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Interviews

Key ingredients for successful innovation – Interview with Kirsty Rutter, CIO at Barclays

Friday 30 November 2018 | 09:32 AM CET

Kirsty Rutter, Chief Innovation Officer at Barclays UK, speaks about what it means to be an innovator, the essence of a successful team and future trends in banking

In a cover article that appeared in May this year on the Barclays website, you were called “the agent of change”. We would like to start by asking what does a Chief Innovation Officer’s job entail and what are you most passionate about when it comes to the position you occupy at Barclays?

It may sound like a pretty broad title and I admit there is no ‘typical day’ – but my basic aims in the role are two-fold. First, I’m responsible for linking the most exciting startups and small businesses to teams within Barclays to create mutually beneficial relationships. In essence, it’s my job to build strong foundations, at a fast pace, so we can work together and create new customer experiences that solve real pain points for people and businesses.

Secondly, I help to create an environment at Barclays that fosters innovation and collaboration within and outside of the bank. Practically, this could include getting the right people involved in every conversation, educating the broad range of colleagues – many of whom may have always worked in a corporate environment – on best practices when working with startups, and speaking to teams about the latest developments in emerging technology, it’s a big job. But, it’s what gets me up in the morning and what I’m passionate about.

Considering all the intricacies in building a team in order to make Barclays not only disrupt and evolve, but also stay strategically relevant, what skills do you value most when hiring new team members?

Aside from putting together a diverse and multi-talented team with subject-matter expertise, I look for people of strong character. Pushing for change is always difficult. However, I think it’s made slightly easier if you have a group of people united in their values, and who band together under pressure. If you also find team members with an unrelenting desire to succeed, you’ll be well-placed to overcome any obstacles you come across.

We know that part of your job is bringing young fintechs into rise and matching them with specific Barclays business areas in need of new solutions. How are you fostering a startup ecosystem for innovation and rapid growth and what are the lessons learned so far?

Over the past few years Barclays has worked with over 140 startups globally as a result of the Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars, not including those teams we have met and worked with through our RISE network. While there’s always something new to learn, there are a few things I’ve noticed which I call the ‘ingredients for successful innovation’.

I believe that the leadership and tone at the top are crucial for the innovation agenda to succeed. You need those higher up to lead by example, inspire their teams, and help remove blockers when needed.

What’s more, keeping a team motivated and focused is also essential to executing and landing your plans. Give hope to those who want to believe and offer evidence to challenge those who need a bit more convincing.

Of course, all of this will need to be paired with the right incentives to support change – it’s still true that what gets measured gets done.

Last but not least: communicate, communicate, communicate! Keep the conversations going with all your key stakeholders to show the progress you’re making, and finally, build a brilliant, diverse team that supports each other during the good times and the bad.

Could you elaborate on Barclays’ initiatives regarding the implementation of Open Banking and how are collaborations with fintechs evolving in this area? Could you give us some examples of products/services being developed in this field at Barclays (mainly focused on customer experience and customer centricity)?

We are proud to be the first UK high street bank out of the CMA9 to enable customers to view their current accounts from several other UK banks safely and securely within our main banking app. This removes the hassle of logging into multiple apps, helping customers to get a clear picture of their day-to-day finances and manage their money more easily.

At present customers can link their current accounts from seven other banks, and because the aggregation works through API technology, at no point would they have to give us the usernames or passwords to their other accounts.

We’ve already seen a number of our customers link their accounts from other providers, which is very exciting. However, this is very much the first step. We expect aggregation to quickly become a hygiene factor; we have lots of exciting applications on the way that we believe our customers and clients will really value. Watch this space for future developments.

Can you share with us a couple of initiatives that occupy Barclays’ innovation agenda right now and in the near future? How did your work in innovation change the way consumers interact with Barclays?

Innovation is a buzzword that is often thrown around these days, but keeping in mind the reason for innovation is key – and that is to help make someone’s life better. Innovation needs to help solve real problems for consumers, businesses and wider society. We always keep that sentiment at the heart of anything we do.

We have many exciting projects in the pipeline, but you may have heard about some of our other collaborations which are already live. This includes our work with Shieldpay, providing an instant digital escrow facility which has powered the UK’s first fully digital mortgage settlement and also Simudyne, with whom we are working to manage risk in a simulated virtual environment, leading to smarter business decisions. Both of these teams are alumni of the 2017 London accelerator.

How do you expect the banking industry will change over the next five years? What technologies/trends do you foresee to be the next big disrupters and why?

Technology is changing so quickly that it’s hard to predict the future, in our industry and otherwise, but there are three big trends I’ll be looking out for. The first is a continuation of what’s happening today: the proliferation of partnerships – big and small, between organisations of all sizes, and across industries – to create customer-centric ecosystems.

There will also be new methods of customer engagement that leverage augmented reality and virtual reality. Finally, I think we’ll see an alignment of mental, physical and financial health management. These three areas of our lives are closely intertwined and worries about financial health can impact our emotional and physical wellbeing. Any technology that can help to alleviate these concerns would be hugely beneficial to consumers. At Barclays we recently launched a ‘calendar view’ feature in our mobile banking app to help customers see when their bills and regular payments are due. The increased visibility this provides is one example of how technology can help to boost our financial wellbeing, ultimately creating a halo effect on other aspects of our lives.

About Kirsty Rutter

Kirsty is Chief Innovation Officer at Barclays UK. She has spent over 20 years in financial services in finance, strategy and risk roles at five different Top Tier financial institutions. Initially qualifying as an accountant, she retrained as a strategy consultant developing product and client growth strategies, driving operating model redesign and organisational efficiencies. She has also built customer proposition and data insight teams and worked with organisations to evolve their enterprise risk framework and with that their operational risk environment. More latterly she’s focused on leveraging Fintech to deliver insight in risk management and as a means to support regulatory requirements.

About Barclays

Barclays is a transatlantic consumer and wholesale bank offering products and services across personal, corporate and investment banking, credit cards and wealth management, with a strong presence in our two home markets of the UK and the US. With over 325 years of history and expertise in banking, Barclays operates in over 40 countries and employs approximately 80,000 people. Barclays moves, lends, invests and protects money for customers and clients worldwide.

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