We might see an uptick in digital banking due to coronavirus, says Dilipkumar Khandelwal of Deutsche Bank

In a conversation with YourStory, Dilipkumar Khandelwal, MD and Head of Deutsche Bank Technology Centre, speaks about the impact of coronavirus on startups, fintech firms, and financial services.

An angel investor in startups like Loadshare, Moglix, FabelStreet, Whatfix, and Signzy, and an LP to firms like Fireside Ventures and Stellaris Venture Partners, Dilipkumar Khandelwal, MD and head of Deutsche Bank Technology Centre, has been instrumental in leveraging technology to drive change at organisations. 

In a career spanning over 20 years, he has been responsible for setting up and scaling teams through integrations, acquisitions, and partner ecosystems. 

Prior to this, he was the MD of SAP Labs India, and was responsible for setting up the SAP Startup Studio, SAP’s first-ever startup Accelerator. In this role, he led development facilities in Bengaluru, Pune, and Gurugram. He also led the 9,700-person research and development organisation of SAP SE in India, focussing on delivering cutting-edge technology innovations for business applications.

In a conversation with YourStory Media, Dilipkumar talks about the impact of coronavirus on financial systems and fintech firms, and his advice for startups for post-COVID-19 era.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

Dilipkumar Khandelwal, MD and Head of Deutsche Bank Technology Centre

YourStory (YS): How has the coronavirus situation impacted the financial systems, and how do you see technology playing a role to come out of this? 

Dilipkumar Khandelwal (DK): The impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be seen across industries. While the crisis brings with it difficult times, organisations must take steps to build resilience. It has also created an incentive for organisations to upgrade their technology infrastructure. 

I believe that when times are tough, the financial sector has a chance to raise its game and be part of the solution. And technology will be a game changer in this journey. At Deutsche Bank, we have enabled over 80,000 employees and vendor partners to connect from home and remain focussed on serving our clients, who need us more than ever. Our traders and salespeople are also working from home. 

These are exceptional times and we must prioritise what we need to do most. We made quick decisions to upgrade servers in multiple locations to enable working from home easier for everyone. We have got all departments in a virtual room, working in an agile manner to enable quicker turnaround times on our decisions.

I think this crisis will enable faster adoption of technology, and we might see an uptick in digital banking and the non-cash payments space. The tide will turn even more decisively in favour of security and customer experience – something which was already gathering pace. 

Some established financial players have already started focussing on these aspects. While you may see a preference for safe and low-risk investments, you might even see collaborations that you would have never expected. The pandemic is a spur for the financial services industry to tackle challenges as a team, to bundle strengths, and partner.

YS: How do you see traditional banking technology organisations and the fintech startup ecosystem react and work around such situations?

DK: The future will belong to those companies who can keep communication and collaboration going during difficult times, and continue with the same model post crisis.

The three key points are planning, prioritisation, and agile execution. The 2008 financial crisis certainly helped financial services firms to be prepared to handle the current situation.

By working through and around the situation, those that provide innovative offerings will emerge as winners. These could include banking technology companies with a track record in cloud-based delivery and offshore services. 

Perhaps these are the companies which strategically invest in technology upfront to keep themselves ahead in the game. 

YS: You have also invested in startups and are an LP. What is your take on the coronavirus impact on startups, and how do you see them get out of this crisis?

DK: There is certainly an air of caution as investment firms concentrate on protecting portfolio companies rather than adding new ones. There will be a focus on conserving cash, and entrepreneurs might find it tough to even meet investors, let alone get funds.

Certain sectors like travel, hospitality, and consumer-facing businesses will be impacted more than others. However, I see an opportunity for others like analytics, artificial intelligence, healthcare technology, financial technology, online groceries, and education technology.

Here are a few guidelines to help them survive this crisis:

  • Put your employees first, and rethink work practices – you may need to restrict travel and switch to meetings via video or audio. Also, there is no such thing as too much communication in these times. Critical talent needs assurance.
  • Chip away at your burn rate. You may need to rethink your annual plans to reduce the burn rate and extend the runway with the capital you have. Move out of expensive office space, dump unnecessary perks, look for cheaper and more efficient solutions, and don’t be afraid to take tough calls.
  • Create an emergency operation centre to tackle crises and ensure the impact on operations is limited. These should penetrate deep into the organisation, going beyond the corporate office to the shop floor. You’ll need documented protocols, escalation matrices, and tasks assigned to specific people.
  • Manage the supply chain. If the crisis plan includes how to keep operations humming along, you’ll need steady supplies of raw material and services. Take stock of where you are vulnerable and act immediately. Even if it means hand-holding vendors or opening up new avenues of supply, do it.

In addition, non-essential businesses will find it tough as people rethink their spending and wait out the crisis. They’ll need to be even sharper when it comes to the burn rate and supply chain.

YS: How do you see the economy and financial systems grow and come on the other side after this? 

DK: It’ll be a long and difficult road. But historically, every crisis has, in the end, created a better economy, greater efficiencies, and a more stable world. I see that happening with this crisis too. Like I said before, the banking industry and governments across the globe learnt a lot from the 2008 global financial crisis, and so you see banks across the world better equipped to handle this crisis. 

A critical area of focus for the future will be small and mid-segment industries and individuals. How the industry and environment reacts and moves towards financial inclusion will be the key aspect of growth from here. This will also help the world and economy better prepare for the future.

YS: What advice would you like to give startups for the post COVID-19 era?

DK: Startups should be prepared for businesses and economies to be altered forever. However, once we emerge from this, things will most likely never be the same. 

For example, the way we work, the way we spend money, our banking systems and the role of government and regulators will all be transformed. It’s the players that are prepared for the new world that will survive and thrive.

I would say, keep investing in your employees as they are the most important assets of an organisation. Agility and flexibility will help manoeuvre through the situation quickly, but the term I would like people to be aware of is ruthless prioritsation

I cannot stress enough how important this is for success both during and after the COVID-19 era as there will neither be the time nor the money to do everything companies wanted to do before this pandemic.

Edited by Megha Reddy