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Innovation Labs, Hackathons and Accelerators - Fad or Fab?

There has been a tremendous amount of debate as to whether innovation labs, hackathons or accelerators are indeed a success or just another way to garner public attention. The FinTech world has been awash with a lot of hype over the last 3-4 years but those working at a product/solution level see things very differently.

As someone who is heavily involved working within these domains, I thought it was my duty to at least past some objective comments. I recently moderated a panel discussion at Bank Tech Asia in Kuala Lumpur November of this year, it was probably the most riveting panel discussion over the two days. The future of what the banking world will do is largely underpinned by the success of these types of events. That’s tremendously important if we think about FinTech and it’s meaning, and the foundation for success.

Let’s first focus on all three types individually.

Innovation Labs

Innovation labs are really nothing new but in the context of FinTech over the last few years, the banking world has embraced the opportunity to try and do more when it comes to co-creation, ideation and building small PoC’s (proof-of-concept) and small point solutions with the start-up community. Indeed, I’ve spent time at a few innovation labs and both the banks and start-ups are taking this very seriously, it’s not just a show or publicity stunt to prove to the rest of the world that they’re doing something. Banks like many large financial institutions are in desperate need of trying to stay relevant in the digital world we’re now in. Working with a handful of clever start-ups is just one way to try and tackle problem statements they’re trying to address, creating the relevant use cases and then building solutions for the future.


I’ve been involved in several hackathon events with more being planned and I absolutely love them. It’s been a couple of decades since I’ve coded in anger and even then I wasn’t very good at it. Hackathons are a great way for large financial institutions to work with start-ups and then select the best ones based on the problem statements/use cases the bank for example is trying to address. If you’re a techie you’ll love the vibe and commitment of the teams as they have a very limited time frame to build something they’re able to demonstrate to the judges.

Having been a judge at a recent hackathon run by DCB Bank in Mumbai, I was mightily impressed with the young start-ups. They demonstrated their technical abilities but built solutions that would be a great benefit to the banks but also consumers and business clients alike. The teams thought very hard as to how to make the lives of the consumer and business clients better utilising the new and emerging tech we’re reading about today.


I’ve been mentoring for a number of different accelerators now for the last year or so now and I throughly enjoy it. Being part of the FinTech ecosystem is throughly rewarding, not only from a giving perspective, sharing knowledge and experience but I am continually learning from start-ups too. Accelerators are very important to drive awareness of known problem statements and to attract the very best start-ups who can look to kick-on if they’re successful through investment and reach. Typically there are two formats which exist, firstly independently run programmes backed by large MNC’s who help support the programme or banking led accelerators where these programmes are run exclusively by the banks themselves. Both programmes ultimately have have the same objective and goals.

Final Thoughts – Fad or Fab?

I believe all domains provide some form of value in their own way which contributes to this ecosystem. The single biggest objective across the start-up and banking world is centered on the consumer or business client with whom you’re trying to serve. How do we make their lives easier? How we keep them engaged? Most of the time there aren’t the huge successes we’d all like to see, but that’s ok as this is a test and learn exercise anyway. In my experience though as part of the process we’re never exactly sure what we’ll unearth at such events and for me that’s always the fun and exciting part.



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Kunal Patel

Kunal Patel

Product Manager


Member since

02 Aug 2015


London, United Kingdom

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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

Innovation in Financial Services

A discussion of trends in innovation management within financial institutions, and the key processes, technology and cultural shifts driving innovation.

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