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Kenneth Cline Oct 11, 2015

Robert Herjavec of Shark Tank on funding innovation

As banks look ahead to 2016, they face a challenging environment of low interest rates continuing to suppress net interest margins and an increasing regulatory burden that raises compliance costs and restricts fee income. Even so, managers must still come to their boards with viable plans to move the organization forward.

Serial entrepreneur Robert Herjavec can provide a lot of useful advice on that front. After escaping with his parents from Communism in the former Yugoslavia, he started up several successful companies, sold them to corporate giants such as AT&T, and then built his latest venture, Herjavec Group, into one of North America’s fastest growing technology groups. He is probably best known to the public at large, however, for his role on ABC TV’s hit show, Shark Tank, in which fledgling entrepreneurs pitch their dreams to potential investors known as “Sharks.”

Herjavec will appear at BAI Retail Delivery 2015 on Oct. 13 to advise financial institutions how to move forward in the current challenging environment. And one way to do that is to fund successful innovations, a subject Herjavec knows a great deal about from his own life experiences, as well as his role as a top “Shark” on Shark Tank. Below, he provides BAI Banking Strategies with a few of his thoughts in this regard:  

Q: What sort of financial service-related projects do you think Sharks would be interested in funding today?

Herjavec: Just as in any sector, the Sharks are always looking for investments that are transformative. The financial service industry is always evolving to become more accessible, convenient and secure. We look for investments that solve a problem and are consumer friendly. Knowing your market and numbers goes a long way in the Shark Tank. Don’t underestimate the power of a good idea and passion in your pitch.

Q: Any thoughts on what consumers of financial services are looking for today and what kinds of innovations they might embrace?

Herjavec: Consumers of the financial sector are focused on two main things: convenience and information security. We are in a more interactive world than ever before; being constantly connected has changed the way we manage our finances.

Q: Your own company, the Herjavec Group, is active in cyber security. How can banks ward off cyber threats?

Herjavec: Financial institutions are constantly adapting to the shift of technology and the cyber threats they face. They know that they are highly targeted; it is no longer a matter of if they will be breached but when. At Herjavec Group, we are having ongoing conversations with our financial services customers regarding endpoint protection, identity authentication and, of course, managed services, which provides 24/7 line of sight to the bank’s entire infrastructure.

As sophisticated as these financial institutions are, bankers also need to remember to properly educate their teams. Human error can be the weakest link in any security platform if the team is not trained with appropriate safeguards in place.

Mr. Cline is managing editor of BAI Banking Strategies and can be reached at kcline@bai.org.

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