An Interview with Todd Schofield


Standard Chartered Bank’s Managing Director of SC Studios speaks to FST Media about the relationship between startups and corporate innovation.

FST Media: What role does SC Studios play at Standard Chartered Bank?

Schofield: SC Studios is the technology and innovation office for Standard Chartered Bank. From our location in San Francisco, a booming hub of the Silicon Valley ecosystem, we keep the bank at the forefront of key technologies and trends as they emerge. Through partnerships with tech startups, leading venture capital firms, universities and other corporate innovators, SC Studios has gained prominence both within and beyond the bank.

FST Media: How can finance and technology companies leverage the ecosystem of Silicon Valley to innovate and transform their organisation?

Schofield: Silicon Valley is the top innovation ecosystem in the world and the epicentre of innovations that are transforming the global economy. Silicon Valley is not just about technology, but it is about having an innovative mindset.

Every industry is now faced with disruption from emerging technologies and this is showing no signs of slowing down. In this hyper-connected digital age, large companies that are not actively engaging new technologies and mindsets are at the highest risk.

In my role, I strategically connect technopreneurs and startups with business units within the bank, creating greater value for both. This has allowed the bank to keep pace with current trends, while leveraging the best Silicon Valley has to offer, to support and extend our business objectives. From occasional visits to investments, to setting up a presence, corporations need to consider the best fit for their organisation and what will drive the most value, in the long-term. Navigating the complexities of both the corporate and startup spheres requires someone who has the mentality to become a bridge between two very different worlds.

FST Media: What is the relationship between startups and corporate innovation?

Schofield: Corporate innovation takes place when companies are efficiently recreating established business practices with better results. Startups, meanwhile, are in the business of creating something new, often disrupting business as it is currently practiced, in a given industry.

Putting these two elements together requires strategic partnering, so that these vastly different entities can mesh and create value for both. Innovation cannot be the sole province of one small group in the corporation; it must be spread across all business units.

FST Media: What is the next wave of technology or innovation that will make a significant impact on financial services?

Schofield: A combination of trends including mobile, cloud and data analytics, will continue to accelerate the change in financial services.

Underlying technologies such as cryptocurrency blockchain can be applied to numerous industries, and they will have an increasingly significant impact as the technology is adopted and adapted. This is a major disruptive force that could completely alter the financial landscape in the coming decades.

In addition, peer-to-peer lending and emerging new payments systems are expected to have a transformative effect on financial services and emerging economies in the short term.

FST Media: How are you leveraging big data and analytics to gain a competitive advantage?

Schofield: Big data provides a fantastic opportunity to create new capabilities that did not exist before. For example, through SC Studios, Standard Chartered Bank partnered with an advanced data analytics startup. By working together, we created an entirely new type of economic index, based on crowdsourced data collection in emerging market countries.\

The bank and our clients are now using it to track consumer price changes in Nigeria. This can return real time data at a detailed level that was not previously available. This type of innovation gives Standard Chartered Bank a significant edge over our competitors with pricing insights into an important African market.

While SC Studios keeps an eye on promising startups in Silicon Valley, we also keep the bank’s top executives informed, through monthly technology trending papers, and we host local executive meetings with key players in the Valley.

FST Media: What are the emerging technologies and trends that will influence the payments landscape in the next five years?

Schofield: Payments will be increasingly driven by areas where friction and cost can be reduced: from providing an increasingly better user experience to streamline processing, digital transactions and dynamic payments will affect financial services around the world.

FST Media: What skills do you think aspiring technology chiefs should invest in for future success?

Schofield: Technology chiefs must continually stay on top of cutting-edge trends to ensure that they are not blindsided by unforeseen disruption. It is no longer a question of simply gaining skills, but it is now also about the adoption of a mindset of agility and adaptability. Technology chiefs can be important change agents within corporations by encouraging a spirit of innovation and evolving the organisational mindset to keep up with the pace of change.

We have much to learn from the fast-growing businesses in the Silicon Valley. They are lean, fast-moving, agile, results-driven and above all, innovative. The passion to find new business models – to push the boundary of the possible – drives the Valley’s entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and large scale enterprises. Making this happen, day after day, requires a mindset of flexibility and a willingness to constantly learn and adapt.

FST Media: How does Standard Chartered Bank foster a spirit of corporate innovation?

Schofield: Standard Chartered Bank is committed to innovation: from how we serve our customers to how we run our enterprise Chartered Bank. The ethos at Standard Chartered Bank is one of encouraging experimentation. ‘Learning by doing’ is integral to the process that leads to success. It is also about moving quickly and intelligently to solve problems.

This includes everything from partnering with startups to bring new capabilities, to keeping the organisation up to date on Silicon Valley trends and actively pursuing opportunities. It has also been about shifting mindsets. Standard Chartered Bank was the first bank to adopt the iPhone as a corporate mobile device, changing people’s mindsets about corporate devices, and embracing mobile as a new and more efficient way of working with our own SC App Store.

Organisations will move a step closer to incorporating a mindset of innovation by intelligently trying out new ideas, and learning from — rather than criticising — failure. Corporate innovation is a key part of our focus on sustainability, and is wrapped into our brand promise of ‘Here For Good’.

FST Media: What are your business and IT priorities for the next 12 – 18 months?

Schofield: In an age of digitisation, it is important that Standard Chartered Bank continues our innovation momentum and is proactive in bringing in new capabilities, allowing us to better serve our clients. The key to making this happen lies in staying connected with our business leaders, and leveraging our native connections into the Silicon Valley ecosystem, to create win-win opportunities.

FST Media: Every leader has a legacy they wish to be remembered for. What is yours?

Schofield: My work at SC Studios represents a fantastic legacy for me. Before we had an office, I worked from my dining room table to grow SC Studios. Today, our small office brings tremendous value to our bank. With the ongoing support of the bank and a long-term vision for bringing Silicon Valley technologies and approaches to our markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, I certainly envision SC Studios continuing to be a valuable part of progress for our clients and our enterprise.

This interview first appeared in FST Media’s annual magazine The Who’s Who of Financial Services Asia Pacific which launched at the Technology & Innovation – the Future of Banking & Financial Services conference in Melbourne on 3rd June, 2015.