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Innovation superhighway: Leaders map the fast lanes to financial services success

Feb 21, 2018 / Technology

Though often debated, innovation is seldom clearly stated. That’s what happens when buzzwords land in an industry and become en vogue to invoke. But at least if you start down the path, it helps to know where it’s headed. And here it is, as simple and straightforward as it gets:

“True innovation,” says BAI President and CEO Debbie Bianucci, “means a commitment to moving the ball forward, day after day, year after year.”

Yet the question remains: How do you do that in an era of lightspeed change? It’s not just about technology, either. Shifting societal dynamics, new pain points and changing ways of measuring success have turned the once immutable bullseye into an ever-moving target.   

To coincide with the Call for Submissions for the 2018 BAI Global Innovation Awards, we called on the judges in this year’s Innovation Circle to share their personal or enterprise innovation visions. It’s not just actionable advice they offer to readers, but actual practice they follow as well.

Guillermo Tolosa, CIO, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Argentina): Customer experience teams

Sometimes to solve a customer need or an internal process inefficiency, we use innovation as one of the wild cards. But the starting point is understanding the problem or opportunity and designing the solution with a design thinking approach.

“In 2015, to support this design thinking approach, we created a customer experience team inside IT, that currently do both research and user experience/services design. Since then all the solutions, and some for internal use, have been co-designed with customers or final users. As of today, about 400 customers have already participated in our research and design process. So we don’t have an ‘innovation team,’ but a mature, profitable customer experience team.”

Sue Britton, Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, Fintech Growth Syndicate (Canada): Innovation by collaboration

 “I believe strongly in the need for collaboration between the players. Things are moving so fast that trying to outsmart everyone else is a fool’s folly. So, we will continue to invest our time in industry initiatives that encourage collaboration, accelerate partnering and level the playing field between incumbents and new entrants. Canada is an excellent place to live, work and play. But with that, we are responding too slowly to the technology changes in the market, and with a small population we are overly complex in our regulatory environment—and with industry segments dominated by a few large players. We need a catalyst for change to increase competition.”

Steve Monaghan, Chief Investment & Innovation Officer, Gen.Life Limited (Hong Kong): Read. Think. Absorb. Repeat.

My personal resolution is to spend more time reading, thinking and absorbing. The pace of change is accelerating. Value chains are changing. Many of these changes give opportunities for a complete business model rewrite or to collapse value chains and remove friction. So, an open mind and time to reflect and reprogram becomes more critical.”

Jennifer Tescher, President & Chief Executive Officer, Center for Financial Services Innovation (United States): Instrumental lessons

“For me, innovation comes from making unexpected connections. That requires exposure to totally different arenas from the ones I work in day to day. I’m making an extra effort to learn new things and focus on topics that aren’t naturally of interest to me. And I’ve already made good progress. I started ukulele lessons in January, and after a recent visit to the Kennedy Space Center, I read astronaut Scott Kelly’s new memoir about his year in space.” 

Paul Steenkamp, Founder, I am Jack Frost (South Africa): The non-science of Fun.

As much as innovation strategy, practice and management is becoming increasingly scientific, I’m trying not to be ‘suffocated by self-imposed seriousness.’ Life’s too short. I believe that innovation isn’t an outcome: It’s a life-long journey. For me, Innovation equals creativity times execution, times a healthy splash of Fun.”

Adrian Li, Executive Director & Deputy Chief Executive, The Bank of East Asia (Hong Kong): The ‘excel’ lens.

“Traditionally, I think organizations have relied too much on small teams or even individuals to drive innovation. While this can result in effective solutions, at least in the short term, it means we are under-utilizing a vast source of untapped potential.

“To succeed in the long term, we need to ensure that every individual approaches their tasks looking for ways to excel, and employees at every level feel confident in contributing ideas and sharing the feedback they receive from customers. This way, we can continually refine the customer experience, offering timely solutions and enhancing operational efficiency.”

Ricardo Campos, Senior Director for Digital Banking, Bank Millennium S.A. (Poland): Moving four-ward.

I have four main projects to which I have made innovation resolutions for 2018. In the first project, our goal is to become the most personalized retail bank, using artificial intelligence and advanced analytics. Second, open banking and the EU’s Revised Payment Service Directive will offer a gateway to challenges presented by all the service providers that will want to connect directly to the bank—and the opportunities for the bank to connect to other banks and other entities and enhance the value proposition to our customers.

“Third, our mart shopping digital platform, Goodie.pl, allows us to move beyond the boundaries of banking and engage with customers and non-customers when they think about online or offline shopping, or interact with others using social apps. Finally, roboadvisory is a must in the new highly regulated environment. Traditionally, roboadvisory systems were only offered to private banking customers. But through innovative development of algorithms and interface processes, we’ll be able to expand these offers.”

Sandeep Deobhakta, Division Head – Head of Retail Banking, VP Bank (Vietnam): Dream on.

In 2018, I want us to become far more relevant to our customers by developing a more robust, in depth understanding of our customers and launching more ‘relevant’ products, services and offers across all of our products and services at VP Bank. Our framework for this is based on the ‘4W’ rule to develop highly relevant offers for our credit card customers as well our other products and services:

  • WHO is our customer?
  • WHERE do they live, work, play?
  • WHAT do they want, like, use?
  • WHEN do they want it and use it?

“This customer led approach is also the thinking behind the launch of our new proposition, Dream, that we launched it at the end of January. Dream helps customers [finance] a dream home, education for the kids, a car, etc. This proposition starts with the customers’ needs and aspirations and brings together a complete solution that includes a package of products from the bank—and partners such as developers, car dealers, appliance manufacturers and others. Further, the Dream solution is digitally enabled and helps you set up and track your goals as you track spending and savings.”

And from Alex Sion, GM, Mobile Channel, JPMorgan Chase (United States):

Talk to actual customers more. A lot more.”

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Angela Hills is BAI’s manager, events and strategic programs; Lou Carlozo is the managing editor of BAI. Learn more about the Awards and the judges at bai.org/globalinnovations and consider sharing your story by submitting nominations for the 2018 Awards program. 

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