The antidote to swallowing a crystal ball: Experimentation!

07-03-17 11:43 | Digital banking | The Digital Hub

In 2016, much chat in financial and tech media focused on the ‘threat and disruption’ facing the banking industry; from improvements in technology and the exciting solutions emerging from Fintech.

Not surprisingly, the general hysteria about ‘threats’ has calmed down. So while speed to market is key regulatory considerations must also be in place to protect customers. This requires real cross-industry collaboration to remain safe and trusted partners to the societies we serve.

It’s not an overstatement to say that we live in extraordinary times. To meet the complex and pressing challenges ahead, there is a real need for us to collectively become more aware of the way we think and where we think from. So that from within the maelstrom of uncertainty, we are clearly focussing on what’s important.

‘Being at ease with not knowing is crucial for answers to come to you’ – Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now)

We like to ‘know’ because it makes us feel in control, but also because we fear making mistakes, so when uncertainty hits and the whole context shifts, we tend to revert to what we know.

It’s crystal clear that doing the same things faster, over and over, expecting  a different outcome,  ensures that we will make the wrong decisions and usually for the wrong reasons.

So while we will always have ideas or visions of the future, we should treat them with some level of circumspection, remembering that ‘ideas’ are all they are. Like when John Hamre (1999), US Deputy Secretary of Defence was convinced that Y2K would be the ‘electronic equivalent of the El Nino’ and in 2008 Ben Bernanke said ‘The Federal Reserve is currently not forecasting a recession’

‘Experimentation is an active science’- Claude Bernard

The truth is - we don’t know the future. The best cure I know for this particular ‘ailment’ is experimentation. The great news is that from the dawn of time our evolution as a race has depended on it, it is how we collectively find out and create the future - today!

As a financial ecosystem we operate in wider environmental and societal ‘ecosystems.’ A mind-set shift which requires we recognise the distributed, networked dependency between them. There has never been a better time to actively participate in the evolution of our own and each other’s ecosystems to collaborate for a connected reality and collective good.

It’s been my continued experience while leaning in, and letting go of inner belief systems to test the water, that the need to hold on simply becomes unimportant, as the focus becomes the brilliantly new results. Curiosity and courage are all we need to look at redefining what financial services can and could mean to society. We are uniquely placed to avoid collectively wasting precious resources and effort ‘all’ trying to separately achieve the same or related goals.

Here, with our internal focus on culture change, are just some of the initiatives over the last 2 years that have kick-started Nordea’s journey on this road:

  • 2 accelerator programmes for start-ups, typically intensive three-month programs in the Nordics. Focusing on innovations for customer experience and touch points in digital, value opportunities around payments and ways for customers to achieve their dreams.
  • 5 day internal Innovation week, using key trends identified in 2016, supported by mindfulness to help envision future human and customer behaviour in a socially conscious context.
  • 6 week “Summer of innovation” in Helsinki in 2016. In just one week, students were presented with a new 'sprint' challenge, requiring them to move from an identified customer need to a prototyped solution using non-traditional approaches. (This year to be in Helsinki & Stockholm)
  • We recently sponsored a 54 hour hackathon; Fintech Startup weekend. Teams formed around the top ideas) and embarked on a three-day frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing and market validation.
  • Setting up an Open Banking portal which will act as the channel for dialogue with partners and third-party developers planned for Q1 2018, but starting with several pilot activities already in 2017. 

By collectively experimenting, we only risk surprising ourselves positively. In conclusion, while no-one knows the future, we’re definitely learning something cool! Come join us!

/Tabitha Cooper, Strategic Business Developer at Nordea.

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