How do you define innovation in finance?
Are we talking about the creation of new synthetic debt instruments, famously decried by Warren Buffet as "financial weapons of mass destruction".
Or should we be looking at tech or service-led innovations that have contributed to the social good.
The reason I ask is because MIT has just published a ranking of the
50 most innovative companies in the world, selected for their "superiority at inventing technology and using it both to grow as businesses and to transform how we live".
Not surprisingly, the only finance-related company to make the ranking was Obopay, a non-bank mobile payments start-up.
Equally, Fast Company's recent list of the
ten most innovative companies in finance included only one recognisable bank - Itaú Unibancoe - if you discount the contributions of Triodos and Canadian credit union Vancity.
It would seem that traditional banks - slow, ponderous and conservative by nature - are being outpaced and outflanked at every turn by a fresh batch of nimble free thinkers, who are prepared to tear up the rule books and experiment with new ways of delivering
In the UK, upstart newcomer Metro Bank says it plans to "to eliminate every stupid bank
rule we can find", by opening all hours, installing public toilets in their branches and by promising to open an account and issue debit and credit cards to new customers within 15 minutes of applying at a branch.
Now does this count as innovation or just common-sense, customer-oriented retailing? It all depends upon the prism you're looking through.
Personally I'm with Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, who believes we have to go back more than 30 years to find the last truly great financial innovation: ie the invention of the ATM. "It really helps people, it's useful," he said.