Alloy Labs: driving innovation within banking
Jason Henrichs, CEO and Co-Founder of Alloy Labs, describes how the consortium is facilitating collaboration between banks through tech and innovation.
Formed in 2018, Alloy Labs is a consortium of over 40 leading community and mid-sized US banks working together to adopt new technology, drive innovation and shorten the path between the conception and implementation of ideas. Jason Henrichs, CEO and Co-Founder, informs us that, by combined assets Alloy Labs ranks as one of the top 25 banks in the US. A FinTech pioneer with a wealth of valuable experience in thought leadership and collaboration with top-tier companies, Henrichs is well-placed at the helm of an organisation that reaches over 30mn consumers and 6mn SMBs.
“At the moment there is a digital arms race taking place, where the largest banks and some of the more specialised or most profitable banks are noticeably further ahead in their digital transformation,” he explains. “However, the small and medium sized banks are at a disadvantage: they haven't raised hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital to fund their development and they don’t have the balance sheet, tech teams and incubators like larger players do. By working together, they can be both more efficient and effective at what they do.”
Digital transformation is taking hold in the banking sector; what was once viewed as a purely cosmetic process undertaken by a few now holds revolutionary potential. This is in no small part, Henrichs points out, because of the COVID-19 pandemic which illustrated how all-pervasive digital technology in finance could be. As the first wave focused on user interface gives way to a second phase overhauling back office processes, Alloy Labs is helping to foster the greater utilisation of data through AI (artificial intelligence) based automation and embedded financial experiences. “If you look at even the challenger banks of today, they are mobile and technology first but they still look and feel a lot like traditional checking, savings and spending accounts,” he continues. “When we get to the third wave - business model transformation - we're going to see some very interesting things.”
Identifying Quontic Bank as an example of an organisation quick to comprehend the value of coordinated collaboration, Henrichs compliments the company’s dedication. “Quontic Bank has been great: it’s jumped right in with both feet and said, ‘Hey, we're interested in partnering with others, learning from them and contributing knowledge too’.” Frequently working side-by-side, members of Alloy Labs have been able to help Patrick Sells, CIO, navigate specific industry and technical requirements as Quontic Bank develops its ‘true digital bank’ concept. Conversely, Quontic Bank’s experience with APIs, contactless payments and cultural transformation adds significant value to Alloy Lab’s other members.
The cornerstone of Alloy Labs’ approach is ‘understanding’: what are the challenges of the modern banking sector, what is the customer’s perspective and how can things be better? It is by grouping together and finding answers to these difficult questions that Alloy Labs has helped Quontic Bank and many others formulate a roadmap for the future. “What is the role of a branch?” asks Henrichs. “It's not going away, but it will look different; it will serve a different purpose. Alloy Labs believes in focusing on the things that will really differentiate and lead to growth. That's because new customers have new needs and they don't see them through the lens of a traditional banking relationship anymore.”
How changing your company's software code can prevent bias
Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day.
Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization.
Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.
Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?
We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization
What impact can exclusive terms have on employees?
Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.
Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code
Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!
What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?
What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.
What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology?
My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve.