Synechron is a leading Digital Consulting firm for financial services, Accelerating Digital for financial institutions by providing innovative solutions to the financial services industry through its three main business focus areas: digital, business consulting, and technology.
Atul Tajave, Director-Global Marketing & Communication, Synechron, talks on the journey of Synechron, the digital spike during the crisis, toolkit for Financial Institutions and more.
What is Synechron and can you take us through your journey here in India?
Headquartered in New York and with 18 offices around the world, Synechron is working to Accelerate Digital initiatives for banks, asset managers, and insurance companies around the world. Synechron uniquely delivers these firms an end-to-end Digital, Consulting and Technology capabilities with expertise in capital markets, wealth management and insurance as well as emerging technologies like Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence. This has helped the company to grow to $500+ million in annual revenue and 8,000 employees, and we’re continuing to invest in research and development in the form of Accelerators (prototype applications) developed in our global Financial Innovation Labs (FinLabs).
My expedition with Synechron from being a Senior Associate to a Director has been more than eventful. Ten years ago, when I had just come back from Dubai after a career with Nokia, which was one of the leading telecom brands, I was evaluating my options in India. From the several options I had, choosing Synechron was a no brainer, because I was already aware of the fantastic work culture that Synechron sported. I had received this review back in 2008 from a friend who worked with Synechron, through an advertising agency. I was also aware about Synechron’s brand and marketing initiatives and how they were not shy to invest in quality marketing and branding strategies. This conversation had already helped form a brand image of Synechron in my perception, hence, it was an easy evaluation.
From the time I joined Synechron, I was exposed to several opportunities and lessons, each richer than the other. My first role, back in 2010, was in a very small team where I was responsible for Market research and pre-sales support. In 2012, I was given an opportunity to move to the core marketing and communications team. This transition occurred because the organisation was growing, and the marketing team needed someone to amplify their existing efforts and ensure that the brand projected its capabilities, optimally. I was given a challenge to deliver value, as unique as Synechron.
Upon commencing operations, I realised that there were several initiatives and strategies that I could help put to place to induce better results. It was evident to me that our dependency on external agencies for creative support, content development, collaterals and branding was not helping us address the growing needs of the organisation. However, I started delivering the projects with the experience I had collated from my previous years of work at some of boutique advertising firms. Starting from creative direction to content writing, story board creation, collateral development to designing, I was invested in managing most of the tasks of the marketing team. My intent to better the processes led me to propose a unique proposition to the leadership of Synechron, that would help us strengthen our marketing capabilities, which was to create a holistic in-house marketing team of Synechron. We started by hiring one creative visualizer, and soon after the first project rolled out, it became an instant hit. Stakeholders at all levels noticed and appreciated the good work that was changing the marketing paradigm of Synechron. Soon after, we started building the team brick by brick, we started building inhouse capabilities in designing, corporate films, Social media, account-based marketing, events, campaigns, content writing, technical writing, web development, and web designing. Gradually, the in-house Marketing team of Synechron became capable of providing 360 degrees marketing services to all our global offices. I and my team have never looked back ever since.
It has been over ten years with Synechron, and there has never been a dull day. Each day at work is full of autonomy and freedom to perform and add value; to disagree and still be respected; to experiment and to succeed; I feel they are 10 short years of learning and growing…and I am thirsting for more…Everyday has been phenomenal, with new requests and challenges and it certainly makes my life very fulfilling. I have found wisdom, success, friends, lessons, challenges, rejections, failures, and most importantly a better version of myself in Synechron. I have seen Synechron rise from 1800 to 8000 employees, the acquisition of several firms, and its expansion across the globe. It wouldn’t be wrong to admit that Synechron and I have grown together.
As WFH is the new culture which will be adopted by many companies, how have you positioned yourself?
Synechron had already declared for a work from home (WFH) mandate almost two weeks before the central government declared a nationwide lockdown. This was possible only because of how aggressive and assertive our attitude is towards any given problem, whatsoever. We are way agile than many of the players in the industry. Our flexibility and expertise have helped us respond to the pandemic and the subsequent WFH situation in a much better and smoother way than our competition. Synechron’s HR and IT capabilities, and policies were upgraded overnight to make it easier for our clients and employees, especially to ensure that nobody’s health was at risk. We were anyway confident that our tenacious grit would not let the business be affected, and we worked towards it. Our marketing team has constantly been on its toes. Since the early days of the pandemic outbreak, a SWAT team was developed, that has been religiously communicating any and every update, or impact of COVID-19, in real-time.This strategy immensely helped our employees stay updated and have the right direction, clarity and support.
As the Marketing and Communications group, we have also strategized to ensure that the spirit of belongingness that every Synechronite has, doesn’t diminish. Soon after the WFH mandate was brought to action, we launched a 12-week employee engagement campaign called #Workahomics and incentivised the participants. This was to keep them engaged in leisure apart from work. We understand that the WFH situation would be a game changer about how we interact or communicate with our colleagues or conduct business. Hence, we have been extremely cautious in ensuring that every important communication is transmitted, and utmost transparency is maintained. We have also partnered with the HR teams to devise employee surveys to measure and understand their temperament, and to check if they need any additional support. Additionally, we are constantly supporting the other teams of Synechron to disseminate communications about their initiatives.
During this lockdown many Brand communication has changed, your thoughts.
Absolutely! Out of the many critical aspects that the pandemic called to change, the way a brand communicated was one of them. A few months into this pandemic, we all realised, that this isn’t an easy time for anyone. Moreover, definition of normalcy changed overnight. Way of working changed and so did the ways that people and businesses communicated with each other.
We realised that it was necessary to move the focus from business to people. As we began communicating with our audiences – be it our clients, our employees or stake holders, we wove in the element of wellbeing in our messaging. Everyone dealing with Synechron came to know that people wellbeing – both physical and mental – was of utmost priority to Synechron. Everything else followed thereafter.
Individuals realised the necessity and the power of collaboration. I feel, this pandemic helped us learn many lessons that we have been side-lining for long. One of them was kindness and another was the importance of communication to help collaboration and support flow across the world map and communities. Afterall, a little help and compassion never harmed anyone.
As a global technology company servicing large FIs and banks, what has been the new toolkit for survival for financial institutions?
Synechron due to its niche services for the financial services industry has an illustrious growth record from the beginning. It continues to be one of the leading Digital IT Transformation companies – whose focus is always ‘digital first’.
Synechron anticipated the importance of digital transformation at every point in its clients’ journeys. At this point too, our agility and responsiveness form the biggest part of ourtoolkit, which is dynamic and keeps evolving to cater to our customers’ changing business needs.
Our well-researched and innovative solutions help to foresee and resolve most complex business issues and simplify processes through digital transformation. Synechron has always been a beacon to guide our clients, as they sought solutions related to Cloud, Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Machine Learning (ML) implementations, or RPA programs, to digitize their entire business models. Moreover, we have also assisted them with strong business consulting, digital, regulatory, and risk management guidance through this change during the pandemic.
What are your plans to go about marketing strategies as B2B technology companies mostly rely on events and conferences?
The world’s gone virtual this year and we are no exception. Our strategies to engage with our audiences have reformed to accommodate the new normal. We are looking at forums and events, which encourage virtual panel discussions, thought leadership exchange and webinars. In addition to this, Synechron has also developed its own series of virtual events for client engagement, such as round tables, webinars, workshops, which are focused on some of the latest technologies, trends and innovative solutions. For our employees, we have beefed up our communication with extensive use of our corporate engagement platforms such as Yammer, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom along with social media handles.
Engaging with our existing clients took an innovative turn as we led it beyond the daily scrum calls and initiated virtual engagement sessions such as Happy Hours, Trivia events and many more. We are all befriending and evolving our marketing and communication strategies to adapt to the changing times. Who would have thought such active use of social media to bridge the social distance?
As a Marketing Head, what are your thoughts on this unprecedented pandemic?
The pandemic though unprecedented, has come at a time when the communication channels have matured. I mean, imagine the 1918 Pandemic Flu that had struck the world and had confined people to their homes to fend on their own. Today, you have instant messaging, chatting, video calling, virtual games and virtual life that help you not just to communicate, but to reach out, to seek help, to offer support, to speed up aid and so much more.
The TV ads done by various social media companies such as Facebook and WhatsApp, strike that chord which makes you feel cared for and still empowered at this vulnerable hour. The world was connected through the pandemic, a common thread of inconvenience that induced humour, motivation, entertainment. The concept of virtual coffee became a major gamechanger for a matrimonial site.Life didn’t stop, it just evolved and adapted. People stopped travelling, missed the physical interaction, but the pandemic also gave us the opportunity to connect with people on a personal front. It got the world closer, though in a virtual way.
Events turned virtual, felicitations still progressed, award ceremonies went digital,and even personal events such as retirements, weddings are also happening in a way no one imagined.
At Synechron, we went an extra mile to make our employees, clients, vendors feel important, looked after, and supported. Our recruitment team introduced virtual onboarding and still made it an amazing experience for our new joiners. Virtual communication, therefore, became the pedestal for restarting, what had jolted to a sudden pause when the pandemic struck.
What has amazed me through the history books I have read and the 2020 pandemic that I experienced is that, no matter how catastrophic an event is, whether it is a pandemic or a natural calamity, the human race has always sported an undying spirit of rising to the occasion and fighting back. I truly am in awe of this fighting spirit!
During this lockdown how have you boosted the morale of your team, and some of the measures you have taken at this juncture?
The way this pandemic threatened to dampen life’s basic needs and joys, teams across organisations looked at their leadership for support. I am thankful to the leadership of Synechron, who let us shift to the telecommuting mode in a jiffy. While work began from home and team-mates had to work from remote locations, instead of sharing the same office floor. I could sense the unsettling feeling as team members shared silences during their interactions with me over video calls.
But today times have changed. Even as I am based in the US and my team is almost all over the globe, with a large group operating from India, I ensured that I was available for my team irrespective of hour they needed me. Time difference was a setback and it only aggravated given the haphazard changes. Yet, whether it is for approvals or to schedule some important business interactions, I have been there.
I also sensed that a team functions more effectively when empowered. I created specialist roles in the team, according to geographies and calibre, where they could better support the regional marketing and branding needs. It was necessary that employees stay close to the family and feel safe and protected at home, it was but natural for me to ask my team-mates who were away from their hometown to travel immediately and be with their families. This worked wonders for their mental wellbeing, and they were far more stress-free.
Once a week, I made it a point to connect with my global teams over a candid zoom call, where we just chit chat and share happy moments like birthdays, anniversaries, rewards, weekend plans, etc. While working from home, I had to take special care that my team doesn’t burn out, and hence it was necessary that all support was given to them. At this point, even as the pandemic continues to rage in several geos across the map, we are thankful that we are working from the safety of our home, close to our families, and yet no deliverables are impacted.
A learning and a message to the young millennials.
Millennials are the game-changers, and I honestly believe it. They are 50% of my team’s capacity and I cannot emphasise enough how much fun it is to work with them. Their abilities stem from their power of thought, their tenacious attitude, and desire to break free from the norms. My message for them would be that they should train themselves further to leverage their power of thoughts, push forward their ability to innovate and if they do so, sky is the limit. They already have the attitude and intent in place, it’s just a matter of how much they are willing to invest, be it time or cognition, and most importantly understand, that Rome was never built in a day, and neither was New York.