Andra Sonea is a solutions architect working within the LBG Innovation Labs in Group Digital. A pioneer of the FinTech revolution, Andra shares her thoughts on the future of finance and how her ideas have made it into The FinTech Book.
FinTech still feels like something of a new word on everybody’s lips, even though the emergence of tech and its relative impact on financial services has been a pretty hot topic for quite a few years. In 2008, I attended a small gathering in London called BarCampBank. Industry insiders from London, Paris and San Francisco came together to discuss how banking could be improved, what areas of the financial services value chain might be occupied by non-traditional players and how technology would play a major role in the future. The word FinTech was never uttered but essentially this is what we were discussing.
Fast-forward to 2016 and every week there are numerous FinTech events in the calendar. You can pick and choose your flavour – big data, blockchain, maybe you’d like to focus on a new business model? I’ve attended countless events and conferences over these past years and met some of the brightest and most well-known individuals in the FinTech world.
Extensive experience in consulting has given me the chance to immerse myself in the architecture of some of the world’s biggest banks. This has put me in the unique position of understanding both the banks’ traditional models and the FinTech movement from its infancy. I remember trying to convince my clients at the time, of the necessity to experiment and prototype in order to bring innovation into often stale, ‘business as usual’ dynamics. While some of my proposals were met by with disbelief, others took it on-board and started prototyping.
Building upon this and trying to understand the mechanisms for setting up a good team, a good prototype and more importantly to communicate and disseminate the ‘lessons learned’ in an organisation fascinated me.
When I met Susanne Chishti in the summer of 2015, I had already experienced setting up a lab focused on financial services and was working within the LBG Innovation Labs. I met Susanne for a coffee and a chat not knowing she was putting together a book on FinTech. We spoke at length about what interests us in FinTech and could have stayed there debating for hours.
Not long after our first meeting Susanne told me about The FinTech Book and invited me to write about a topic of my choice. With so many options in front of me, I couldn’t choose what to focus so I looked at two: “So, you think an innovation lab is the answer?” and “A banking architecture framework for assessing FinTech”.
Looking specifically at the former topic, innovation labs don’t happen ‘naturally’ in financial services. You have to set them up with clear intention. My article formulates questions that one should ask in this process highlighting possible choices one could make.
The FinTech Book – Wiley 2016
Most importantly, it is not enough to just set up a lab. You should spend resources and time to establish favourable governance frameworks, which allow the lab to function and deliver results for the benefit of the wider business. The success of a lab, at least for me, is when the handshake of the ‘business as usual’ world happens easily, when the choices for analysis and experimentation are made strategically and when the lessons learned reach the right decision makers.
For more on Innovation Labs at Lloyds Banking Group, read ten quick fire questions for Lisa Halabi.