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Technology transformation and innovation

In 2020 we continued to make significant progress against our commitment to ensure that our services are resilient, simple and efficient, both now and in the future.  

Covid-19 meant that we had to adapt quickly to ensure we delivered our services to customers as and when they needed them. We ensured our platforms scaled so that home working was made available to over 50,000 colleagues, enabling 5,000 contact centre staff to work safely and virtually on a continuing basis. We also supported standing up new products for our customers quickly to support government sponsored schemes, such as the Covid-19 Business Interruption Loans (CBILs) and Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) arrangements. All of this was done to ensure the stability, security and resilience of our technology as we understand the crucialness of these pillars in helping us to deliver outstanding service.

Running resilient services

We continue to make improvements to the resilience and availability of our services. In 2020, we have seen consistent high performance and stability of our most critical systems, which have been available 99.98% of the time. Our Criticality 1 incidents [*] have further reduced to 8 in 2020, compared to 14 in 2019. This is a 43% reduction.  

[*] Criticality 1 incidents are those which have an adverse impact on the service our customers receive from the bank.

Protecting our customers

In addition to providing a resilient service, we are committed to being safe and secure for our customers. We do this by continually educating our colleagues on security, cyber and fraud prevention in order to advise customers and keep them safe. We delivered 273 security awareness seminars and events for around 11,000 customers, colleagues and industry peers in 2020.  

We are working harder than ever to keep our customers safe and secure. It is vital we protect their money, their personal information and the services they rely on. 

In 2019, we added the debit card lock and unlock tool to our mobile app, to accompany the 2018 credit card lock, as well as adding the ability to specifically prevent the use of a customer’s credit card for gambling. Additionally, we have introduced functionality that rejects suspected fraudulent users who apply for a credit card on an unknown device.

Improving the customer experience through technology

Know My Credit Score

We continue to improve the innovative technology that powers our customer experience and ensures we respond quicker and smarter to customers’ needs. For example, ‘Know My Credit Score’, where through technology in our mobile app and our collaboration with TransUnion, we were the first UK bank to provide a view of a customer’s credit score enabling discussion and management of credit and financial health. Over 2.8 million customers opted in, with this number increasing by ~4,500 a day.

Spending Tab - Being Better Off

We’ve also introduced technology allowing spending categorisation, data insights and analysis of customers’ transactions within our mobile app.

With more than 4.2 million customers using this technology regularly, and more than 6.5 million insights generated, we are empowering them to make financial, budgeting and savings decisions. We are also piloting the UK’s first biometric payment fob. This enables our customers to make contactless payments up to £100, conveniently and safely with just their fingerprint, and no need for a PIN. 

The bank has also launched the UK’s first faster payments clearing Application Programming Interface (API) allowing a real time, 24/7 instantaneous payment capability for customers. 

Our market leading B2B Asset Finance digital journey enables customers to build a bespoke quote, check our business rules, receive an interest rate tailored to their individual risk profile, obtain an instant credit decision for transactions up to £250,000 and make balloon payments - a larger repayment amount per month.

Info SAFE

In Q1 2020 we introduced Info SAFE, the bank’s data principles have helped shape our Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence framework by ensuring that Fairness Assessments (making sure we treat customers in a way that is consistent with our values) complement our GDPR Data Privacy Impact Assessment.

The NatWest Ethics Working Group has also considered several Info SAFE questions on the fair use of data and models. These are wide ranging and include reviewing projects which involve identification of customers’ supply chain to supporting universities and government with UK high level consumer spend data in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

During 2020, we have been looking at how we review models to ensure outputs that the models create are fair and ethical. These have included a money mules detection Machine Learning model which utilises historic account activity of money mules accounts, along with many other data inputs. Prior to production, this model was reviewed and refined through our fairness assessment. Since implementation this model has helped to increase money mules’ detection rates on accounts.

Building innovation culture and capability

Customers expect their financial service needs to be met by organisations that are easy to interact with, error-free, and technically secure. This is reflected in our Regulators’ demands to ensure banks deliver products and services in a safe and secure manner. Customers should be able to control how their data is used and the level to which it can be shared with others. They demand ongoing transparency of service and data use in our offerings both in retail and corporate banking. 

In serving our customers we leverage our growing network of global partnerships, which are part of our overall innovation ecosystem, to find safe, secure solutions that bring the service advantage our customers require. Proving key to our success is the continuing importance of our Innovation Forum. This year we further invested in significant initiatives and retained our focus on our larger programmes including our digital bank, Tyl, and Mettle.

We remain at the forefront of customer centric service developments including human digital interface technologies, quantum computing and distributed ledger technologies, all of which are considered critical solutions to help support our customers.