An Interview with Andy Weir, Chief Innovation Officer and Executive General Manager, Enterprise Services, Bankwest


FST Media: What are your business and digital priorities for the next 6 months?

Weir: These are very much intertwined as we move into an increasingly digital economy where differentiation will be based around the customer experience

FST Media: What are your business and digital priorities for the next 6 months?

Weir: These are very much intertwined as we move into an increasingly digital economy where differentiation will be based around the customer experience. As a result, our first horizon priorities include; 1) transforming the digital customer experience in a number of our chosen customer segments, 2) creating a lower cost, scalable, open and secure technology platform that will facilitate integration with a number of strategic partners and 3) continuing to invest heavily in User Design (UX) and cloud technology capabilities.


FST Media: What is role of banks in helping drive Australia’s competiveness of innovation in the fintech sector?

Weir: There is so much exciting innovation in the fintech space that it would be virtually impossible for any single enterprise to keep pace.  Banks should therefore look increasingly to work with (rather than against) fintech companies to develop awesome customer experiences that will ultimately benefit consumers by making their lives easier. Creating more open architectures to enable fintech companies to easily and securely integrate with Banks will amplify innovation efforts. The challenge however is not just a technology one – banks need to challenge their existing cultures and ways of working to get the best from working with smaller, more agile, fintech innovators.


FST Media: What can be gained from bridging the knowledge gap between everyday Australians and understanding their banking?

Weir: Financial literacy plays a vitally important role in driving a stronger economy and community. Banks can play a major role in driving consistent levels of literacy across all demographics in Australia. Bankwest is proactive in addressing this, from in-store tutorials about digital banking for older customers to visits to primary schools to inform school kids of the benefits of saving from a young age. That said, banks shouldn’t underestimate the importance of making what can traditionally be complex and confusing for customers much easier through simplified products, services and experiences.


FST Media: What technology or innovation is proving to be the single biggest game changer for the finance industry?

Weir: It would be very easy to say blockchain technology is the biggest game changer. However, I suspect the impact from this will only start to have a profound effect beyond the next 3-5 years. For me, the Internet of Things (IOT) will drive more immediate shifts in customers’ lifestyles. In the IOT world, real-time payments will become a given as well as payments made via any customer ‘wearable’ technology (not just their mobile phone). We will also see an exponential increase in ‘alert’ based experiences, particularly when coupled with improved data analytics. Bankwest has already developed Easy Alerts which provides real-time alerts to customers via their phone or smart watch on transactions made and I would expect this type of experience to extend to other wearables or household devices in the future.


FST Media: How do you encourage a culture of innovation within your organisation?

Weir: Innovation at Bankwest pervades all of our change processes as we believe this is what is unique about truly innovative organisations. We don’t believe in making innovation part of a ‘special group’ – it must permeate everything you do and even more importantly, how you do things. We were one of the first Australian banks to establish Hack Days, which have now become a fundamental part of our operating model. Once a quarter we ask colleagues from across Bankwest to down tools and work on ideas and innovations that address issues or create value for our customers. The Hack Days last 24 hours and, at the end, the colleague groups present back to their peers and our senior leaders. We have held 12 Hack Days to date, resulting in over 50 innovations that have been put into production, including our very first mobile banking app.


FST Media: What disruptive skill set or innovation is the most in demand in the finance industry?

Weir: I don’t think it’s different for financial services than most other industries seeking to differentiate through transformed customer experiences. On the technical side, every organisation is seeking the best possible software engineering skills, design thinking and, increasingly, cloud-based technology skills. All of these capabilities will be rendered useless without the right organisational culture to cultivate the skills. Organisations require highly inquisitive, adaptable and resilient people who have a real customer and commercial focus underpinning their solutioning efforts. In successful organisations, the barriers between ‘technical’ and ‘business’ people is necessarily being eroded as we move to a world of highly collaborative and multi-skilled ‘design cells’, orientated around a common purpose and outcomes. Excitingly, at Bankwest we have now created a number of these design cells as a prototype of the future way of working.


FST Media: What is the ideal innovation ecosystem? How can start-ups and big corporations effectively collaborate in the finance industry?

Weir: Partnering with start-ups can bring real value to larger organisations like banks. Firstly, by accelerating innovation efforts through leveraging new ideas and technology and turning these into differentiated customer experiences. Then, as well as developing fintech innovation, start-ups can help larger, more established organisations with the cultural transformation necessary to flourish in the digital and customer experience-based economy. Start-ups can bring proficiency in new methodologies like Lean Start-Up or Co-Creation to challenge established ways of working and, in particular, help larger organisations to embrace and learn from failure. This type of eco-system requires a highly collaborative, test and learn type approach to be successful as opposed to following the ‘normal’ ways of operating – otherwise what’s the point of working with the start-up in the first place?


FST Media: What is your golden piece of advice for young professionals?            

Weir: Obsess about the customer and the outcomes that matter to them. Customers don’t buy home loans, they buy houses. And success in the future will be for those who deliver what really matters for their customers in terms of the experience provided.