Genghis Capital modernised its technology infrastructure in 2017 by thinking out of the box and adopting full cloud computing with remote work setup that allows the staff to work from anywhere in the world for as long as they have access to the Internet.
This enhanced high-regulatory compliance for business continuity setup, remote office capabilities and robust access to our systems with a seamless switch that has been witnessed during the electioneering period in 2017 and now the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.
Chief Information Officers (CIOs) in organizations around the world with virtualized environments and secure remote access had a seamless shift for Business Continuity Planning (BCP) to maintain operational continuity with minor input required. Genghis’s CIO Jeremiah Chunge in particular emphasizes that digital capabilities for any organization should cover two fronts that are high-priority categories for any business entity:
1) Digital workplace for internal business operations for staff across all departments (Employee Productivity) and,
2) Digital platform technology channels to serve the customer by empowering them to interact with your products and services as well as well as interact with support teams digitally (Customer Experience).
Transform or Be Transformed
Many employees value the benefit of working from home especially for professions that have this feasibility. However, a lot of companies in Kenya and Africa in general lack the technology infrastructure to offer that capability effectively. You therefore find that staff spend an average time of two – three hours on the road to commute to and from physical work locations. In addition, that time costs money (transport) whether self-drive or public means which in one way or another also increases carbon emissions to the already fragile environment with global warming alarms.
For those who encounter traffic snarl-ups or irate drivers on the road, you are likely to reach the workplace agitated or emotionally edgy. Then need a cup of good coffee to reset and 30 more minutes to settle down and calm your mind as you flip through the newspaper or read a couple of emails that you couldn’t touch while driving or while in transit. More often than not, you hardly had time for breakfast and being an important meal of the day, you get something to jump start your system.
Has the company sat down to ask themselves how much employee productive time they are wishing away through rigid 8-5 physical office working hours? That notwithstanding, is this model sustainable incase of a disaster if throughout the employee day-to-day cycle, they have always been required to be in the office to be able to work?
Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to managing a calamity like COVID-19 and trying to suddenly make employees work from home and be productive, yet the technology infrastructure is not laid out for that and the employee mindset has never conceptualised that as a possibility. Remember, opportunity meets preparedness. Infact, Genghis looks at any technology solution for clients and staff on the basis of how flexible it is for scale and change, and not the traditional thinking of how rigid it has been built to last as is for years!
It is immediately apparent that the value of digital channels, products and operations is very high and Genghis has seen the benefit of this investment twice in the last three years where the office has had to run with minimal staff present. First, was during the last general elections period in 2017 (August to October) and now, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 (March).
Genghis took notes from the election event to ensure that we deploy and role out additional platforms that assist our retail customers to transact without having to physically come to our offices. Hence in 2018 we piloted our mobile app, G-kuze, and rolled it out in 2019 for both Android and iOS. The app allows our client to digitally onboard, move funds, trade, chat for assistance/support – all from their mobile device without having to come to the office or call our office line.
For corporate institutions and high-networth individuals, we have ensured that our Trading department staff are fully able to interact and execute mandates remotely. All internal departments in their own individual capacity are able to serve other departments (their internal customers) seamlessly from their remote locations and perform their duties accordingly. The office telephone extension lines are also accessible to the staff on their web browsers or mobile phones remotely thanks to deployment of a cloud-based PABX telephone system. Therefore, one can make and receive office calls while outside the office.
As a result of shifting our technology capacity and investment in digital platforms, we have been able to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and keep our business running smoothly for our customers and staff now, and in the future.
For any digital strategy, cybersecurity goes hand in hand with platform deployments, access, storage, encryption, backups and BCP. Genghis’s company data resides in the cloud, eliminating the possibility of data loss if a device is stolen. In addition, all users have a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) that boasts a single sign-on authorization via VMware’s Horizon client application that avails the day-to-day user applications categorized per user and departmental access rights.
Our staff transitioned from Regular Desktops Infrastructure (RDI) to Virtual Desktops Infrastructure (VDI) through Google Chromebook laptops that have full integration to our cloud environment. This can only be accessed via a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) that is authenticated to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks from staff since they are now working from home and the traffic is now flowing over public networks from their houses. We also enforced inactivity timeouts and endpoint security for all company-managed devices with specific licenses for each. With data residing on cloud, backups are also stored on cloud including another copy to the off-site Disaster Recovery site.
Resilience of Genghis’s digital workplace transformation
- Employee Productivity
All our staff are able to perform their day-to-day duties remotely during this self-isolation period. Various meetings with line managers as well as executive level take place using digital collaborative tools and the respective reports and maker-checker approvals working as per the norm.
The staff are able to serve our clients and transact or advice on any information required to complete a process. Internal teams have also aligned their schedules to ensure swift communication, availability and support with other departments for business continuity remotely.
From the technology desk during this outbreak, the team is focusing on improving the customer experience on the live technology products and rolling out updates as they also finalize on other tech products intended for roll out in 2020, for internal customers (staff), as well as external customers (clients).
- Customer Experience
Genghis’s retail clients – from anywhere in the world – are able to digitally onboard, start trading, move funds electronically (mobile money, credit & debit card and bank transfer) and view their investment portfolio at the touch of a button via our mobile app called G-kuze (iOS and Playstore).
Every Monday morning, research-backed investment advice and tips are shared inside the G-kuze app with trading ideas, market analysis, economic trends and product options. This is to help clients to remove guess-work when making investment decisions, and via the in-app chat function, clients can seek clarifications and further advise.
For high-networth clients and institutions, Genghis has configured remote access for all the relevant staff using trading platforms that integrate the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE). This allows the staff to easily work from home, interact and execute the client mandates successfully.
Genghis CIO verdict
If you look at the current situation philosophically, there is a great likelihood that the world may never be the same again due to the global drive to remote working. As a CIO, I am certain that this is a use-case for a social/work experiment that some companies may never have undertaken on such a scale had there not been a global disaster. Will the companies world-over return to their offices in the same way? I will leave it at that. Stay safe, be informed and play your part accordingly!
Jeremiah is the Head of Alternative Channels & Technology at Genghis Capital Ltd
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