'How global sharing can spark local innovation,' Simon Andrews, Chief Operating Officer, ING Direct

"Technology is a fantastic enabler for innovation but the pace of change is fast and competition intense; we need to be agile in development and testing, execute quickly – and then refine as we go to keep pace with customer needs and behaviours..."  

In this rapidly evolving world, creating a culture of continual innovation is a must if we want to deliver the right services and solutions to our customers.

Technology is a fantastic enabler for innovation but the pace of change is fast and competition intense. We don’t have the time to “take our time” so we need to be agile in development and testing, execute quickly – and then refine as we go to keep pace with customer needs and behaviours.  

It’s here where I think building your networks and getting new perspectives can deliver a distinct advantage.

For example, one of the benefits of working for a large multinational such as ING Group is the sheer number of ideas that are imagined, tested and implemented in the various global offices. Being part of a wide network means we’re in a position to take these successes (and failures) and learn from each other. It’s not always necessary to reinvent the wheel each time, and start from scratch with our ideas. We can adapt global thinking to suit local markets.

The concept behind the recent redevelopment of our digital platform – offering customers a personalised experience through timely, relevant communications via our digital assets –originated from ING DIRECT in Spain. We evolved the innovation by rebuilding the Spanish concept using web components.  Equally, we’ve been able to export our own innovations – such as the rapid provisioning of ING DIRECT’s complete operating environment in just ten minutes, enabling faster testing and delivery of products and services to our customers.


Leveraging skills and capabilities

Being part of a multi-national provides ready-made connections to draw upon, but there are still things you can do to spark innovation even if you don’t have a global team.

Build a network of people who can offer a different perspective on existing problems. Go to conferences or events where you can get insight into what others are doing, and what’s worked well. Increase knowledge of your target audience by keeping up to date with trends and behaviours – and keep an eye on what’s happening within your industry, as well as other industries too. Sometimes the best innovations can come from applying the principles which are successful in other industries to your own.

Explore potential partnerships for innovation, which can leverage capabilities on each side. For example, INGs collaboration with Fintech Kabbage earlier this year leveraged the start-up’s technological capability while benefiting from the marketing reach and credibility of the well-established ING brand. It’s a win-win.

Encourage collaboration within your organisation by building cross-functioning teams who can contribute different mindsets and skillsets. Integrate the business and technology function into one delivery organisation, and understand how the role of technology really impacts the business. Look at things holistically, not just from a technology point of view.

Get feedback from customers along the way, and understand what is really important to them when you’re innovating. The design and functionality of our mobile app changed substantially while in development, following continual testing and feedback from our customers.

Ideally you need to encourage collaboration at the ‘ideas’ stage, before you start to innovate – leveraging capabilities, sharing skills and getting new perspectives. When it comes to innovation, there’s no doubt that multiple heads are better than one. 


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