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SEB: Building the bank of the future through investment in people, processes, and technology

About SEB

SEB is a leading northern European financial services group founded in 1856. It has a presence in more than 20 countries and is staffed by more than 15,500 employees worldwide. The group has some 1.8 million corporate and private home bank customers and total assets of 3,304 billion Swedish kronor.

Industries: Financial Services & Insurance
Location: Sweden

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SEB partners with Google Cloud to stay at the forefront of technology innovation, while ensuring that it becomes an increasingly attractive employer for the talented people who power these processes.

Google Cloud results

  • Breaks down barriers between previously isolated parts of the organization
  • Supports a community of 1000 employees to learn more about Google Cloud
  • Provides extensive training on Google Cloud to all interested colleagues
  • Empowers developers to consider the cost aspect of their work
  • Enhances ability to improve security and meet regulatory obligations

Enables SEB to compete with startups and traditional rivals

Digital services are rapidly changing how people interact with financial institutions. It’s a crucial time for the financial services sector, with an ever-increasing gap between market leaders and those failing to meet changing customer demands. Decisions made in the next few years will likely determine the businesses that will emerge as victors. Swedish banking group SEB is committed and focused on ensuring that the 165-year-old institution is at the technological forefront.

"Technology plays a crucial role, and we see partnering with Google Cloud as the key enabler for us to fast-track our journey towards our 2030 strategy and the way banking is being transformed. The combination of successful business and new technology helps us attract and keep the best talent, which is why we continuously invest in our people with both the right tools and training," says Martina Wallenberg, Head of R&D and Transformation and Cloud Tribe Lead at SEB.

"We see partnering with Google Cloud as the key enabler for us to fast-track our journey towards our 2030 strategy and the way banking is being transformed."

Martina Wallenberg, Head of R&D and Transformation and Cloud Tribe Lead, SEB

Enabling a people-centered approach

People are a key component to the proper functioning of SEB. That’s why it’s evolving its culture and ways of working to equip them with the right tools and knowledge to succeed. Isac Andersson, Solution Architect at SEB, believes that communication is key to achieving this. SEB has created a community that brings people together who are already familiar with similar functions to those found in their new Google Cloud tech stack. Around 1000 people are active participants; roughly a third of the engineers and technicians working at SEB. The company encourages colleagues to take the time to learn how the new technology operates, ensuring that they feel supported in adopting it. And technology champions, who are even more deeply invested in Google Cloud tools and approaches, are a key driving force in this community. They’re responsible for sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm with the wider team.

SEB provides educational and training opportunities for anyone keen to learn more about Google Cloud. In 2021, it organized a 12-week training course that was attended by 100 people, including system architects, tech leads, and other specialists. They were given access to self-directed study tools, as well weekly virtual deep-dive sessions led by experts from Google Cloud. Participants were also offered the opportunity to consolidate everything they had learned through Professional Cloud Architect certification. SEB is now planning further sessions, due to the popularity and success of the initial course, which 70% of participants completed.

Part of the rationale for this approach is to ensure that SEB colleagues are invested in the future of the company. In the context of the so-called Great Resignation and its perceived effects on the tech sector, it’s more important than ever that companies are able to retain the talent and the expertise they have developed. "Every organization will have people who are happy with the way things were, so there's always the risk of losing people," says Victor Bodell, Product Owner for Public Cloud at SEB, adding: "But you have to trust in people if you want to empower them, giving them greater responsibility as well as the tools they need. If you want someone to build your house, you don’t just give them a screwdriver, you give them everything they need to do the job properly. For us, that is what Google Cloud provides."

Driving digital innovation in financial services

In Scandinavian nations like Sweden, stringent regulations are in place to protect economic stability and customers’ money. SEB works hard to ensure that the technology team’s enthusiasm for better ways of working is balanced with a proper appraisal of the impact changes may have. And partnering with Google Cloud makes this process easier. "It can be easy to feel like, 'can't we just go faster?'" adds Bodell. "But if you’re not including security and compliance considerations, you’re not making progress or gaining anything. You need a holistic approach that takes the bigger picture into consideration. We owe that level of responsibility to our customers and, as a financial institution, to society as a whole."

Google Cloud enables a high degree of automation in meeting these obligations, Andersson says, and SEB has adopted a collaborative, consensus-led approach to its transformation journey. This mirrors international perceptions of the Nordic Model of consensus-led democracies found in the region. And, it ensures that less technologically-driven teams understand the implications of the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of any changes, as well as their likely impacts. It aims to ensure that all angles are considered before changes are made. And, while it may take longer, Bodell says it ensures that potential concerns that may arise are acknowledged and addressed, protecting the business and its stakeholders.

Empowering technological transformation

In a sector that’s traditionally seen as slow to respond to change, SEB has been an early adopter of new digital tools and techniques. But that led to a high degree of decentralization and disconnection between parts of the group. SEB explored a number of cloud-based platforms to address these challenges before choosing Google Cloud.

"We have a lot of benefits from having a fairly decentralized, customer- and business-centric domain division in the Group," says William Milisic, Cloud Transformation Lead, SEB. "But the only way for that to scale properly is through Google Cloud, rather than the traditional on-premises infrastructure we used for more than 50 years. It empowers DevOps for our autonomous teams, giving them more responsibility and ownership while still ensuring that they are supported by central teams responsible for various aspects of the Cloud platform."

One way SEB has put this innovation into practice is through its next-generation banking platform, SEBx, built from the ground up in Google Cloud. It’s also testing a finance and risk data platform.

"Google Cloud is built to address the silo issue. It's an integrated experience that provides a base layer upon which everything else can be built. We have a centralized overview, and individuals can work together seamlessly. Compared to our traditional IT setup, that’s a real game-changer."

Victor Bodell, Product Owner for Public Cloud, SEB.

Measuring successful changes

Google Cloud is helping SEB colleagues to connect, particularly when it comes to better understanding the financial implications of decisions taken around technology. It’s also empowering developers to consider the cost aspect of their work, by providing reports on the financial impacts of any work.

"Google Cloud is built to address the silo issue," says Bodell. "It's an integrated experience that provides a base layer upon which everything else can be built. We have a centralized overview, and individuals can work together seamlessly. Compared to our traditional IT setup, that’s a real game-changer."

SEB also leverages Google Cloud to ensure that the data it stores and processes is properly protected. It uses Security Command Center to provide the team with centralized visibility and control of its systems, as well as reports measuring its compliance obligations, identification of potential misconfigurations, and enhanced threat detection. It also uses the Organization Policy Service to ensure that the right people have the right level of access to resources, at the right time.

Reflecting on lessons learned

Partnering with Google Cloud is quickly transforming the way SEB does business. But the team acknowledges that this is only the beginning of the journey. They particularly value the patience, flexibility, and high degree of strategic support they receive from the team at Google Cloud, receiving hands-on advice on functionality, best-practice, and the latest features. And SEB shares its industry expertise with Google Cloud, providing invaluable insights along the way.

"Our partnership with Google Cloud is mutually beneficial," says Nicolas Moch, CIO SEB Group. "We embrace the forefront of technology that Google Cloud creates, and we share what we know about working in a highly regulated industry, and what products and services we need to drive our business forward."

Petra Ålund, Head of Group Technology adds: "With this sort of transformation, patience really is a virtue. We’re constantly learning with the support of Google Cloud, navigating potential technological roadblocks, as well as the demands of meeting our regulatory obligations."

In the next stage of its journey, SEB is keen to further investigate the role played by data, as well as how this can be used to offer customers better services and advice, while adding financial value to the business. The team is applying Google Cloud solutions to make this happen, including BigQuery.

"Our goal is to become a fully data-driven organization," says Anderson. "And the data ecosystem offering from Google Cloud is unmatched. We’re applying the products offered to use data as an improvement to our customer-facing products and services, but also to automate and improve internal processes for cost-savings and optimizations. As an example, BigQuery allows us to ask questions like, 'What is our most profitable customer?', 'Which are our most popular products?', 'What is the customer satisfaction of a certain geography?', all while providing additional data on how data will be processed from a certain query, what will it cost to run, and what resources are required to run it. That's a huge benefit for improving how we control costs and optimize our processes. It's about taking ownership of what you consume and what you spend, while simultaneously understanding our customer behaviors."

"Our goal is to become a fully data-driven organization, and the data ecosystem offering from Google Cloud is unmatched. We’re applying the products offered to use data as an improvement to our customer-facing products and services, but also to automate and improve internal processes for cost-savings and optimizations."

Isac Andersson, Solution Architect, SEB

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About SEB

SEB is a leading northern European financial services group founded in 1856. It has a presence in more than 20 countries and is staffed by more than 15,500 employees worldwide. The group has some 1.8 million corporate and private home bank customers and total assets of 3,304 billion Swedish kronor.

Industries: Financial Services & Insurance
Location: Sweden