When I worked as an investment banker, one of the insights that became clear to me very early on was that banks have transformed very quickly into technology businesses. What used to be an industry with relational managers and bank balance sheets offering very vanilla products has now become a very technology-centric industry with multiple touch points and very complex real time services served through technology.
The changes have happened, and continue to happen very quickly. With the business focusing on staying up to speed with the market and keeping it’s customers happy, it often doesn’t have the perspective or luxury to see the wood from the trees. Recently American Express has fallen on tough times for not maintaining it’s strategic relationship with Costco, for example. Add to the mix that banks often employ 10,000+ staff, which is great for momentum but severely limits their ability to be nimble and implement things quickly.
On the other side of the spectrum sits small business. Innovation and being fleet footed are almost synonymous. But scaling and operations are tough for small business. In April I wrote for Moneyweb on how the financial industry is throwing it’s hat in the innovation ring and seeing what comes of it. There is definitely a middle ground for the innovators and big business to work together if the incentives and engagement are well defined.
I was happy to see that Standard Bank has embraced this methodology in their Pathfinders Challenge that is currently underway. It’s an opportunity for techies, young professionals and entrepreneurs to pitch, demonstrate and commercialise an innovative banking solution and then get the support of Standard Bank to take it into the big leagues.
R500,000 of skin has been put in the game by Standard Bank in the form of cash, UX testing, rapid prototyping, technical support and mentorship for the winners of the Pathfinders Challenge. Winners will be flown out to the Standard Bank Incubator in Rosebank, where they will be accommodated for the duration of the execution. The competition launched on the 3rd of October and entries will close on the 6th of November at 23:59. It’s open to anybody with a solution that Standard Bank could benefit from. And likely the credibility and experience of going through a pitch process is just as valuable as the prize money.