Tap That: How Banks Farm Innovation Ideas

Whom better to know a company’s deficiencies than its staff?

Banks are soliciting ideas from their employees to know what products and which areas they need to innovate, said panelists today during a SWIFT Operations Forum Americas panel held in New York.

Indeed, Citigroup and BNY Mellon both tap their employees for ideas to help fuel innovation strategies.

Citi, for one, relies on an employee engagement model to spur innovative ideas for the financial institution, said Antonio (Yobi) Benjamin, global chief technology officer and managing director of global transaction services at Citi.

With more than a quarter of a million employees worldwide, Citi boasts a lot of brainpower to tap. The latest innovation staff contest yielded participation that far exceeded the bank’s expectations, said Benjamin.

“We received thousands of entries,” Benjamin said. “The experience has been extremely positive and helpful to employee engagement.”

In fact, Citi’s chief innovation officer is judging the idea finalists today to determine which one is best, Benjamin said.

BNY Mellon, meanwhile, collects ideas through an internal portal in an effort to better its innovation efforts.

“Who should innovate? We said everyone,” said Susan E. Skerritt, head of business strategy and market solutions at BNY Mellon Treasury Services.

BNY Mellon hosts “innovation jams,” where the wholesale bank fields a problem online and encourages all of its employees to suggest resolutions. The sessions typically last one to three days, with about 10% of all employees participating, said Skerritt.

“Innovation is most effective when there is an issue to be addressed,” she said.

Beyond its staff, BNY Mellon relies on its clients as innovator guiders. To know what to develop, the wholesale bank asks clients questions like: What are the problems you face? What do you need? “The best innovations come from those conversations,” Skerritt said.

But should there be just one “winning” idea? Bruce Cahan, founder of Urban Logic, argued that banks should strive to incorporate as many worthwhile ideas into their businesses as possible.

“This isn’t a golf match with one winner,” said Bruce Cahan, founder of Urban Logic.

When an audience member inquired how “innovating” is different from “problem solving,” Skerritt offered this explanation:

“Arguably, some innovation is problem solving we’ve done before. We’re problem solving in a new way and encouraging change. Encouraging change is not something risk-adverse organizations do very well.”

2 thoughts on “Tap That: How Banks Farm Innovation Ideas

  1. TED coming in rapidly. Down to 356.

  2. Surely these banks do not believe that this is innovative. The concept has been around for half a century. 

    Really good banks let the person that has fleshed out the idea share in the rewards.