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"Digitisation begins in the mind"

Commerzbank wants to develop into a digital advisory bank.COO Jörg Hessenmüller sees the cloud as an enabler and believes in blockchain.

"Digitalisation is not another word for IT," says Jörg Hessenmüller. Everyone in the company has to understand that. "It's about much more than just technology. Digitalisation starts in people's heads." Since January 2019, Hessenmüller has been sitting on the Commerzbank Board of Managing Directors as Chief Operating Officer (COO) and is thus responsible for digital transformation and IT, among other areas.

©Patrick P. Palej

With the update of the corporate strategy in February 2021, the financial institution placed even more emphasis on topics such as customer proximity, digitalisation, profitability and sustainability. Once again, this means tough cuts for the employees. By 2024, the bank wants to cut 10,000 jobs and achieve a return on equity of seven per cent.

"Technology is changing customer behaviour," says the COO, explaining the developments in the financial sector. This creates potential for new business models, but also major challenges for traditionally positioned banks. This is currently particularly evident in Commerzbank's private customer business. Hessenmüller: "We are asking ourselves the question: How will we interact with the customer in the future?" The integration of Comdirect, which began in 2020, plays an important role in this. As a pure direct bank without a branch network, it has made a name for itself primarily in online banking and online brokerage. "Especially in terms of remote customer support, Comdirect is top," praises Hessenmüller.

The strengths of the parent company Commerzbank lie elsewhere. As a classic bank for medium-sized companies, it sees itself in a leading position in the German corporate banking market. But there is a lot going on in this market segment as well, as the COO reports. "We have to look at how we offer our banking services in the future." For example, in the future many more clients would be serviced remotely than before, i.e. no longer through branches. In the end, the aim is to combine Comdirect's strengths with those of Commerzbank. The big goal: "We want to become a digital advisory bank". To achieve this, the Frankfurt-based bank must also rebuild its technical basis. Hessenmüller sees the cloud as an enabler: "Cloud computing is a key technology for the digital transformation of Commerzbank.

Multicloud strategy

The financial services provider has been looking at cloud concepts since 2016. Based on previous experience, Hessenmüller decided on a hybrid multicloud strategy with the two major providers Microsoft and Google Cloud. "We didn't want to be dependent on a single cloud provider," he says, explaining the approach. Each hyperscaler has specific strengths and weaknesses. Google, for example, is currently very well positioned with its cloud services in areas such as big data, analytics and machine learning. He sees Microsoft's strengths at the moment in the area of Workplace and Office applications, for example. He gives another argument for the multicloud approach: with the help of container techniques, it is basically possible to move applications back and forth between the two hyperscalers.

The cloud strategy should also help the Frankfurt bankers to modernise their IT. Hessenmüller wants to migrate decentralised applications, i.e. "everything that does not run on the mainframe", to the cloud in the future. This could involve both private and public cloud environments. Classic transactional systems such as payment transactions or securities processing will continue to run on the company's own mainframes. The mainframe has proven to be a reliable system for such applications, argues the IT boss. (Computerwoche)



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