The Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s (CBA) Emerging Technology team identifies and experiments with the objective of keeping CBA at the forefront of technology in the financial sector, in essence “bringing the future forward”.
A key focus of the team is to experiment with developing technologies, and to bring them into areas of the organisation where value can be generated, to ultimately ensure that CBA is well prepared for potential disruption over the horizon. Head of Emerging Technology, Dilan Rajasingham describes sharing learning and embedding of the technology to the business as success for the team, “it’s all about learning and embedding… it could be deploying a new piece of technology in a particular business unit that adds new value, or it could be educating a group of individuals to help develop further experiments – we would consider both of these as wins.”
“Innovation works better at scale”, so when experimenting with technologies, a collaborative approach is essential in order to reach scale and CBA often works with others in their innovation ecosystem including other departments within CBA, and other large, like-minded financial institutions, start-ups and accelerated incubators.
Universities are also seen to be a “key source of talent and ideas” and have been incorporated into their extensive innovation ecosystem through financial support and working collaboratively on projects. As Dilan says, “we have worked with a number of universities…we’re working closely with UNSW on quantum computing, which has now evolved to supporting commercialisation of the technology with Telstra and the Federal Government”
CBA has an incubation centre that is used internally to develop employee ideas but they also utilise the labs of their partners and have a number of strategic technology vendors and start-ups around the world with which they work with extensively. Dilan describes the view CBA has towards incubation as having a “wide connected network of organisations that can incubate ideas for a common purpose.”
Collaboration is central to what the bank does, and rather than having a centralised innovation team, which does all the innovation, innovation is distributed throughout the organisation. “For example, the emerging technologies team looks at over the horizon technology… then there are other teams that look at other sorts of innovation and products.” Dilan points out. The targeted nature of teams encourages engagement and sharing across the organisation helping foster the culture of collaboration.
To inspire and create a commitment to the innovation culture at CBA, Dilan explains their plan encapsulates three elements; to inform, to empower and to educate. “There’s ‘inform,’ which is about getting the word out, thought leadership and research. There is ‘empower,’ which is about unleashing innovation, what we call innovation challenges, hackathons, internal workshops and events – that get the best thinkers to talk about what they’re doing and encourage others to adopt similar thinking. Then there’s educate – we start intensively educating people who are interested in different topics like quantum computing, blockchain and artificial intelligence. We cover different technologies that we’ve experimented with, start to encourage them and give them skills to use these technologies in their day to day work.”
Based on a model of collaboration, employee engagement, and the fostering of a culture that empowers and inspires creativity across the innovation ecosystem, CBA is remaining proactive and preparing themselves for the disruptive opportunities that may come over the horizon.
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