.

Ingram joined the bank just after its initial public offering (IPO) in 2016, after the National Australia Bank (NAB) demerged it from its business. “It was the perfect time,” he says.

Uncertainty about the bank’s future had resulted in it not investing in digital transformation, he says. “The business was in a bit of purgatory because NAB was not sure what to do with it. In situations like this, it is more a case of ‘steady as she goes’ rather than big bold investments.”

After the IPO, the bank was given a mandate to digitally transform and Ingram was brought in to “modernise and digitise” the bank.

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In total, CYBG has about two million customers across the full range of its banking products and services, including retail banking, business banking, savings and mortgages.

Ingram says the idea for app-based bank B predates his time with the company, but he came in to help it go live in 2016. “B sits on the top of a platform that we call iB and was the first fruit of this investment,” he says.

Although customers can use the bank’s branch network, B was designed to be digital only. “You can do all the usual stuff that you can do with an account, like make payments, view balances and so on, but there is also some unique stuff, such as account aggregation,” he says. “You can use your B account and, for example, see your Santander account.”

So CYBG was doing open banking at an early stage. It also offers savings tools and projections on future spending via data technologies.

But while B operates on the iB platform, the group’s core banking systems remain the same. This approach was adopted to reduce risks, says Ingram. “The risk in many IT executions is with the core banking platform,” he points out. “What we did was build a modern architecture on top of that to isolate the core.”

Through the iB platform, the bank has now retired its internet banking system and switched it across, and mobile banking apps have also been moved to the iB platform.

Front-end systems replaced

“We are in the process of retiring quite a lot of our front-end systems and, by this time next year, we will have replaced all of our front-end systems,” says Ingram.

“A lot of people have gone after modernising core banking platforms. But this is very high risk and does not really give you differentiation. To change the back end of a bank when you have got live customers, you have to be sure that what you get will work and will actually give you a point of differentiation.

“The differentiation comes in how customers access their information and how the bank and customers use this information.”

The iB platform is not just being used by B now, but hosts the entire customer base across the bank’s brands. “B was the start of that, but now we don’t do things purely for B,” says Ingram.

“We use B to test things quite a lot because it has a more tech-savvy customer base,” he adds. For example, it tested out cheque scanning on B and, after a successful take-up, introduced it to the Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks. The system, which enables customers to scan cheques and receive the money into their accounts, now has more than a million registered users.

“Anything that Clydesdale and Yorkshire have, B has, but B has some functionality that the other two don’t,” says Ingram.

IT teams changing

It was always CYBG’s plan to migrate its traditional banking brands to the iB platform once it was proven through B. And while the bank has been changing, so too have the IT teams that support it.

The group’s IT teams are now focused on continuous delivery with cross-functional teams, says Ingram. “In the past, you would have a lot of teams with expertise in technical disciplines, but as we work on the iB platform, we have people with different technical disciplines coming together to create multi-skilled teams, rather than  passing work on,” he says.

Ingram also has a team that focuses on fintech. One example of the work it does is an app, currently being worked on, that uses augmented reality to allow customers to scan menus with prices in foreign currencies and convert them to pounds.

There is also an app in development that will help customers use data to compare utility company prices and make it easy for them to switch, based on the information.

CYBG has established a digital office space in Glasgow for the team behind advancements. “With open banking allowing a whole new level of innovation, CYBG wants to build digital services that can leverage the iB platform, complement its B app and add value to its customers’ busy lives,” says a CYBG statement.  

And with a possible merger with Virgin Money on the horizon for CYBG, Ingram could find himself tasked with integrating yet another banking brand to iB.

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