Hackathons seem to be in Vogue this year, potentially boosted by global organisations and employees working remotely. However, and similar to other innovation methods, particularly innovation labs, they create a love-hate reaction in the financial services industry.
Having been a judge of hackathons throughout the years, I keep going backwards and forwards on this matter too.
Thinking like a FinTech/startup
A big change in the type of solutions being presented has been noticeable throughout the years. Nowadays, solutions are extremely focused on new ways of providing value to the customer and leveraging new technologies.
It is clear from the proposed solutions that employees of big financial institutions are thinking outside the box and similar to FinTechs and startups, questioning how to continuously support customers in all aspects of their lives.
Exploring the potential of emerging technologies
The low-code / no-code technologies are a constant in hackathons. Given the ease of learning and using those technologies, teams are creating prototypes within weeks instead of months.
Additionally, teams are no longer restricted to technologies that are available internally. Instead, they are leveraging new emerging technologies available in the market to create prototypes.
Especially with new emerging technologies, prototypes are essential to demonstrate that the technology does in fact work and that they positively impact the customer experience.
The skills diversity issue
Teams that work on the solutions tend to be composed of mostly individuals that are in the technology space and that is reflected in the solutions presented. Although solutions use the latest technologies and have interesting propositions they are not always commercially viable, do not align with regulatory and data privacy requirements and are not always aligned with the overall strategy.
As in any innovation activity having a mixed team composed by business, technology and strategy would mitigate the problem presented above and ensure solutions are not only innovative but can be rolled out accordingly. Of course, we then arrive at the BAU vs innovation paradigm: how can individuals balance BAU activities which are essential to the successful operation of big financial organisations and spend time developing innovative solutions?
I don’t think we will solve this problem in the near future but the solution may be interconnected with the future of work, in which individuals will have a mixed skill set of industry and technology knowledge.
All in all, Hackathons used alone are not the golden ticket for big financial organisations. They tend to reflect the known challenges of innovating within such large and complex organisations and once over, teams tend to go back to their work and old ways of doing things.
However, the solutions I have seen presented have demonstrated that we are on the right track and employees are being innovative, learning emerging technologies and thinking like a FinTech/startup.
This is a personal blog. Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organisations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated.
Rita Martins, Digital Transformation Manager, HSBC. Rita drives Innovation and FinTech Partnerships for Finance and Risk. See her personal blog here.