Key highlights

  1. Agile isn’t a new concept – but it will certainly become more prominent in the future.
  2. Change is a constant in the banking industry, and UBS is setting the pace to keep up with the ever-changing environment.
  3. Being an agile organization means working across teams, divisions, and regions to deliver a more streamlined client experience across the firm.

In the banking industry, change has been a constant and, today, the pace of that change is more rapid than ever. Across all sectors, established incumbents are being challenged by disruptors who promise clients and employees something new and better. 

“At UBS, we believe the key to navigating this turning point and succeeding in the future is agile working,” said Mike. “Increasingly, agile will be an essential tool to deliver on our client promise of a personalized, relevant, on-time and seamless experience. We’ve already seen examples of how it’s helping us stay ahead of the game.”

At UBS, we believe the key to navigating this turning point and succeeding in the future is agile working.

“Agile@UBS enables flexible, multi-disciplinary teams working across the firm to deliver greater business and client value, and to fulfill our purpose,” explained Stefan. “It does this by removing friction and dependencies, creating small, empowered teams, with clear ownership, and common objectives, and delivering incremental business value faster.”

Already well on the way

Many employees already work in agile pods (small, multi-disciplinary teams) across UBS, forming a solid foundation of an agile mindset, skills, practices, and knowledge. These pods are complemented by larger agile crews to ensure alignment and consistency, and further by agile chapters to encourage best-practice sharing. The success of this approach in many areas of the firm showed that this flexible method can improve our way of working, to the benefit of employees and clients. To have a unified, agile way of working across the whole firm, which takes the best elements from our existing agile practices, we opened up Agile@UBS to more employees.

“By doing so, we want to respond quicker to our clients’ ever-changing expectations,” said Mike. “We also aim to optimize for the challenges and opportunities of the digital age, and benefit from a step change in performance – in speed of delivery, client satisfaction, employee engagement, and efficiency.”

Going forward, Agile@UBS will continue to transform the way the firm operates, offer learning and growth opportunities for all our people, and help make UBS a top digital place to work.

“We have experience in agile ways of working – we’ve operated successful agile models for many years. We’re building on the best of those to craft a unified model that will make our business better now and for the future,” explained Stefan.

Driving us forward

At times, agile has been incorrectly characterized as being unstructured. But, in reality, it’s a well-defined way of working that allows teams to speed up innovation and lower risk – all while providing faster and better outcomes for clients. To develop our model, we’ve relied on two areas of expertise in particular: technology and people.

“Change at this level requires an overhaul across key parts of the organization, including IT, HR, and operations. But, arguably most importantly, it requires a mindset change across the board,” said Stefan. “For employees, agile means moving away from traditional forms of governance, to create a more flexible, more productive firm.”

Agile working will allow us to create tailor-made products more quickly, as well as a data-centric, omni-channel and self-service experience – this is what will enable us to make tech a differentiator for our firm, and that will guarantee we provide clients with the best possible service.

“Even those who aren’t yet working in official Agile@UBS pods will be encouraged to learn agile ways of working that they can adopt to make us all more productive, more streamlined, and able to deliver our best. In our Agile Academy within UBS University, our employees can develop the right skills,” he continued.

And, when the process works well internally, the results are clear externally. To give an example of the success of agile to date, it’s been instrumental in reducing testing time and, as a result, increasing the speed of transactions on trading platforms. It’s a clear opportunity for greater operational efficiency and reduction in time-to-market; and that’s something that benefits everyone.

“Agile working will allow us to create tailor-made products more quickly, as well as a data-centric, omni-channel and self-service experience – this is what will enable us to make tech a differentiator for our firm, and that will guarantee we provide clients with the best possible service,” added Mike.

Delivering our purpose

To reimagine the power of investing and connect people for a better world, we need to become an even more responsive business, with teams that have our clients and our products at the center of all they do. When we work in an agile way, we reimagine the way we work, the way we connect with each other – our colleagues, clients and partners – and the way we deliver value.

With Agile@UBS, we’ll align the whole firm to make sure everyone approaches operations with the same client focus. We know the power of investing, and Agile@UBS will unleash that power, helping us live up to our purpose while, at the same time, delivering on our strategy.

Agile in action: a team in the spotlight

As Mike and Stefan explained: being agile isn’t an entirely new concept for the wider world, nor for our firm. The Client Needs Stream “Plan My Wealth” (or agile ‘stream’), is one of many teams working in an agile mode. Stream product lead Christine Deilmann explains what this means for them.

“We started the transformation with a fundamental review of our organization based on client needs,” Christine explained. “We created pods (multi-disciplinary teams), crews (pods working together to create a broader overview) and streams (crews working together for a common purpose) to bring all necessary people and skills together in one team.”

“When we selected the pod leads, the decision was made jointly by the business and the tech side, to make sure both parts are well represented,” added Roland Brandes, Stream tech lead of “Plan My Wealth”. “The UBS Wealth Way tool, for example, is one of the key developments. And that involves software developers, business experts, designers and data experts, to name only a few.”

“Key for me in this agile transformation was not only the change of working methodology in the teams, but much more to move into an agile mindset in the collaboration together with the whole organization,” he added. “As a Stream tech lead, it was also extremely important and challenging to continuously deliver changes and business value, while keeping the production stable with high availability for our clients and client advisory also during the transformation phase.”

Having agile coaches is essential. They keep the focus on the right things and make sure everyone in the boat is rowing at the same pace. The key to success for agile is sharing information transparently, establishing continuous improvement and feedback loops, and focusing on what really matters which involves having the courage to reprioritize relentlessly if needed. But it’s not an overnight transition.

“It takes time to become fully agile!” Christine said. “But, by putting the work in at the beginning to truly learn the best methods, in the long-term, the benefits will be enormous.”

Interested in Agile@UBS?

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