Intuition would say Barclays. However, open innovation – the use of external content and partners in internal product and process development – would contend that the group of 100 could offer some unexpected insights.
Barclays is a large multinational bank offering services from retail banking in the UK to trading. A key driver of its success has been its ability to leverage customer data for products such as credit analytics. This has led Barclays to safeguard customer data and other tools, limiting product development to internal processes only.
However, in the aftermath of the 2007 financial crisis, this strategy became challenged by:
- Constrained resources: The financial crisis and rise of regulation has constrained Barclays’ ability to invest in product development. 40% of Barclay’s IT budget is now spent on compliance (industry trend below).
- Rise of fintechs: One-third of total banking revenue is at risk from fintech disruption (industry trend below).Unlike Barclays’ traditional competitors, fintechs have faster speed-to-market and product updates which are partly driven by their use of open innovation. Examples include:
- Mint: aggregates user data from banks to create budgeting tools
- Vetr: crowdsourced stock research
- Regulation: Open Banking requires UK banks to share customer data with third-parties via APIs.
With constrained resources and unfavorable regulatory changes, Barclays’ internal-only product development cannot compete against fintechs’ speed. Consequently, it began to experiment with open innovation as a cheaper, faster, and more expansive form of R&D.
Barclays and Open Innovation – Today
In the short-term, Barclays is addressing the above challenges by using crowdsourcing, an open innovation technique, to develop incremental products and tools:
- Barclaycard Ring Mastercard: Ring is a crowdsourced credit card where customers can propose and vote on changes to the card through a forum. Past votes include removing foreign transaction fee and redesigning the physical card. By crowdsourcing Ring’s features, Barclays was able to customize it to the needs of its customers and increase customer engagement.
- Open source partnerships: Barclays partnered with Australian bank CommScore to release a data extraction tool to the open-source community. This allowed Barclays to replace expensive, proprietary ETLs with a free alternative.
In the medium-term, Barclays is using fintech partnerships to enhance their product development exploration funnel and enable long-term process improvements. Per Magdalena Krön, VP of Open Innovation at Barclays, fintech partnerships are “the new R&D function.”
Barclays engage fintechs through their Accelerator and Rise initiatives. Accelerator provides fintechs with access to Barclays’ technology and network in exchange for equity. Rise are co-working spaces that also host workshops and hackathons. Barclays uses these programs as a funnel to identify and maintain a relationship with high-potential startups (see below), so that Barclays can later launch products by acquiring or partnering with these startups (vs. building in-house). In addition, Rise encourages employees to interact with startups, empowering employees with the skills to “challenge the traditional internal way of doing things [at Barclays].”
Barclays and Open Innovation – Future
Over the next two years, Barclays should incorporate fintech crowdsourcing into their main product line vs. keeping them at arms-length with Accelerator and Rise. Longer term, they should use open innovation to fundamentally change processes within whole functional areas.
In the short-term, one area of application are the APIs required by Open Banking regulation. Instead of just offering the APIs, Barclays should also create a two-sided platform (see below) available to its customers. Access to Barclays’ wide customer base will encourage third-parties to develop on Barclays platform, which in turn helps Barclays by generating a diverse range of products at lower cost.
In the medium-term, Barclays should explore the use of crowdsourcing in customer service. This open innovation technique has already been tested with Ring’s forum, where customers answer each other’s questions and offer personal finance advice. Given its success, Barclays should replicate this crowdsourcing of customer service with other products.
More broadly, Barclays should institute a formalized system of crowdsourcing customers for product ideas. 44% of computerized banking services today were first built by a customer. Similar to how software gaming companies use “mods” – alterations made by users to a game – to enhance their core product, Barclays can encourage homemade computerized banking services (e.g., account aggregators, budget tools), potentially via the two-sided platform described above.
In the face of limited resources and increasing competition and regulation, Barclays has experimented with crowdsourcing and fintech partnerships. Early success of these open innovation programs suggest that Barclays should consider further embedding open innovation into their core products and services instead of ring-fencing them.
Nevertheless, key questions remain as to the effectiveness and unintended consequences of using open innovation in banking, including:
- Does open innovation increase Barclays’ risks of commoditization and disintermediation?
- How should Barclays maintain controls and cybersecurity within an open innovation ecosystem?
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 Fintechs stand for Financial Technology firms. In general, fintechs refer to non-bank startups.
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 APIs are protocols for how software components should interact and talk with each other.
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