On Monday 7 October 2019, EY hosted a London Women’s Forum Speaker event on “How the C-Suite is Addressing the Innovation Shift”.

The evening comprised a dynamic panel discussion on innovation in Financial Services, followed by a networking dinner for attendees to connect and share their experiences as leaders in financial services.

Yolaine Kermarrec, EY Partner and London Women’s Forum Board Member, moderated a discussion with:

  • Oliver Jaegemann, Chief Executive Officer of The Asset Management Exchange
  • Paula McClelland, Chief Financial Officer of HSBC Global Commercial Banking

The discussion opened with a question on the business case for innovation.  Both panellists viewed customer demand as the main drive for disruptive innovation. Globally and particularly in financial services, there is unprecedented scale and pace of change on every dimension, from economic and political to noticeably technology. The role of leaders is to ultimately navigate through these factors, with winners and losers inevitably on all fronts. Winners will be those who adapt and innovate.  Oliver commented on how AMX is aiming at revolutionising” the asset management market, and what made him bet on this idea in the first place.  Paula provided context to the global, multi-year transformation programme of HSBC Global Commercial Banking and its ambition.

Both panellists view the strategy of partnering with, and/or incubating Fintech companies as a way to accelerate innovation, foster speed of execution, and keep ahead of competition.  Additionally, when asked whether he could have launched The AMX as a standalone Fintech, Oliver commented on the importance of trust and distribution, which WTW facilitated.  “Launching the AMX as part of WTW rather than as a standalone company helped us build trust and grow fast.  Trust and distribution are key, it’s not just enough to have a great idea.  When it comes to peoples’ money you need a huge amount of trust”.

The panellists also discussed how to build the right culture for people to not only embrace change, but also drive change.   In large businesses, a crowdsourcing platform for ideas can help create a level of empowerment and excitement about change.  Paula said “Our teams raised: ‘You keep speaking about building your legacy. We’re the ones who’re going to have to live with it. We want to be involved’.  We need to recognise that they’re our greatest innovators.  No one sees better the pain points than your staff both as employees and as customers themselves.” Paula also insisted on the importance of creating an environment where people aren’t scared to fail, but are able to fail fast, and to recover fast.  Oliver added that what unifies teams the most is to provide them with a common goal, to be enthusiastic about it at all times, and to be transparent about everything.   To foster innovative thinking, he recommends exploring multiple verticals and develop breath instead of depth, i.e. learn a little about a lot of things.

When asked about lessons learned from ongoing transformation journey, Paula referred to the importance of instilling a “total change in mindset for program managers, from focusing on milestones to focusing on outcomes”, especially when managing a diverse portfolio of innovations from small, tactical and localised changes to large scale, global infrastructure changes.  She also highlighted the importance of having a strong team to run the ‘business as usual’ well whilst the innovators are focusing on changing the bank. These two types of profiles are both vital to make the transition successful.   When making a business decision and placing a bet on a commercial opportunity, Oliver recommends: “Follow the money. You need customers to believe that it’s not just a great idea but also something they’ll pay you for”.

Following the panel discussion, an active Q&A session was held, with further discussion including on how effective it is to work in an agile way, and how does innovative thinking work in a highly regulated industry.