Interview: Eric Crabtree Says Unisys’ Elevate Platform Can Be an Omnichannel Game-Changer for Banks
U.S.-based information technology company Unisys has made its name offering services, software, and technology solutions in a host of industries. To further expand upon its wide array of business in Colombia, executives from the firm recently gathered at the Asobancaria conference in Cartagena.
Among other ventures, Unisys was there to launch its new banking solution Elevate. The offering is an onmichannel platform that aims to improve the customer experience and enhance the service delivery that banks can offer across mobile, online, phone, and in-person interactions.
To share more details about Elevate, financial sector security, and Unisys’ fintech strategy, Eric Crabtree, global head of financial services at Unisys, recently sat down with Loren Moss, executive editor of Finance Colombia.
Photo: Loren Moss (left) of Finance Colombia speaks with Eric Crabtree (right) of Unisys about the information technology company’s new Elevate customer service platform. (Credit: Unisys)
Loren Moss: So I believe the last time we met, about a year ago, you were just starting in this role?
Eric Crabtree: Yes, as vice president and global head of financial services for the company. I’ve been with the company for about 14 months. It’s been a very fast year — a lot of changes at Unisys, for the better I think.
When we last spoke, the company was going through the process of really verticalizing our business. We were focusing on key areas and key industries, in terms of public sector work, commercial, and financial services.
I look after financial services for the company. I develop our approach and all the strategy, and then I work with the individual regions and actually go out and implement everything. I work with clients to offer the products and solutions that fit their needs.
Loren Moss: Unisys has just announced a new financial product called Elevate. Can you give me an overview of that product? Who is it directed toward? What does it do? Who would use it and why?
Eric Crabtree: Sure. That’s a lot of questions — good ones. Elevate by Unisys is an omnichannel banking platform. As you know, my background was not fully in technology. I grew up in banking.
I worked for retail and commercial banks around the globe, and one of the challenges that we always had — when attracting more customers, retaining customers, and improving customer experience — was that we tend to develop as a bank in the “multi-channel” way, so to speak. So if we wanted to launch a new product to a branch, we would develop it for the branch. Or we would develop it for the call center. We would develop it for internet banking. Mobile came along, and we would develop it for mobile.
We never really integrated solutions. Banks traditionally haven’t. So you ended up with a fragmented customer experience.
What Elevate by Unisys offers is really, like I said, an omnichannel platform. It has a front-end digital component, so a customer can bank using a laptop, tablet, mobile, or any other device. Or they may continue to interact with the branch or a contact center.
Now, you might ask: What’s different about that compared to what other companies are providing? The difference in our product is we have what we call an aggregate that can essentially take data from other sources — banking, other external sources — and then it presents that information to the channel in a consistent manner.
So, a customer may start a process online, typically doing research at home. Or he might start an application, but then get stuck and go into the branch for assistance. In the past, everything from that previous attempt would be lost. The branch would start over.
With Elevate, all of that information is captured and passed through to any channel that the customer chooses to interact with. So you can start one channel — if you wanted to do it at home — and then go into a branch and essentially complete the transaction. And you wouldn’t be starting over.
We’re targeting it at retail banks. We focus on tier-two, tier-three banks in our larger markets, which typically turn out to be tier-one banks in our smaller markets. We currently have 125 customers that use our aggregator platform so we’ve reached out and partnered with two fintech firms to provide the digital front-end component.
Essentially, it’s an open platform that we think really changes the game for retail banks.
Loren Moss: How long has the product been on the market? Is it available globally, or in what regions?
Eric Crabtree: We first launched the product in Asia-Pacific in the first quarter of this year. Part of my trip to Colombia was to launch the product here in Latin America. We had a launch event in Mexico recently. We’re in Colombia, going to Brazil, and we launch in the U.S.
So, it is a global solution platform that we’ll be running, which makes it fun. It’s transferable across our regions. You know, a lot of times there are regional differences. There always will be. But in this particular case, the phone has been a game-changer and there’s so much similarity across the globe in the way people want to interact with their bank that it really doesn’t matter what region we’re at.
Loren Moss: We have recently seen a large global ransomware attack. How are the risks that banks face changing? Because before, a bank had to secure its own systems. It seems that, now, they actually have to work on protecting their consumers and they must defend against their own consumers’ innocent but dangerous behavior. How does that complicate the offering of these services to banks?
Eric Crabtree: I think it makes it complicated in a different way. Attacks were always prevalent. I think back to when I was working in a bank. We had attacks. They were just more physical attacks. People walking into the bank and actually robbing the bank.
Now, like you mentioned, with the digital age, the attacks are coming in the form of cyber. So our view is that we focus on two areas: One is being proactive in security, and then the other is reactive.
From a proactive perspective, we use predictive analytics, such as monitoring the capabilities to identify where we think attacks might occur for a bank. We also use multi-layers of authentication: anything from voice biometrics, fingerprint biometrics, facial recognition, user name and password. They can all be different based on the type of transaction. That will determine the level of security that you need.
If you’re just going to look up your balance, for example, you may just need a touch ID and a fingerprint. If you’re going to transfer $50,000 from your personal investment account to another investment account, they’re probably going to want a lot more information about you through a more detailed authentication to make sure it’s really you. So, that’s how we look at it from a front-end perspective.
Now, the reality is, as much as anyone tries, hackers will get in. So, like you mentioned, we’ve seen that. So, the back end, on the reactive perspective, we also use analytics to understand where threats have happened and how we can respond quickly. And when I say “we,” I mean we help our clients respond quickly.
We also use our portfolio of Stealth products. I don’t know if you’re aware of our Stealth security.
Loren Moss: Is that the micro-segmentation?
Eric Crabtree: Micro-segmentation. Once a hacker gets in, what that does is it basically atomizes the data and allows it to be clustered based on a user’s access rights. So if a hacker gets in they won’t have rights. It really limits the amount of damage they can do, whereas in the past, a hacker could get in and they could ruin a lot.
So, that’s really our approach to security, and our philosophy. It’s paramount. I mean, for us it’s a license to trade — and I think for a bank it is too. If you’re not secure, people aren’t going to trust you, and then you’re going to lose business. So we take it very seriously.
Loren Moss: Tell me how financial innovation — fintech disruptive firms — have changed the marketplace. Obviously, it’s not a threat to Unisys, but it is certainly changing not only how your bank clients behave, but I would imagine it creates some new opportunities because some of these types of companies would probably also be potential clients.
How do you see the marketplace changing with these companies? For example, PayPal is part of the establishment now, right? But a dozen years ago, they were a disruptive company, and now we see other ones that are coming along that are changing things. In some cases, they are challenging the banks directly by offering cloud-source loans and things like that. How does that change Unisys’ approach to financial services?
Eric Crabtree: On a macro level, I really like the fintechs. I think they have disrupted the market. They’ve helped put the customer in even more control. Because the customer right now has more choice than they almost ever had before.
Like you said, they may not need to go to a bank for a loan. They can go to a cloud source and get a loan that way. So, I think it improves competition, giving the customers more choice.
I think they are also interesting in the fact that they have less of a legacy and lower constant capital. It’s easier for them to start off and make changes — and make them quicker, which adds to their success.
On the flip side, what I’ve seen — not only while being in a bank but while being at Unisys — is that most fintechs have a hard time scaling. They have one product, or a niche, and they’re very good at that and they can offer that to a small set of clients. But they have a hard time scaling.
So, that creates the opportunity for cooperation and partnership. You’re seeing a lot of banks now create incubators, right? Accelerators. And they’re bringing these fintech firms in house by saying, “design me the newest product and then help us scale that up.”
In addition, it creates opportunities for technology companies — like us — to partner. So, as I mentioned with Elevate, we’ve partnered with two fintech firms, because it’s allowed us to get the “best of breed” from a technical capability. But it also allowed us to get to market quicker with the product.
Our team definitely could have built it. But the time it would have taken us just would have been a bit longer. So I think you’ll see a lot of partnership and cooperation.
This interview has been edited for space and clarity.