Wendy Redshaw: The Powerful VOICE of Leadership

Wendy Redshaw, Chief Digital Information Officer, Retail BankingNatWest Group

The “Digital Future” leader simultaneously drives forward significant shifts in delivery of digital outcomes for business and technology, and enables people to develop and flourish.   This style of leadership is innovative, energised and energising, and challenges the status-quo through positive disruption.  Exhibiting servant leadership qualities, and being actively mindful of the impact they are role modelling, they exist between, within and around both business and technology – deliberately and purposefully.  Wendy Redshaw embodies such a leadership style, and exhibits this consistently at NatWest Group where she is the Chief Digital Information Officer for the Retail Bank.

Wendy’s remit covers Retail Banking digital and technology across NatWest, Royal Bank and Ulster Bank, ensuring focus on customer journeys and unlocking value across Home Buying and Ownership, Everyday Banking, Short Term Borrowing, Digital Channels, New Customer Propositions, Shared Experience, and Physical Channels. Wendy and her teams are committed to pioneering digitalisation, reuse, and innovation while focusing on efficiency, safety, and simplification of the digital and technology estate.

A dynamic leader in the Financial sector, Wendy is a recognised role model, having been most recently awarded CIO/CDIO of the Year at the EveryWoman Tech Awards in March 2021 and was named in HotTopics/Hewlett Packard’s Chief Digital Officer Top 100 in February 2022. Wendy also holds a non-executive Director position for NatWest Trustee & Depository Services, is a Member of the Board of Directors for RoosterMoney, a newly acquired youth proposition, and is on the Board of Trustees of TechSheCan, a charity with the aim to enable women to play an equal role in how our world works, looks, thinks and feels. 

Sprouting Roots

A blend of engineering creativity shaped Wendy’s career, enhancing her skillsets in the ever-changing innovative digital landscape. After graduating with a degree in Mathematics from Imperial College, she began her career as a software engineer specializing in Knowledge Engineering and Human-Computer Interaction, recognizing the powerful combinations that humans, computers, and businesses could bring.

Wendy’s entrepreneurial spirit led her to create a FinTech start-up, developing a derivatives system adopted by 14 of top-tier banks.  With momentum in her early career building, she further went on to become a part of the team that created Egg Bank, which was one of the UK’s first telephone and internet-only banks.  Wendy continued to lead numerous strategic business/technology digital programmes for top banks in the UK and Europe via her consultancies before joining Deutsche Bank in 2014.

As CIO of Collaborative Technology Solutions in Deutsche Bank, Wendy combined her transformational, entrepreneurial, pathologically collaborative, start-up approach, with Deutsche’s corporate culture to positively bring about digital change. She introduced industry-leading elements such as Design Thinking, Agile (with a little and big A), Robotics, AI, machine learning, plus embedding the art of the possible “How Might We…?” mindset, and effected digital culture shifts across the bank.

In 2018, Wendy joined RBS (now NatWest Group) as the Head of Digital Distribution, then moved to become CIO of Technology for the Retail Bank, and in 2020 broadened her position into the newly created Chief Digital Information Officer role, which spans Retail Banking Technology and Digital Business. Working closely with her leadership team, colleagues, fintechs and partners, she continues to pioneer digital innovation within NatWest’s award-winning mobile app, online banking channels, branch technology, ATMs, telephony technology, mortgage systems, lending systems, and its digital AI assistant named Cora.

Wendy is also a passionate champion of diversity.  It was when Wendy attended University, specifically an engineering university where the gender demographic was 85% male, it became clear to her that there were few female role models in the computer, science, engineering, STEM type subjects.  With this in mind, Wendy became the first Woman Officer at the college, and has been passionate about encouraging diversity, equity and inclusion ever since.  Wendy firmly believes that girls and women can bring something unique to a sector that desperately needs diversity. Wendy notes, “Too many girls nowadays are put off careers in technology from very early on.  We all have a part we can play to foster curiosity and learning across the career lifecycle.” 

Denting the Universe

Wendy is a uniquely positioned leader, embodying the blended triumvirate of business, technology expertise, and people leadership while unlocking actual customer value and potential through digitalisation and innovation at scale. Wendy has continued to be a vocal advocate for customers and climate, seeking ways in which digital technological innovation can provide products, services, and information that genuinely help NatWest’s customers, communities, and businesses.

The impacts of her expert leadership are especially demonstrated through delivery to customers and how NatWest Group is positioned as a leader in conversational AI, digital mobile, and climate solutions.

An example of this was evident during lockdown.  Under Wendy’s leadership in 2020 during the pandemic, the teams were able to respond quickly and scale efficiently, to support customers’ needs, especially for the most vulnerable.

  • Through leveraging automation and robotics, teams processed 240,000+ initial mortgage holidays.
  • Quick, innovative thinking enabled more than £2 million delivered securely to vulnerable customers at the height of pandemic lockdown.
  • Development of a companion card and “get cash” codes to enable cash delivery for customers who were shielding.
  • Supported 320,000+ proactive calls to support elderly & vulnerable customers.
  • Consistently kept more than 95% of branches open and supported real-time updating of branch hours was available.
  • Introduced Banking my Way, a free service that allows customers to record information about the support or adjustments needed to make banking easier, especially for its customers in vulnerable situations.
  • Implemented a dedicated emergency line for NHS workers.
  • Offered free Financial Health Checks – a face-to-face, phone, or video, confidential service open to customers and non-customers that offers a chance to talk through your money plans with a Senior Personal Banker.

In 2021, Wendy continued to champion potential and through innovations and partnerships, she and her teams launched and iterated upon several exciting technologies, including a new Spending feature within the mobile app, helping customers to build financial capability, understand how and where they are spending their money, and providing helpful suggestions on changing spending habits to become financially better off.

In November 2021, Wendy and her teams also launched carbon tracking within the NatWest Mobile app, enabling customers to see the CO2 emissions associated with their daily spending and providing hints and tips on how to go greener while supporting customers to set plans and commitments to reduce carbon emissions further. Indeed, NatWest is the first UK and European bank to launch a free carbon footprint tracker, which was launched in partnership with carbon tracking expert, CoGo, and customers can now see the carbon impact of their daily spending.

Tackling climate change is one of our world’s biggest challenges collectively, and insights from the initial pilot showed the average user saved approximately 11 kg of CO2 emissions per month, through awareness and committing to behavioural changes that use less carbon – such as composting, reducing meat consumption, or switching utility providers. If this behaviour were replicated across NatWest’s 8 million+ mobile app customers, it would save more than 1 billion kg of CO2 emissions per year, equivalent to planting 17 million trees.

Wendy’s impact is not just about the technology, however, but also about the people, and building capability for the future workforce of tomorrow. Her leadership ethos is about championing potential, and helping people to flourish and thrive. She role models this daily, and whether it be speaking at graduate events, mentoring the next generation of tech talent,  hosting hack-a-thons and encouraging innovation anywhere,” Wendy is considered inspirational and industry-leading by her peers and colleagues.

Perhaps what sets Wendy apart is her passion for bringing people on the journey, setting vision and intent, and empowering those around her, ensuring no one is left behind. As previously mentioned, as an advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion, Wendy champions accessibility, openness, skill-building, understanding, and transparency, which is critical to supporting NatWest Group colleagues, particularly those in under-represented groups. She is proactive, instigating connections, facilitating positive partnerships, and sharing insight and best practices to help others thrive in their careers and gives back to the wider community, such as mentoring for the 30% Club, a global campaign to increase gender diversity at board and senior management levels, and being part of the McKinsey Black Executive Sponsor scheme. 

We Champion Potential!

NatWest Group is deeply committed to being a Purpose-led Bank. It champions potential, helping people, families, and businesses to thrive and its purpose guides and underpins everything it does, building long-term value, investing for growth, making a positive contribution to society, and driving sustainable returns for shareholders.

NatWest is the UK’s leading business bank serving 19 million customers across every region of the UK. As a relationship bank for a digital world, it helps break down barriers that might hold back its customers and is helping to build their financial confidence.

NatWest Group is centered around its purpose, driving sustainable growth through its strategic priorities. Wendy asserts, “We are a relationship bank for a digital world, building and deepening connections with our customers, meeting their needs throughout their financial lives.  It is these relationships, based on insight and surfaced through a seamless, delightful experience that removes complexity and frustration”. 

“When we look at our evolving Technologies, our customer is pinnacle, centred at the heart of everything we do.  This enablement nurtures relationships that start earlier in our customers’ lives and adapt to meet their evolving needs. All of which will be enabled by the strategic partnerships and acquisitions we have made, and by our efforts to simplify how customers interact with our bank so they can enjoy an easier, frictionless banking experience,” explains Wendy.

NatWest is also building a culture to champion potential positively contributing to the communities it serves by creating an open, inclusive, and progressive workplace, breaking down barriers for its customers and colleagues. It does this through listening, learning, being incredibly passionate about being a learning organisation, and understanding that its culture today is critical to its future success. 

Technological Significance

The pandemic accelerated digitalisation, evolving established consumer behaviours and societal expectations around e-commerce and services and thus becoming a blend of the digital and physical space – coined as ‘phygital.’

Wendy states that phygital is about the seamless transition between digital and physical without friction. Whether it is virtual and physical processes integrated into ‘space,’ innovating with concepts around augmented reality, or bringing digital services to our customers, anytime, anywhere.

She shares, “Our teams are looking to provide new and exciting ways for businesses and customers to interact with one another and the bank.” 

“A great example of this is our Video Banking capability, which launched in 2020 and quickly scaled to meet customer demand throughout the pandemic. Video Banking allows our customers to meet with an advisor on-demand seamlessly through our mobile app. While traditional in-person banking appointments are still available in branches, through technology, customers can also pre-schedule their appointments or instantly and securely connect via the mobile app to speak with an advisor in seconds. With appointments available 24/7, customers can connect digitally face to face, regardless of this physical space or time. This capability has been incredibly well-received, with our teams handling more than 10,200 video interactions a week,” explains Wendy.

Wendy and her teams are also pioneering advancements in conversational AI with the Digital Assistant named Cora. Now, 4-years evolved and built with IBM Watson assistant, Cora is continuously learning, improving, and transforming its customer experiences.

During the pandemic, Cora was quickly re-trained to help customers with COVID-19 related questions and helped thousands of customers apply for payment holidays and deferrals on their mortgages, loans, and credit cards. In 2021, Cora was further integrated into its omnichannel ‘always on’ service offerings and can now facilitate requests by phone, leverage natural conversation to enable self-service, and seamlessly transfer customers directly to a live agent for those queries requiring a more human touch.

“Cora is now a key part of the bank’s digital and telephony offering, with a constantly evolving role in frontline customer support. As well as improving our service efficiency, it also enables our colleagues to focus on more complex customer enquiries. We will continue to invest in the use of appropriate and innovative technologies to make it easier for our customers to get the support they require when and where it is needed.” – ESG Supplement 

Preparing for the Change

Wendy, like many global leaders, agrees that the biggest challenge and change ahead collectively and globally is climate change. The changes required (not just in the financial industry but across several sectors) will need to be bold, innovative, and disruptive to meet the global collective targets for NetZero. The snippet from NatWest’s annual results ESG mentions that tackling climate change will require collaboration and cooperation globally. NatWest Group was proud to sponsor the COP26 global climate conference in Glasgow in October/November 2021.

The snippet mentioned, “Our industry has a responsibility to drive and influence positive change. As such, NatWest Group is committed to getting its own house in order, ending the most harmful activity, and providing the support, advice, and products our customers need to accelerate the transition to a net-zero economy. We are one of the few banks to offer a Green Mortgage product, with £728 million of lending to retail customers since its launch in Q4 2020. We established the Sustainable Homes and Buildings Coalition with British Gas, Worcester Bosch and Shelter to improve the energy efficiency of buildings in the UK. Working with the fintech company CoGo, we were also the first bank to introduce a carbon-tracking feature in our mobile banking app. And we are helping colleagues and customers to move to electric vehicles through a collaboration with Octopus Energy. 

“Our Springboard to Sustainable Recovery report found that the transition to net-zero can create a huge opportunity for SMEs. Close to 40% of our accelerator hubs are dedicated to supporting sustainable businesses to help our most innovative start-ups to take advantage of this opportunity. There is a clear societal responsibility here, but also an obvious commercial imperative in helping our customers to thrive as we transition to net zero.” 

Bequeathing Brilliance

Wendy advises budding entrepreneurs, future innovators, and engineers with two reflections.

Pathological Collaboration is one of the secret ingredients to success. In a world where we have been led to believe that knowledge is power, there can sometimes be an unsettledness or fear that is collaborating, sharing ideas, and being open and transparent is dangerous. I would challenge this notion, turn it on its head, and suggest, what if one doesn’t share ideas and collaborate? What opportunities are being missed? There is a world full of unlimited possibilities. The collective power of cross-functional, multi-disciplinary solutions is incredibly potent, sometimes sparking new ideas that could be the next thing, you just have to ask, how might we!” 

Purpose is life-blood. Your career, job, and the activity you dedicate 30% of your life should resonate with your purpose in an ideal world. When it does – it doesn’t feel like work. As we reflect on resiliency and well-being, having just lived through an unprecedented global pandemic, it is important to recognize that passion keeps us motivated, even in difficult times and especially as an entrepreneur. Though it might seem difficult, as the start-up path can be quite challenging, purpose and the values that underpin your work will differentiate your service offering and come across in your passion,” Wendy concludes.

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