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SEB - A Bank in Transformation

Illustration of bank standing on a pile of red boxes

Dying bureaucracies or agile key players to count on? The opinions about banks are many. If you ask me, Martina Wallenberg, Head of R&D and Transformation at SEB, they will continue to play an important role. But to succeed, significant changes are required.

In my role as Head of R&D and Transformation at SEB, I lead and develop some of the most crucial areas in adapting the bank to a future financial landscape – focusing on open banking, R&D, and the overall cloud transformation. Read my view on the bank's challenging, but exciting, journey ahead and the necessary steps to take.

Modern banking

A bank's natural position is to take on and manage risk. Saving, loaning and paying, and always supporting our customers, have always been and will continue to be our core. But when we look at a bank from a historical point of view, little to no changes were made regarding the several industrial revolutions hitting other industries. For years, the banks kept their static and manual ways of working. But as the rest of the world evolves and becomes more digital, things start to change very quickly.

The turnover within technology is said to be about three months, and it's probably speeding up. The changes those turnovers include are often big – new products and services, and companies that are breaking ground in how to handle customers, manage processes, or operate infrastructure. Larger organisations are becoming more digitalised, and we see an increase in the use of automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud services in order to simplify and improve both internal and external processes.

I believe that SEB plays an essential part in this development, especially as a leading wholesale bank among large corporate and institutional clients. To maintain our position as a trusted third party, the bank needs to transform itself and become more modern, because we need to provide support in this new, digital ecosystem.

What does it take to transform?

Establishing a wider knowledge of our customers, their behaviours and what they expect from us as a bank is crucial. This is the only way to better understand how we can meet their expectations when interacting with us through different services. This also introduces several, and oftentimes new, technological areas where we need to improve. Tools such as APIs, cloud and unprecedented creation of data need to be used to create greater value for our customers. And we need to keep the pace.

To create these changes, we also need engagement and commitment on every level of the bank. In my opinion, every employee needs to engage themselves and understand how their actions affect this new ecosystem. This is especially important when working in an ecosystem where we often need to interact with three, four or even five different parties at the same time. Being welcoming to these new changes within the company is therefore a very important internal factor when it comes to working on this transformation.

These changes also call for new talents and competencies. I, for example, have a background in finance and worked with liquidity statements and analysis when I first started at SEB. You could say that even I have transformed myself since I now work with digitalisation and strategy. So, the opportunities to network and learn about the different departments and areas here at SEB are many, which I believe is one of our strengths when it comes to creating change. This gives us broad knowledge about each other within the company and establishes a very open culture. With so many changes happening in the banking industry, it's the best time to be working here.

SEB's position

Banks are key players in societal growth, and we need to encourage change while still being a trusted resilient counterpart. SEB is part of a great ecosystem where we can help make these imperative changes. We exist to help our customers finance their investments, enable their transactions, and to a certain extent, be a sounding board when they develop within their businesses. We are here to make sure that all parties can exist and achieve their goals.

New products and services within customer understanding, open banking and data analytics will keep evolving. Even though our traditional core as a bank will continue to be mostly the same, we can no longer use our historical knowledge in this new financial landscape in the same way. I like to describe this by saying that a large part of the banking industry is in a phase where what got you here won't always take you there. And now we go further.