How to innovate quicker and for less

westpacSimon Pomeroy, head of digital for leading New Zealand bank Westpac explains why they have come to the UK to source innovation differently and improve customer experience.

Whether you’re a small business or a large bank customer experience is key. Increasingly technology is breaking down the barriers between large and small companies and creating a more even playing field. And in New Zealand, we know more than most about playing fields, but enough of my rugby jokes.

In banking the era of staying with one provider for life is over. In the UK you can now switch within seven days, just like changing your mobile or broadband provider. History doesn’t count for much and why should it? It’s all about customer experience. If customers don’t like the experience they switch.

However for many businesses a competitive landscape de-prioritises innovation and customer experience, especially when you’re working in a highly regulated industry like banking. Product development takes time even if customers are growing increasingly frustrated with your services, so how do you innovate more quickly and cost-effectively?

Earlier this year we began working with London based open innovation agency, LoudSource who specialise in tapping into new ideas from the web. We decided to take a specific problem area and ask people what our service and experience should look like. That problem area was mobile

We ran an app challenge in our home market, New Zealand, first. It was a big success with some great ideas generated by university students, small businesses and even a former supermarket checkout operator. We’re currently developing two of these into real services, but we wanted to tap into innovation around the world and our first stop is London.

We’ve just launched the cheekily named “Kiwis love Geeks” campaign offering $100,000 NZD (about £50,000) in prizes and development funding for ideas from UK residents. We’ve made the contest deliberately easy to enter and really asked people to think about how they would like to see the future of banking. If you’ve got any great ideas please take part via

So what can you learn from our experience:

  1. Explain the problem clearly. In our case “what services would you like to see on mobile from Westpac?”
  2. Set up an Open Innovation website to generate ideas and buzz about your company or brand. Alternatively if you’re a small company, use one of the providers that are already out there
  3. Be open minded and treat everyone with respect. Sometimes an idea that seems out of sync with your plans can highlight a breakthrough innovation.
  4. Think about what comes next. We have deliberately set aside funding to support developing the best ideas into real services.
  5. Fail fast and go again. The costs of running this type of exercise are minimal which makes it much easier to try a few ideas and if a couple don’t work, try again.

About Westpac
Westpac, is an Australian bank and financial-services provider headquartered in Sydney. It is one of Australia’s big four banks and is also the second-largest bank in New Zealand.

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