5th June 2019 – In a Money20/20 Europe panel entitled, “How Do You Benchmark Innovation in 2019,” moderator Kristian Luoma, Head of OP Lab at OP Financial Group, kicked off the discussion with an open-ended question: What does innovation mean to you?
Ripple Senior Director of Product Ginger Baker answered quickly, “Innovation is about delivering the future.” She continued, “Delivering is just as important as the creativity it takes to generate ideas. You need to paint a clear vision of what the future looks like, but actually bringing that vision to life is innovation.”
At Ripple, this vision is the Internet of Value (IoV) – a world where money is exchanged as quickly as information is today. And, the role that this vision plays in keeping near-term innovation on track became a critical theme for Baker throughout the discussion.
Baker’s fellow panelists took a slightly different approach in defining innovation. To Paul Stoddart, President of New Payments Platforms at Mastercard, innovation is about taking risks in product development. Amit Purohit, Head of Go to Market at Amazon Pay, talked about the importance of “delighting the end customer,” and then “working backwards from there.” Josh Bottomley, Global Head of Digital Data and Development at HSBC, made the point that innovation is about the process of change. He concluded, “You can’t stand still or continue doing what you’ve always done.”
Fostering a culture of innovation
Luoma then turned the conversation to fostering innovation. Mastercard, Amazon Pay, HSBC and Ripple represent four very different kinds of companies. Luoma challenged the panelists to think about the differences and similarities in how innovation takes place at their organizations.
Purohit from Amazon Pay was the first to respond, “We don’t have innovation teams. Everyone is expected to innovate.” He explained how the company has a unique process for sharing ideas around new products or services: You write a press release or FAQ and outline what you’d say publicly to get the customer interested.
Baker echoed Purohit, explaining at Ripple there’s no separate team, that innovation is at the core. Then she noted the challenges of working at larger companies where building a culture of innovation may be more challenging. Specifically, she said, “It is critical to create a culture where good ideas come from anywhere.” This helps empower employees from any walk of life to bring their ideas forward while also ensuring that those ideas are respected by leaders at the top of the organisation.
Bottomley from HSBC discussed the unique set of challenges faced by banks. He explained that there is a balance between fostering innovation and managing the processes that ensures compliance with ever-changing regulation or information security, to ensure proper integration with these systems for new products or services.
Creating KPIs for innovation
When asked how to measure success in innovation, Purohit once again called out Amazon’s keen focus on “keeping the end customer in mind.” He suggested building KPIs around whether the customer enjoys the end product.
Stoddart from Mastercard added to this. He said that in addition to measuring success through customer passion for a product, that looking for the passion from the team building the product is a good early indicator of success. He said, “If they’ve got the passion, they’ll run through a wall trying to produce it.”
Baker returned to the idea of innovation grounded in vision. She explained, “It’s important to focus on solving the immediate needs of your customer, but always with the longer-term vision in mind—at Ripple that’s the Internet of Value.”
Luoma latched on to this, “So if you’re sharply focused on payments right now, how do you deliver on IoV?”
Baker explained that Ripple’s focus on removing the friction from cross-border payments also helps to drive incremental progress toward the IoV. In fact, friction in payments is one of the biggest roadblocks in ensuring that people anywhere in the world can exchange value with one another as easily as they can send an email. Ripple’s blockchain-based technology helps to reduce or eliminate existing barriers around accessibility, reliability, cost and speed; by doing so, it slowly brings the Internet of Value to life.
Competition: Distraction or necessity
The conversation among panelists ended on the topic of competition – is it a distraction or a necessary part of the innovation process?
Bottomley from HSBC reframed the question, “It’s not about who the competitors are. It’s about what are their pain points and how do I solve for them in a better, smarter way than they’ve been solved for before.”
Stoddart from Mastercard noted, “We follow competitors in the space differently than we did 10 or even 20 years ago. We believe it’s important to stay up to speed with what’s going on, and we have teams dedicated to it.”
He went on to explain that part of this shift has been driven by how quickly the competitive landscape evolves—that it’s difficult to protect new ideas and “fast follow” strategies are no longer as effective.
Baker had a fresh take. She noted that, “In early industries, where Ripple is now, there is a lot of noise. It’s important to know what’s going on around you but more important to stay focused on what’s ahead.”
Then she added, “But you can gain inspiration for what’s ahead by looking outside the payments industry and the way the internet and other technologies have evolved.”
As an example, she made a historical reference: email. Internet providers created protocols — TCP/IP and HTTP. This fundamental shift in other industries dramatically improved the user experience, sparked mass adoption and redefined how we experience internet services today. In the same way, this new wave of blockchain technology in the payments industry will be the foundation on which the Internet of Value is created.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author should not be considered as financial advice. We do not give advice on financial products.