Ally builds single sign-on for customers, pushes further into the cloud – Yahoo Finance

Its One Ally strategy is meant to help the bank with personalization and cross-selling. Credit: Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Bloomberg

Ally Financial has almost completed a key phase of One Ally, a set of strategies and goals that the company teased as far back as its Investor Day in 2016.

One Ally involves amassing all business lines and customer data on one platform as the company strives to deliver "experiences" rather than "products." By the end of 2023, Ally customers will have a single sign-on for all product lines, from checking to auto loans to investments. Moreover, by consolidating all customer data from all business lines in one place, the company will be able to build and refine models that personalize interactions and better cross-sell products to existing customers.

This goal reflects the ideal for many online-only banks, said Michael Miller, an equity analyst at Morningstar.

"A lot of these digital banks are trying to build multiproduct lines," he said, but true multiproduct online-only banks are rare.

Although the core of Ally's business is auto loans, said Miller, the company has pushed into other lines, for instance with its acquisition of credit card issuer Fair Square Financial in 2021.

Sathish Muthukrishnan, chief information, data and digital officer at the $197 billion-asset bank, spoke about One Ally on a panel at American Banker's Digital Banking conference in June.

"We have a full suite of products that have grown organically. We've reached a point in time where we have to bring all of the customers and products together," he said. "One Ally is a journey we are embarking on where we want to move from a product company to an experience company. Customers are not going to shop for an auto loan. They are not shopping for a home mortgage. They are looking for a house to create memories and raise their family, they are looking for transportation. They are looking to save money and grow their wealth."

One Ally dovetails with the Detroit bank's broader cloud computing strategy; the company is moving all applications to private and public clouds, including AWS and Microsoft Azure. Momentum around cloud computing in banking has been building for several years. Cloud computing was on the list of the top five 2023 spending priorities for more than 40% of U.S. bank executives who responded to an Arizent/American Banker survey released at the end of 2022.

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"[One Ally] requires a ton of work in technology that includes getting rid of our older technology and making sure we modernize our network, building up our cloud infrastructure and bringing all of the data together," said Muthukrishnan at Digital Banking.

This makes sense to Miller.

"With indirect lending you're not really developing a deep pool of data on the customer. Ultimately when they pay off the loan, they're gone," said Miller. "With the deposit and investing relationships, and maybe credit cards and personal loans, you're developing a much broader pool of data and there is a lot more value in being able to store and access data effectively and utilize it in different product lines. The cloud transition is a lot more relevant to some of these business lines Ally has been expanding into."

So far, all Ally product lines except auto loans are available through a single sign-on and a unified technology platform; the company is working on adding auto to the mix by the end of 2023. By centralizing customer data on this one platform, the company will gain better context around customer interactions, transactions and communication to detect preferences.

One goal is to better personalize interactions by building models using artificial intelligence and machine learning, which will help Ally refine the way it cross-sells or surfaces products for customers, highlights a high deposit rate or sends relevant push notifications. Another is to enhance customization options, for instance letting customers choose which accounts are visible upon login and in which order. This will improve upon current customization functionality, which Ally calls Snapshot.

These personalization and cross-selling efforts are already underway. More than 85% of investing customers and almost 70% of mortgage customers started as deposit customers. Ally has also created one-click account opening for deposit customers to open additional deposit accounts.

But consolidating customer data in one place "is not easy without doing the heavy lifting of modernizing the infrastructure and network," said Muthukrishnan in an interview. "With one single platform that supports multiple businesses, I now have a higher bar for availability, resiliency and recovery. This platform cannot afford to be taken down for maintenance. It needs to be able to handle the volume that comes through multiple businesses."

Ally finished building an internal cloud in 2020, so engineers could rewrite their applications to run well on the cloud and run confidential applications. In parallel, Ally started adopting public cloud technology through AWS and other third-party vendors.

"Cloud has become critical for us in our ability to always be available for our customers," said Muthukrishnan.

More than two-thirds of Ally applications are now cloud-enabled, running either on the internal or external cloud. The goal is for all applications to be cloud-enabled by 2025.

Ally builds single sign-on for customers, pushes further into the cloud - Yahoo Finance

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