Yorkshire Building Society has opened a new Innovation Centre at its Bradford headquarters to allow staff members, customers and members of the community to trial new technologies.
The new centre is designed to be completely separate from the firm’s mainframes to allow experimentation with its customer-facing technologies before they are rolled out to market.
The centre is based on business models its founder Stephen White, Yorkshire Building Society’s chief operating officer witnessed first hand during his time working in the banking sector in Asia and Australia.
Mr White told The Yorkshire Post: “One of the things I really enjoyed about being in Asia, because I looked after teams in Singapore, Tokyo, Jakarta, Mumbai etc around that time, was that in that continent the use of technology is much more innovative and creative than it is in this continent.
“That’s not to say that there are not great things and great people in this part of the world.
“When I left AIB to go to a mutual, I wanted to go to an organisation which could do something truly different, that could become more nimble and more agile, to supporting not only its customers but also its colleagues and the local community.
“For me the Innovation Centre is not about technology, it is about cultural transformation. This is a space for our colleagues to use to try different things.”
When asked how much of the motivation behind the centre lay in the growing challenge that the likes of fintech poses to the financial services sector, Mr White said: “With the advent of PTSD2, with new applications and the competition from fintech and from the whole of financial services, there is no doubt the market is becoming more compet- itive.
“But from our perspective the likes of an Innovation Centre will allow us to use technology to support customers and the community as that marketplace evolves.
“One of the expressions I use an awful lot is that ‘it is about win fast and fail fast’.
“And failure is an actual success and it is about creating that cultural transformation where people can come in here to just try different things.
“It is not a project plan, it is not a Gantt chart, it is not a case of spending four weeks and x thousand pounds doing nothing except writing a business case.
“It is about coming in and trying different things so we can become a differentiator in the market.”
The Innovation Centre is open to all staff members at the building society, from the chief executive to the growing team of apprentices it has and has no specific targets,
“The success for me for things like this in the past has been not to control it,” said Mr White.
He used the example of tablets where new apps can be trialled for customers after being designed by staff.
“Lots of organisations spend lots of money trialling things and then putting them into real life and half the customers never use them.
“If we bring them in here and trial them we can trial them in different ways so it is very easy to stand up applications quickly.
“You can see what the customer experience is and see if it is going to be successful.”