Pranjal Kothari on the Pace of Change

07 Jul, 2021

We used to say the only constant is change – think again! Pranjal Kothari is Chief Digital Officer and a member of the board at Sparkasse Bremen. He breaks down how we can prepare for a future of digitization and the importance of staying focused on customer needs throughout this shift

1. Which topics and issues drive today's business?

We have always said that the only constant is change. This is no longer true, because now even change itself is changing. It's not just about increasing speed; it's about accelerating faster. This has a fundamental impact on the whole society, and even affects our self-image as human beings – for example, AI, brain-machine interface and nanobiotechnology. Banking is "just" one of many building blocks in this massive wave of change.

 2 ... And what are the biggest challenges?

It's always a question of mindset: How does a successful company manage to bring people along with it and get them to do things differently in the future, even if they were successful in the past? If there is not acute time or financial pressure, most of us tend to ignore the abstract future risks. Part of this challenge is also the development of a new basic attitude, to include courage, a willingness to experiment and make mistakes, and continuously questioning one's own patterns.

3. What innovations and tech trends do you find particularly exciting?

In the short-term: Data, data, data - and by extension, new ideas and new business models.

In the long-term: “True” AI, immortality research in the field of biotechnology, genetic self-determination and the human brain and body directly interacting with machines.

4. Which ideas or thought leaders have inspired you recently?

There's a lot happening in real estate lately - it's fascinating to see how what is by definition an "analogue" industry is being completely turned on its head by digitalization. It’s crazy the things that are happening! Specifically, construction with 3D printing, automated and robotic/drone assisted construction processes, smart home technology, custom and innovative ownership, and financing models – for example tokenized real estate and instant financing – and much more.

One thought leader I find very inspiring is Frederic Laloux who is revolutionizing the world of work with new models of collaboration.

 5. Why do cultural change and digital transformation belong together?

For me, the two are inseparable. Here are two examples:

Firstly, if my company has not taken on board the value of allowing and experimenting with new things and overcoming old, proven processes and consciously taking new risks, I will miss out on the benefits and new opportunities.

Secondly, the best app and the smartest data analytics won't help my business if I am not aiming to solve pertinent customer problems and make their lives easier.

6. In one sentence, what's a topic that we should no longer be discussing in five years?

Banks needing more digitalization and sustainability.

7. What makes companies and their leadership successful in the long run?

In terms of companies, clarity about what my purpose and my “reason why” is: Why does my company make the world a better place?

In terms of leadership: The ability to convince and inspire not only the top-level management, but the entire company of this purpose. This will only work if I consistently align my strategy and actions with my purpose.

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