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An article relating to this blog post on Finextra:

Semenchuk quits as Citi moves tech innovation unit to Silicon Valley

Citigroup has shaken up its Growth Ventures and Innovation Unit as it looks to tap emerging technology from Silicon Valley tech firms to revitalise its retail banking operations.

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Echo chambers and primary research: what's the balance?


Finextra today announces Citi's consolidation of innovation centers, with the bank's executive citing the need to be closer to the "echo chamber" that exists here in the Bay Area. Count me in as at once skeptical and supportive of Citi's approach.

As the founder a global research company based in the Bay Area I pose a question: are surprising insights most likely to be found within an echo-chamber of experts, or are they more likely to be found by by conducting rigorous, primary research? Naturally as a researcher my bias (ahem) is to primary research. Yet in defense of the echo-chamber approach, Javelin researchers routinely rely on soundings of experts for generation of ideas and possibilities, which are then used to shape or balance the structured research we field. 

So I found the Citi executives echo-chamber comment intriguing, because at Javelin I normally use the term only as a pejorative label, such as "...with primary research you get outside of the insular echo-chamber, finding out how payment offerings *really* influence acquisition, cross-sell or loyalty!". Yet each time I drive to a Silicon Valley event or fly to an industry meeting I collect several new ideas for products, go-to-market strategies and yes, new ways to frame primary research. 

Citi is smart to be locating an innovation center in the echo chamber of technology that is Silicon Valley, and may find that they one-up their banking competitors in this approach just as Japanese automakers have captured the US West Coast market from Detroit by locating their design centers in California. Yet when banking products are reliant on changes in behavior from consumers, merchants, bankers or others, there's also no substitute for going directly to the source. It's a balance, isn't it? 

Echo chambers and rigorous research must go together like hand-in-glove if high return on investment for financial technology innovation is the goal. Thank you, Citi, for reminding me of the value of industry insight. 



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