13 Innovation Champions Within Financial Services Share their Insights

13 Innovation Champions Within Financial Services Share their Insights
February 17, 2018

13 Innovation Champions Within Financial Services Share their Insights

The financial services industry is investing heavily in driving innovation, not only in Australia, but across SouthEast Asia too. To gain a better understanding of the landscape, I reached out to financial services innovation champions across the region to gather their insights on how they are building a culture of innovation.

I’ve distilled their answers into this blog post. Enjoy!

Poppy Rouse

Innovation Manager, Social Impact

Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Sydney, Australia

1. When it comes to innovation, which company/person inspires you the most? Why?

Netflix - they have taken the time to truly understand their customers and deliver tailored solutions accordingly.

2. What is one aspect of your corporate culture that supports innovation and how?

We're focusing on building an innovation mindset using mindfulness and growth mindset tools to build resilience, opening people to constant learning and failure.

3. What is the biggest barrier to corporate innovation you have encountered in your career so far? How did or are you overcoming it?

When organisations don't have full commitment from C-Suite, along with a clear strategy and pathways for innovation. Without these you can teach people all the tools but they won't feel comfortable using them.

4. With emerging technologies and digital disruption, what do you view as the #1 skill-set required to thrive in this new age?

Curiosity, openness to learning, empathy and relationship building.

Dan Taylor

General Manager, Innovation

TAL

Sydney, Australia

1. When it comes to innovation, which company/person inspires you the most? Why?

As innovators, we need constant new stimulus from new sources, so rather than just looking to the classic entrepreneurial figureheads and 'sages' like Elon Musk and Richard Branson, I think it's important to keep looking to new sources of inspiration, new leaders, new start-ups, so there is no single answer, rather a new one every week!

2. What is one aspect of your corporate culture that supports innovation and how?

We're really proud of how our culture at TAL embraces innovation. A great example of this is our annual innovation challenge, which delivered 2 new launches to market last year including TAL SpotChecker and had over 40% employee participation this year to come up with 2 more that we’re now building towards pilot. We achieve such success by applying a few key principles:

• Strategic Focus: We set the theme around a key strategic challenge to ensure that there will be real buy-in to ideas

• Senior Sponsorship: We get our top leaders involved as sponsors and judges for the ideas as they progress

• Make it real: By creating a prize pot to fund the winning idea(s) into pilot, there is a belief that our challenge leads to real products in market rather than just some ‘innovation theatre’

• Energize the company: We bring in designers, behavioural scientists and artists in order to inspire, facilitate, support and engage all our employees

3. What is the biggest barrier to corporate innovation you have encountered in your career so far? How did or are you overcoming it?

One of the biggest challenges is staying true to an idea. Corporates often have great ideas and have the assets and resources to give them real impact, but then the idea gets watered down and ultimately fails as stakeholders in the business look to minimise impact on their area of the business – so for example a contact centre leader may not want to trial a new product for fear that it increases call times or training needs of the team. I’ve seen lots of ways of addressing this – but you’ll need to read my book to get them!

4. With emerging technologies and digital disruption, what do you view as the #1 skill-set required to thrive in this new age?

I’ve seen vast changes in technology over the past 20 years, and the one thing that has always driven success has been a focus on the customer and this is as true today as ever. It can be easy to be seduced by new technologies and disruptive business models, but it’s the ones that solve a genuine customer challenge in practical ways that have the real potential. That’s why we at TAL are really interested in Artificial Intelligence at the moment as I think it creates real potential to step-change the customer experience in Life Insurance.

Philipp Diekhoner

Asia Innovation Fellow

Manulife

Singapore

1. When it comes to innovation, which company/person inspires you the most? Why?

Dieter Rams who impressively shows that the most valuable propositions retain their appeal over time if you stick to a few key principles of creation.

2. What is one aspect of your corporate culture that supports innovation and how?

Hiring externally on the one hand and a certain curiosity towards external developments with impact on us.

3. What is the biggest barrier to corporate innovation you have encountered in your career so far? How did or are you overcoming it?

Treating leadership as a privilege instead of a skill, lack of individual upside when starting innovation efforts, lack of trust in the individual to get their job done whichever way they know best.

4. With emerging technologies and digital disruption, what do you view as the #1 skill-set required to thrive in this new age?

Understanding what has value to people and the ability to trust those colleagues and customers' best interests.

Emma McDonald

Strategic Programs Director

Commonwealth Bank

Sydney, Australia

1. When it comes to innovation, which company/person inspires you the most? Why?

It’s the people who are curious who inspire me. The people who ask is this the best way? Can we do this differently to make it better?

2. What is one aspect of your corporate culture that supports innovation and how?

The most important mindset any corporate in any division needs to have is a willingness to be open to new ideas. It doesn’t mean you need to do everything but you at least need to be open to look.

3. What is the biggest barrier to corporate innovation you have encountered in your career so far? How did or are you overcoming it?

Inability to see, accept or work with change. I worked in digital media in the very very early days. A big obstacle was the mindset that the way consumers accessed content could be different.

4. With emerging technologies and digital disruption, what do you view as the #1 skill-set required to thrive in this new age?

A curiosity to see the world differently.

Carina Parisella

Senior Manager Strategic Engagement, Digital Transformation & Performance

ANZ

Melbourne, Australia

1. When it comes to innovation, which company/person inspires you the most? Why?

There are lots of companies that I read about and visit who inspire me on a daily basis. Top of mind is Thankyou Group – a social enterprise that donates profits to fund safe water, food, hygiene and sanitation services around the world. Built into the business is a smart technology tracking tool that helps consumers track their personal impact around the globe (creating the stickiness!). It is their origin story that impresses me most – a group of young uni students, with no funding or experience in retail/tech, decides to change the world. Go ahead and Google their story about how they got the attention of Australia’s biggest retailers through their famous Coles & Woolies campaign (enough said!).

2. What is one aspect of your corporate culture that supports innovation and how?

We’re doing a lot of work on this right now – from building our new ways of working and agile practices to establishing innovation functions to build capability across the organisation. One of the things I am very proud of is our partnership with SheStarts – the Technology accelerator for female-led startups which is changing the face of the innovation economy. Our involvement in SheStarts allows us to work closely with startups to identify opportunities for collaboration and investment while supporting them to start, run and grow their businesses. Involving our people in SheStarts also provides a tangible opportunity to expose ANZ to ‘innovation in action’, reflecting our purpose to help people and communities thrive and solve problems for our customers.

3. What is the biggest barrier to corporate innovation you have encountered in your career so far? How did or are you overcoming it?

I think there's a bunch of barriers, this is a really complex problem and opportunity. The most important is the mindset - from the very top and to all levels of the organisation. Does the organisation have an acceptance and readiness for change? Only then can you start to systematically design for innovation, both within your company culture and capability, but also your product offering. Then there's risk avoidance, siloing, lack of integration, technology inhibitors, tools and processes etc. Once you have the mindset to change, you can start proactively building on innovation capabilities - and there's a stack of quick wins that will make a huge difference - do your people have the right tools and processes in place to enable innovation?

4. With emerging technologies and digital disruption, what do you view as the #1 skill-set required to thrive in this new age?

Technology is rapidly changing the way we work and the roles we do. So we need people who can think both creatively and critically to solve problems. Technology is driving a lot of what we do, so STEM skills are going to be critical in the new age. Building diverse teams that better reflect our communities is also incredibly important to succeed and tailor customer solutions for rapidly-changing needs.

Asa Ingerson

Strategic innovation

Suncorp Group

Brisbane, Australia

1. When it comes to innovation, which company/person inspires you the most? Why?

My old boss, Kirsten Dunlop. Incredible intellect, curiosity, original thinking, systems and complexity thinking.

2. What is one aspect of your corporate culture that supports innovation and how?

An acknowledgment that the world is changing and the organisation needs to change too.

3. What is the biggest barrier to corporate innovation you have encountered in your career so far? How did or are you overcoming it?

The structures, systems, processes and values within the organisation are tuned to screen out disruptive innovation.  

4. With emerging technologies and digital disruption, what do you view as the #1 skill-set required to thrive in this new age?

Self awareness and management.

Ryan Tracey

Learning Innovation Manager

Macquarie Group

Sydney, Australia

1. When it comes to innovation, which company/person inspires you the most? Why?

No one person or company inspires me on innovation. Rather, I'm inspired by any person or company that converts a good idea into action. While plenty of commentators talk about potential, innovators realise it.

2. What is one aspect of your corporate culture that supports innovation and how?

Our commitment to do better is our driving force. We don't just wish for things to change, we lead it.

3. What is the biggest barrier to corporate innovation you have encountered in your career so far? How did or are you overcoming it?

The biggest barrier to corporate innovation is the demand for perfection. Agonising over the minutiae of a new product or service only delays its launch, for no real benefit according to the law of diminishing returns. We need to embrace the concept of the MVP - Minimum Viable Product, and consider that the starting point rather than the end point.

4. With emerging technologies and digital disruption, what do you view as the #1 skill-set required to thrive in this new age?

I'm not sure if it's so much a skill-set as a mindset: we need to be agile. Certainly, do your homework up front, but then roll out your idea and iterate it according to what your customers are telling you.

Georgina Kwa

Innovation Leadership Manager

Deloitte Consulting

Southeast Asia

1. When it comes to innovation, which company/person inspires you the most? Why?

DBS Bank, good leadership and culture

2. What is one aspect of your corporate culture that supports innovation and how?

Learning and development - we inject mandatory Design Thinking and innovation modules into our practitioners' curriculum, so that everyone is aware and brought up to speed with the innovation that happens within the firm; as well as equipping them with skills and competencies to help themselves start on the innovation journey within their team, service line and function.

3. What is the biggest barrier to corporate innovation you have encountered in your career so far? How did or are you overcoming it?

Many naysayers in the senior and mid management, that innovation in the firm is a fad, and it was all lip service. Naturally, most will pay more attention to their core products/ services, instead of investing resources in new growth area. This took us a long time to convene the key stakeholders in the company to commit and actually act on it. Following this main barrier, my suspect was that some may not be comfortable taking on corporate innovation because they do not know where to start and how to lead it.

4. With emerging technologies and digital disruption, what do you view as the #1 skill-set required to thrive in this new age?

Soft skills like creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, heck even simple things like people management and EQ are some of what I witnessed to be most lacking even in the most advanced organisations.

Megan Harris

Digital and Innovation Culture Designer

Bank of Queensland

Brisbane, Australia

1. When it comes to innovation, which company/person inspires you the most? Why?

The amazing people that passionately work in co-working spaces, incubators, accelerators and generally hustle every minute of every day to make a difference and put cool ideas and people on the innovation map!

2. What is one aspect of your corporate culture that supports innovation and how?

Investing in partnerships, encouraging internal innovation, creating innovation roles, supporting creativity

3. What is the biggest barrier to corporate innovation you have encountered in your career so far? How did or are you overcoming it?

Misalignment around innovation objectives and a lack of understanding that to embrace innovation, means a cultural and behavioural mindset shift - transformational people skills are required and this is often misunderstood as to what it takes to change a culture in a sustainable way. Also, balancing BAU changes/improvements with the development of a culture of innovation

4. With emerging technologies and digital disruption, what do you view as the #1 skill-set required to thrive in this new age?

Superior communication and influencing skills.  In the world of ever growing tech - savvy people skills will be essential to make sure that we maintain authentic human connections!

Mark La Bozzetta

Business Adviser

BT Financial Group

Melbourne, Australia

1. When it comes to innovation, which company/person inspires you the most? Why?

Steve Jobs (sounds cliche) however had a relentless pursuit of crystal clarity, fierce focus and essential simplicity.

2. What is one aspect of your corporate culture that supports innovation and how?

Recognised in our strategy development framework is a core capability of innovation. We also recognise that innovation does not just include technology .. but any domain where you have improved efficiency or perceived customer value.

3. What is the biggest barrier to corporate innovation you have encountered in your career so far? How did or are you overcoming it?

Not recognising that it is an essential capability to compete and stay relevant in today's business world. Taking time to stimulate innovation is not embedded into the operating rhythm of a number of businesses - it should be!

4. With emerging technologies and digital disruption, what do you view as the #1 skill-set required to thrive in this new age?

Never to forget the customer/client and your staff (team). Everything to do with technology can be learned or you can employ someone who has the technical skills. The challenge is having someone who has a fierce focus on ensuring the new tech actually adds real value that is important to the lives of the customer and the team that is serving them.

Manuel Saurer

Management Consultant

EY

Sydney, Australia

1. When it comes to innovation, which company/person inspires you the most? Why?

Elon Musk - he gets unbelievable things done. He is not asking is this possible, he ask why should this NOT be possible.

2. What is one aspect of your corporate culture that supports innovation and how?

It allows people to think out of the box. There are no limitations. Be entrepreneurial and try things in a different, better way.

3. What is the biggest barrier to corporate innovation you have encountered in your career so far? How did or are you overcoming it?

Culture. If people are only trained on playing politics and justify their role then this doesn’t lead to innovation. Organisation need to put their customers in the middle and try to make their lives better. This will automatically lead to innovation.

4. With emerging technologies and digital disruption, what do you view as the #1 skill-set required to thrive in this new age?

Be able to adapt. The world is changing and we need to be able to change with it. If we try to hold on stuff for too long then it might be that we lost the connection

Ben Moreau

Innovation Director

Experian

Singapore

1. When it comes to innovation, which company/person inspires you the most? Why?

Amazon - true commitment to innovation through the company

2. What is one aspect of your corporate culture that supports innovation and how?

Innovation workshops throughout the region - investment in people and time

3. What is the biggest barrier to corporate innovation you have encountered in your career so far? How did or are you overcoming it?

No real existing culture or governance - hard to change the operating rhythms to "make room" for innovation

4. With emerging technologies and digital disruption, what do you view as the #1 skill-set required to thrive in this new age?

Data Scientists

John Blicq

Strategic Option Lead

Suncorp

Sydney, Australia

1. When it comes to innovation, which company/person inspires you the most? Why?

Elon Musk because he has the courage to stick to his vision even if it sounds crazy and execute on it. I also admire companies like 3M where innovation is at the heart of everything they do.

2. What is one aspect of your corporate culture that supports innovation and how?

Outside of the innovation team our culture does not support innovation or very little. Big corporates are good at sustaining innovation not disruptive innovation.

3. What is the biggest barrier to corporate innovation you have encountered in your career so far? How did or are you overcoming it?

The biggest barrier is the time scale and ROI standard requirements. We expect disruptive innovation, immediately and at a high level of profitability. Reality is that a large percentage of innovative project will never come to life. We usually overcome this issue by having strong engagement with SLT members.

4. With emerging technologies and digital disruption, what do you view as the #1 skill-set required to thrive in this new age?

To me partnering with the right experts (established or startups) to deliver an outstanding CX will be the key. Big Corporates tends to have a "build bias". To me the competition is around managing the interaction with the end user.

Innovate or die.

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Shay Namdarian

Shay is the General Manager of Customer Strategy at Collective Campus. He has over 8 years of experience working across a wide range of projects focusing on customer experience, design thinking, innovation and digital transformation. He has gained his experience across several consulting firms including Ernst & Young, Capgemini and Accenture.

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