Barclays Innovation Space

Innovation at Barclays – An Interview with Stefan Dicker

Originally written and published by Ron Kunitzky

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Stefan Dicker — Innovator @Barclays. Stefan is based in New York City and part of an innovation team that is shaping the future of banking.

1. Who are you, what do you do and what does that mean at Barclays?

My name is Stefan Dicker and I lead ‘open innovation’ at Barclays in New York, aka. Rise. My role is to manage both ‘internal’ and ‘external’ innovation, which can be defined as follows.

i. Internal — engaging colleagues in the firm to innovate, design thinking workshops, thinking about the future of your jobs and how technology can change it.

ii. External — engaging the startup community to leverage products and services that benefit Barclays.

Another hat that I wear is leading the Barclays Accelerator Program in New York City, now launching our 3rd cohort this Fall (October 2017). The goal at Barclays is to leverage technology to move into the future of banking and that revolves around three distinct areas:

· Finding opportunities to create better levels of back office efficiency.

· Gaining access to new customer markets.

· Using technology to improve our core business.

In most cases, this means that we partner directly with startups. The Group Innovation Office helps companies position themselves to appropriate business units within the firm. Sometimes, this can result in a tweak or pivot to their value proposition to tie into areas of focus that are more meaningful to us. We are somewhat of a translator in the sense that:

· Many startups don’t know how to pitch to corporates.

· Even if they have a strong pitch, they often lack the internal insights so we help them to focus on areas that we know to be relevant, depending on the team they are pitching to within Barclays.

Rise hosts about 35% of all FinTech events annually that are held in New York City. This allows us to become first adopters and be aware of the new advances that are being made within the community. Knowledge is half the battle. We want to be synonymous with FinTech as we continuously work to play an active role in driving innovative technologies.

2. How does Barclays create a culture of Innovation? What is the Barclays Accelerator Program?

We benefit greatly by receiving the needed support from the senior executive and leadership teams. Without this support, you can’t possibly create a culture of innovation. All of the Barclays ExCo (including the COO and CEO) are extremely supportive of innovation and this support helps us execute the programs and initiatives that we foster. Another key driver of our culture is having a physical facility outside the walls of HQ.

i. People are more receptive to ideas in an open, collaborative space

ii. In a highly regulated environment, people are used to saying “no”. In an open space this “no” doesn’t become a “yes”, but it does become a “maybe”. It opens people to the idea of new opportunities.

When it comes to ‘Internal’ innovation, we engage colleagues and internal team members who may have the best knowledge of a particular area of finance and know the pain points, but don’t have an opportunity to create real solutions. Rise gives them an opportunity to truly think about their problems and potential solutions in an innovative way.

Finally, there is the Barclays external accelerator, which we consider to be the gold standard of FinTech external accelerator programs. It’s incredibly competitive to get a space in one of the cohorts and the program is designed to achieve two years of work in just 13 weeks. We’ve partnered with TechStars to gain access to their incredible network of startups, mentors, corporates, and investors to execute this program and return the most value to companies that are invited to join. All companies that join the program have access to many of our Corporate clients, investors and business resources within Barclays. While we can’t guarantee any pilots, we do our best to ensure the best opportunities for the companies that join.

3. What are your greatest innovation challenges?

Great question. Lots of possible answers for this, but I would say it comes down to Infrastructure. Large enterprises can be difficult to navigate from an architecture standpoint. We still use several ‘legacy systems’ internally and finding ways to adapt new technology when your underlying infrastructure is becoming more and more out-dated is a key strategic priority. We are working hard to overcome this challenge and change our way of working as a firm by setting up new organizations like the Data Office that is highly focused on changing the way we use, analyze and share data and how we make it easier to access throughout the firm. It’s a challenge we are facing head-on and the future is exciting. Barclays is actively looking into how to leverage cloud solutions and how data can be made accessible via API. The goal is to use fewer tools across different business areas to perform the same tasks and we’re mapping out all technologies and processes to eliminate things like duplication, and by doing so are constantly uncovering new opportunities for innovation.

4. What is your single greatest career related achievement as it relates to innovation?

I would have to say that it was when I co-created Rise Labs, our intrapreneurial program within Rise and Barclays. From the very beginning, the intent was to leverage internal teams as a resource as we have so much talent and industry knowledge. The program focuses on identifying challenges within the core business that can benefit from one or several technological solutions. Here is how it all flows:

· We bring colleagues down and run “challenge forums” where they identify challenges and high-level solutions;

· Once a potential solution is identified we determine if we have the internal knowledge to build a product or service;

· If we’re using a new, emerging technology as an experiment we like to tap into the entrepreneurial community and leverage a unique shared IP/revenue model that incentivizes both parties.

The program is still highly experimental and likely to change over time. To date, we’ve run several ‘challenge forums’ and are still tweaking the product development cycle. We will continue to experiment and iterate with the hopes of launching and developing and launching new products in 2018. Lots of great stuff ahead!