In this episode of More Intelligent tomorrow, Global AI Evangelist, Ari Kaplan, sits down with Harveer Singh, Chief Data Architect and Head of Data Engineering and Architecture at Western Union, to discuss the customer experience, blockchain and cryptocurrency, and how to digitally transform a 170 year old company.
Harveer was born in India and has traveled the world through his career – first moving to Sydney for his masters degree, then to various cities in the United States and is now in Denver. Growing up in Delhi in the 80’s, Harveer had his life uprooted and his family was forced to leave their homes.
They were tough times. When people’s lives are challenged by the politics that are played at a very high level, it’s very hard to cope. I was fortunate that we didn’t have any family harmed, but we lost our house. We lost everything. And we were forced to run in the streets to save our lives and for water, because we were from a minority community.”
Experiencing this hardship led Singh to strive and protect his family, while also remaining thankful of what he has been able to achieve and who he has met throughout his life.
If we were not forced to move away, I would have probably not tried as hard in my life that I did because I needed to make the amends that I needed to, to make sure my family is safe.”
Western Union is in the business of moving money across the globe, which can prove to be complicated. Handling money globally is also a data rich environment that Western Union has used to prevent fraud and human trafficking, all with the help of AI.
Money is also an interesting space, with the advent and increasing popularity of Web3 and cryptocurrency. When asked about his opinion on cryptocurrency, Harveer stated that he doesn’t currently think that blockchain is stable enough for it to be a currency used by big banks and financial institutions, but there are some benefits to the innovations around cryptocurrency.
Our financial services have become more and more complex over a period of time. I think blockchain simplifies some of those. But the underlying education is extremely important right now.”
Western Union is a 170 year old company, and while the age of a company shows stability, it also can prove to be a difficult roadblock to overcome when modernizing and building a digital product. Harveer and team were able to move Western Union’s operations to the cloud, overcoming many obstacles and building global solutions along the way. His biggest piece of advice is to lean into the existing culture of the company when making changes.
So some of the things that you have to think about when you deal with a company that is that old, is what is the culture of the organization? If you approach it that I’m going to change it, then you know, that is a disaster to start with. … If you approach it from that particular angle, I’m going to embrace it, but then I’m going to bring about change.”
Listen to this episode of More Intelligent Tomorrow to learn about:
- The challenges of innovating in a 170 year old company, and how to approach digital
- transformation on a global stage.
- Blockchain, cryptocurrency and the future of currency online.
- Building customer loyalty programs that encourage stickiness and make customers come back.
- What will shape the future, and what we may fear from advanced technology and machine intelligence.