Lipstick vs. Value

10-01-17 13:04 | Digital banking | The Digital Hub

So, what to focus on in a blog kicking off 2017? I assume most of you are tired of reading about digitalisation, disruption or well-established companies being totally undermined by new business models?

As I see it, there is currently a lot of panicking going on within banking, focusing too much on window-dressing activities and putting “lipstick on a pig”. Banking is not all about appearances - there’s much more to it. We need to bring real content and value to our customers. Our CEO recently put this quite well when he said: “You can’t talk your way to customer satisfaction – you need to take concrete actions.” The good news is that the more proactive and forward-leaning banks are embracing change across the industry, the more we continue to evolve towards the next generation of banking.

When working with innovation, I have realised that the difficult bit is not coming up with new ideas and thoughts - the main problem is to get the old ideas and old habits out of your head. This is one of the things that Nordea’s ongoing culture change journey is trying to address: how we think, act and see the bank as part of an eco-system and not an ego-system. It’s definitely not a walk in the park dealing with culture and employee engagement – knowing that our employees are our most valuable asset. But how do we get the old ideas out in order to pave the way for the next generation digital bank? 

Well, first of all: don’t panic, keep calm and try to stay focused despite all the distractions you are spammed by on a daily basis through various news feeds. Start by uniting across business areas, break down the silo thinking and way of working. No one can do everything but everybody can do something. I’m probably not doing enough yet, but one example is regular cross business unit meetings that I have established in order to engage and align on innovation activities across business areas in Nordea. Does it work? We have left the runway, but it is too early to say. Another example is a recent event called Innovation Week where we boosted our creative idea generation and came up with approximately 60 ideas in three days – you can get a glimpse of the spirit here. We sincerely hope to develop several minimum loveable products during 2017 – stay tuned!

But there’s so much more to do, i.e. enhance customer-driven innovation through dedicated development sprints focusing on current pain points together with our customers. It’s not just the financial world that is going digital - so are our customers! The environment in which Nordea operates is also constantly changing and we need to adjust accordingly; therefore, we should never stop questioning our overall strategy. Recently I heard a guy say that it doesn’t add much value anymore to discuss digital strategies since everything is already digital. It may be that I’m exaggerating in order to make my point, but there is no doubt that we are going through a period of profound technological change. As ever, change is constant so hang in there and enjoy the ride!  

Banking innovation is about bringing real value to our customers.  As a middle-aged, semi-tech savvy Dane living in Norway, I'm feeling very lucky to be part of this journey with Nordea. The fact that we are addressing our culture, opening up towards greater collaboration and applying an outside-in perspective to utilise the best of all worlds makes me feel very comfortable about the future.

/Nicolaj Hval-Thomsen, Head of Innovation Lab at Nordea.

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