It’s not very bankerly to jump into the pool while it’s still being filled with water, gambling on there being enough in there when you land. But that’s the nature of innovation today.
Case in point: Creating community resource rooms at MainSource Bank branches wasn’t an edict from management. The idea was proposed by branch staff, who had noticed a need for a public gathering space in several of the communities they served.
Today, the $3.2 billion bank, with 87 branches in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky, provides community resource rooms equipped with technology such as LCD panels that can be used for everything from civic organization meetings to employee training to customer demonstrations both during and after business hours.
The bank carried this out before every i was dotted and every t crossed.
In a presentation at the recent BAI Retail Delivery Systems conference, Andy Saner, vice-president and director of Strategic Channel Banking, noted that the bank deployed a prototype community resource room quickly based on a rough idea of what a community resource room could look like. Then staffers gathered feedback from employees and customers. They made changes as needed.
Management wasn’t afraid to experiment.
“Even though we weren’t really ready for customers, we introduced our first community room very fast,” recalled Saner. “We innovated as we went, evolving the technology we installed in the room based on continuous learning.”
A willingness to jump into a concept even before all the details are firmly ironed out is key to creating a culture of innovation, said Jose Resendiz, chief innovation officer for Digital Insights.
“Don’t focus on the reasons you aren’t ready but force yourself to run experiments quickly,” Resendiz advised attendees.
Innovation show and tell
Although Resendiz acknowledged that innovation in a regulated environment such as financial services can be challenging, he offered several strategies for building a culture of innovation that can work for banks.
1. Behave in ways that demonstrate your bank supports innovation.
Resendiz recommended creating an area of the institution that lets “ridiculousness” happen. This area, called an Innovation Lab by some banks, should be charged with pushing boundaries in products and services.
2. Management can help create a culture of innovation by getting out of the ivory tower.
Bosses need to move into the field, visiting branches and listening to call center conversations, said Resendiz. Interacting with customers enables management to develop what he calls “deep customer empathy” that can spur innovative thinking.
3. Talk about innovation within your bank.
Share innovative ideas among staff to build momentum and ask executive leadership to encourage ideas from all areas of the organization.
Although MainSource Bank had long promoted the value of innovation, it wasn’t until the bank brought in a new CEO that the bank became a true innovative hub.
“With new leadership, we have been able to create an organization in which ideas come from both the top and the bottom of the organization,” said Saner. “For us, sharing thought leadership throughout the bank serves as a catalyst for more innovation.”