The Commonwealth Bank is planning to create a global network of innovation labs in the hope of repeating the success enjoyed by the Sydney lab it set up in 2014.
The bank this week launched a second lab in Hong Kong and said it also has plans to launch a similar facility in London “later this year”.
“This innovation network is a natural extension of the Bank’s successful Innovation Lab in Sydney and creates a global approach to innovation that connects customers, employees and start-up communities to the latest fintech [financial technology] developments,” the bank said.
The original, 690 square metre Sydney lab had recorded strong usage in the year it had been open, said the bank’s group executive for institutional banking and markets Kelly Bayer Rosmarin.
“In just one year, the Sydney Innovation Lab hosted over 40,000 guests, successfully built a live blockchain and collaborated with major Australian corporates, government organisations and universities to experiment with future technology,” she said.
“This innovation space has strengthened our culture of innovation and we look forward to continuing this success on a global scale.”
Bayer Rosmarin said Hong Kong’s established financial sector, “strong entrepreneurial culture” and proximity to China made it an ideal location for the first global extension of the innovation lab concept.
She also cited an EY survey in Hong Kong where one-third of respondents said they had used at least two fintech products in the past six months – further evidence that creating an innovation space in the city was the right thing for the bank to do.
The Hong Kong space is split into three “zones” – an “incubation garage … [for] cross-functional project teams [to] work together on bringing ideas to life”; a “collaboration hub” designed for co-creation and prototyping client solutions; and a space to test usability of systems.
“The usability room provides clients with a live testing facility and the latest eye-tracking technology to improve their digital platforms,” CBA said.
Visitors to the space used iPads that interacted with other equipment in the various zones, and the bank also deployed Oculus Rift to simulate parts of its workplace.
Business Insider reported that a panel of CBA executives meets once a month to decide what projects are worked on in the lab space in Sydney. The executives are drawn from across the bank.
The publication also reported that the bank wanted to be able to “capture the agility” of the start-up scene and draw that into its culture.
CBA is also pursuing innovation via a range of other initiatives.
In mid last year, it set up Gurrowa in Melbourne, another concept lab but one that specifically aims to solve “larger, more complex customer challenges” as well as come up with “big ideas”.
It is taking an innovative approach to solving a shortage of IT security personnel through a recent partnership with UNSW that will make cybersecurity training available online to anyone interested.
The bank also plans to consolidate several of its campuses – including those housing its technology workers – into a revamped Australian Technology Park precinct from 2020.