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Is innovation in your DNA?

The emphasis on innovation has never been more acute; that has been clearly established based on the findings of this year's Efma-Infosys Innovation in Retail Banking study. But the study has also found that the innovation effort in most banks is not supported by a designated central resource or by an organizational framework that brings together employees from across functions and business lines.

But there are banks, as the study documents, that have mastered the art of making innovation a structured and enterprise-wide effort.

One of Europe's largest banks UniCredit, for example, has a clearly defined structure for fostering innovation. Firstly, it relies on strong processes for identifying trends, defining priorities and using open innovation. It also has dedicated innovation teams - for retail banking, for technology & operations and a specialized R&D team - and uses internal networking and collaboration tools and communities to ensure that employees are engaged in the innovation process.

Colombian bank Davivienda has a fully fleshed out innovation system that includes tools, principles, procedures and guidelines. The system has thus far been used to train more than 600 'innovation coaches' and over 7,000 employees and to deliver hundreds of innovation projects. The company's innovation culture is a result of continuing investments in external professional support, thousands of man-days of training and company-wide events to address various aspects of innovation.

And then from the technological hotspot that is South Korea comes a bank that firmly believes that constant innovation is the fundamental catalyst for growth. Hana Bank, one of the largest retail banks in the country, has won multiple awards for innovation. It was the first to offer a smartphone banking service in the country in 2009. In 2010, it rolled out its personal financial management tool by pre-installing it on Samsung phones. Last year saw the launch of its award winning e-wallet that even non-Hana customers could use. All this has been driven by making innovation an integral part of the bank's culture.

For innovation to be successful and sustainable, banks have to create the requisite frameworks and structures that enable all stakeholders to participate in the process. For continuous innovation to deliver tangible results, it has to become part of the cultural DNA at banks


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