Agile way of working in SME Banking

Marcin Kryszen
Marcin Kryszen

ING implemented an agile way of working to deal with customer demands more quickly. This new way of working gives the teams end-to-end responsibility for a customer functionality.

ING Netherlands introduced an agile way of working in 2015. ING Bank Śląski in Poland was one of the first banks to implement agile methodology on the Polish market. Olena Gryniuk asks Marcin Kryszen, Executive Bank Director responsible for SME/MC Digital Transformation at ING Bank Śląski, how the agile approach is working at the Bank.

How did you arrive at this transformation? And what are its primary goals?

The world is changing faster than we could have imagined a few decades ago. Technology has a greater impact on our lives than ever before. Uncertainty and complexity in our environment are growing at an exponential pace. If we want to keep up with that pace, we have to learn to change and adapt. I believe that continuous education and improvement are crucial elements of not only modern organizations but also in each of our lives. At ING our purpose is to empower people to stay a step ahead in life and in business. We want to help others navigate that complex environment, providing our customers with the most effective solutions. To do so, we have to be more flexible.

The agile transformation started a couple of years ago as a way to help us achieve those goals. One of the first projects in SME/MC based on the agile way of working involved internet and mobile banking system development – ING Business. Interdisciplinary teams, consisting of both business and IT, worked together on a daily basis sharing common targets and responsibilities. After its successful implementation, we decided to move forward with the agile way of working on a larger scale. In June 2017, we implemented it in our SME/MC Division.

How do you define agility?

The rapid development of digital technologies has changed all of our behaviors and expectations. To meet those expectations, we have to build an organization which is able to continuously improve. The ability to quickly create solutions tailored to the needs of our clients and the pace of implementation are the key.

Make your clients the central priority. Try to understand and address their problems. Experiment and modify your hypothesis as fast as possible. Do not be afraid of failures, but learn from them. This is where agility comes in. Agility is about people, their entrepreneurial spirit, cooperation and empowerment to change things. The ultimate goal of the transformation is to influence organizational culture and peoples’ mindset.

How many people use the agile approach at the Bank? Can you describe how many people work in each “squad” within the tribes and what their functions are?

At ING Bank Śląski, over 1,000 people work in an agile way right now. But it’s a process of continuous change. Since last year in the SME/MC, we have five tribes, including business, IT, operations and financial representatives. Tribes are organized around a specific subject and internally are divided into squads of about 7-10 people. Each squad has a dedicated product owner and works on a separate backlog. Apart from that, we have chapters responsible for areas like e.g. user experience and customer intelligence which support the whole structure. The transformation process is supported by agile coaches who help us on a daily basis with this new way of working.


How exactly is agile working in SME banking within the Bank? Could you please give us an example of the products implemented as a result of the agile approach?

For me the most impressive example of the success of the agile way of working is our internet banking system for SME/MC development – ING Business. All parties, including business, IT and an external vendor, are organized in one Agile Center (tribe) and within it 7 scrums – small autonomous teams with end-to-end responsibility for the specific functionalities of the system.

But right now you can find examples everywhere, from internal systems like the CRM to the new product implantations like internet sales of insurance products to SM/MC.

What are the main steps or elements of the agile transformation?

Like with every transformation, the most important thing is to answer the question “why are we doing this?” That should be the main focus throughout the process.

Agile is very helpful but it’s not a magical cure for every challenge we face. You have to align with your strategy and goals. Decide what part of the organization should be included. Verify whether your current process and IT infrastructure are ready. Focus on transparent communication and team education. Make sure to involve people from the very beginning. Finally, give yourself time to adjust and make space for errors. You will learn and improve as you go along.

How do you measure the impact of agile implementation?

Agile is a way of working that is as good as the results it brings. It is difficult to find clear and straightforward performance indicators.

I can list a couple of areas when I think about successful agile implementation. From my perspective, these are customer satisfaction, personnel engagement and satisfaction and the pace of delivery of new product/services. We have been closely monitoring them for years and we saw better results within the first months after implementing a new way of working.

But these do not change overnight. A lot of effort, continuous learnings and adjustments are still needed. Transformation is a process, but I’m convinced that we are on the right path.