When it comes to picking up new skills and technology, Nisha Karanakaran believes in walking the talk. In fact, she is more tech-savvy than most people her age because her mantra is “if you don’t try, you will never know”. This attitude is what helped her stay ahead of the curve when it comes to embracing digital changes, and to excel at what she does.
Nisha is 54 this year and has been with DBS Bank since 1988, but that doesn’t mean she can’t pick up new skills. She has moved from processing credit control paperwork in the backroom to serving customers face-to-face on the frontline. Today, she is the floor manager of her branch where she tackles the new frontier of banking – helping convert customers to the use of digital banking platforms.
And with over 30 years’ experience working in a bank, Nisha knows more clearly than most that the only constant in the industry is change. After all, she has seen it in person.
Easing Customers’ Fear of Technology
Nisha’s main responsibility as floor manager is to shorten queue times and make sure that customers are receiving help in the most efficient manner. Most of the time, this means introducing them to digital banking platforms that can help them resolve their issues without needing to see a teller. The variety of digital banking platforms in Nisha’s arsenal of knowledge includes video teller machines (DBS was the first to use this technology), mobile banking apps, AXS machines, and more.
“In the past, when customers request for statements, we needed to refer to something called Microfiche. That was really manual, it will take at least a week or two before we can get a statement for the customer,” Nisha reminisces. “Now, everything is uploaded digitally and you can print immediately whenever the customer requests. Customers now are also becoming more digital savvy, and it’s a smoother and faster journey in terms of [meeting their] banking needs.”
The biggest barriers to digitalisation amongst customers, Nisha notes, are lack of awareness and a “fear of machines”. That’s where she comes in – to reassure them and walk them through the processes personally, whether they’re looking to make a cash transfer, update their address, or pay their bills.
“I have a lot of customers who are very fearful of using the internet because they feel that it’s not safe,” says Nisha. “I tell them, ‘No one’s going to hack into your account unless you yourself share your PIN and user ID!’ “
Taking Charge of Change
One of the big myths surrounding technology and digitalisation is that the elderly are resistant to change, and Nisha dispels that immediately.
“I do see elderly couples coming in [to the branch] nowadays to ask how to use PayLah,” she shares. “Yeah! They themselves want to know what is PayLah, what is PayNow.”
She also shares how she taught an elderly couple how to use DBS’s eAng Bao over Chinese New Year to send QR red packets to their loved ones.
“I was very surprised, not many people took to it initially, but this elderly couple were into it and they were quickly scanning [their eAng Baos] and asking me how to see which ones were topped up.”
As someone in her 50s, Nisha’s main advice to fellow mature workers looking to keep up with technology is to simply practice, practice, practice. “Besides [going for] training and all those things, the best is to just experience it yourself,” she says emphatically.
“The only way to keep up with [technology] is to try it. Just do it.”
Nisha hopes that her fellow mature workers in the industry will embrace more opportunities to upskill and adapt, as she has, and realise that learning can be rewarding and satisfying no matter your life stage.
In fact, Nisha is proud of her digital savviness and excitement to learn (she’s interested in moving to Taiwan because she thinks she will enjoy the challenge of picking up a new language!), and considers these her biggest assets as an employee – mature or not.
Solving Customers’ Problems with a Smile
Despite the challenges in customer service, assisting customers and helping to resolve their issues is what makes the job enjoyable for Nisha.
“I still do have a lot of customers who come in and they do expect immediate resolution.” Nisha laughs, “In the past, of course such customers were handled by the managers. But nowadays with such a crowd coming in, managers are very busy. So I just say ‘let me help you with that.’ You focus on them and you give your sole attention to them and they will cool down. They will realise that we’re trying to help you.”
Be it through the old-fashioned way or the new digital methods, Nisha has become adept at sussing out just what her customers need, and address their concerns readily and swiftly without breaking a sweat. This has only been made possible through her existing skills and years of experience, plus leveraging her digital savviness.
So I’m proud of, in the sense that I’m very happy, to be able to find solutions for them, and also being able to interact with customers. I can see what customer wants, somehow like you know, read customers.
Putting Learning into Practice
Nisha’s brush with the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) was brief but significant. The main purpose of her training was to give her greater breadth and depth of knowledge of DBS’s financial products. As she was already experienced with most of her bank’s digital banking products and processes, her training only lasted five days – but it had a big impact on her work.
Nisha now has a much better grasp and a more complete picture of the bank’s various consumer banking services, from wealth management and investment products, to CPF and SRS matters – and this has boosted her confidence when she interacts with her branch customers.
The digitalisation of banking processes means that customers are coming to the bank with novel problems, some of which Nisha may not have ready solutions for. However, her PCP experience has given her a renewed confidence at tackling these problems face-on.
“Customers do come up with some new issues which you’ve never come across but because of the training, I know there’s always a way to settle it. So it’s just a matter of finding what went wrong, how can we assist.”
And for her efforts and enthusiasm to continually keep up with technological changes, she was presented with the IBF Outstanding Financial Services Professional Award in 2019, which recognises individuals from financial institutions who have been exemplary role models for adaptability and transformation. The award has made her “more confident, more inclined” to continue learning.
IBF’s Professional Conversion Programme is supported by Workforce Singapore (WSG), and is aimed at PMETs who are keen to undergo skills conversion to move into new sectors or occupations with growth and advancement opportunities.
It provides structured training and financial support to employers and employees respectively, to help them tackle the challenges associated with the rapid transformation of the banking industry.
Being a frontline advocate of digitalisation in banking, Nisha hopes that more employers will give mature workers the opportunity and time to learn digital and technological skills. Given the chance, mature workers have so much to bring to any organisation. Their years of knowledge and customer nous will only be enhanced by learning new skills and adding a new perspective to a constantly digitalising industry.
Keen to transition your career into the banking and finance industry? Speak to a career adviser at The Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF) to learn about the opportunities available to you.
This article is part of a series of stories on PMETs who have gone through an upskilling or reskilling transformation journey within the banking and finance industry.