Juggling innovation projects, FinTech partnering, women’s network collaboration and intrapreneurship; Maxine Austin, Innovation Manager within the Innovation Labs team, wears all of these hats each day. More specifically her role is all about making innovation everyone’s job across the Group, bringing innovation to life to engage, assist and inspire colleagues, as well as strengthening the Group’s footprint within the FinTech community.
Unlike most nowadays, she joined the bank in 2008 as a teenager, taking her first role within Wealth Management. She then moved to Group HR focusing on leadership development, and naturally moved into her current role given her passion for all things digital. She has recently embarked on a 6 month sabbatical to explore innovation centres around the globe, so we took the opportunity to sit down with her before her departure and find out more.
“I’ve planned my sabbatical so I can visit lots of countries, including other global FinTech hubs beyond London such as Singapore, Sydney and New York and report back my learnings. Lloyds has been incredibly supportive of my ambitions outside of work. Having worked since I left school, I’m looking forward to seeing some of the world and letting my entrepreneurial streak loose by exploring ideas and meeting the people behind them around the globe.”
So why are you combining your travels with what you do at work?
“I genuinely don’t think that there’s a more exciting industry to be working in than financial services at the moment as the industry really starts to evolve with the data generation. I’ve always been drawn towards futurist and sci-fi topics. With the pace of change at present, financial services feels more as though we’re living in a movie – speaking to devices in our homes to check transactions, visiting branches in virtual reality or seeing if I can afford a home on a particular street in augmented reality. These are all ideas been explored by different FinTech businesses.”
“Understanding the landscape and opportunities is something I’m really interested in and I have lead work streams that aim to engage the FinTech community through schemes such as the FinTech Mentoring programme and accelerator partnerships like Startupbootcamp.”
“With more than 600,000 new start-ups set to launch this year, it’s of huge interest to me personally to keep learning and find out what different people are doing – and it just so happens to be very relevant to my job too.”
Why is intrapreneurship, or championing innovation within a business, so important?
“Our ethos within the team is that we do not have the monopoly on good ideas, they can come from anywhere. So along with all the test and pilots we do ourselves, we also scout for innovative solutions, facilitate ideation and trail-blaze new ways of working. Our overall purpose is to unlock the innovation potential of colleagues across the organisation, because without this, wide scale culture change will not happen at the speed required to meet and exceed customer expectations.”
“Our team delivers this through a range of programmes, events and initiatives such as Hackathons, Digital Espressos, FinTech panels and a range of Innovation guides and toolkits. It’s important to offer a wide range as we look to drive culture and collaboration at levels of seniority and to every corner of the bank.”
“Some of the most important things I’ve learnt here are 1. Small seeds can take root 2. Enthusiasm can catch like wild fire and 3. The challenges facing an intrapreneur vs an entrepreneur are entwined with the culture of the organisation that you’re trying to innovate within. We are creatures of habit, and change can often feel uncomfortable and disruptive but it’s thanks to our very nature and ability to adapt that we’ve remained the most successful species on the planet.”
Finally, you are also very active in the Women in FinTech scene and have recently been included in the 2016 Women in FinTech Powerlist. Can you tell us more about your involvement?
“Innovation is all about inclusion. Inclusion of thought, behaviours, backgrounds and gender ensures that we innovate for everyone. This is something I’m committed to championing.”
“I co-lead the Digital chapter of our Breakthrough women’s network with Sarah Barthram, which has more than 14,000 members across the Group. Digital Breakthrough aims to support women in financial, digital and tech roles to build their careers in these industries by delivering internal events as well as collaborating with other networks such as DevelopHer, Girl Geek Dinners, FemTech Leaders and Ambition First to drive forward the women in FinTech agenda in the UK and beyond. Recently, we’ve been leading a ‘Deciphering Digital’ campaign across the network to help colleagues feel more confident in this field. I’m really proud that this year Digital Breakthrough made the top three teams shortlisted at the Women in Banking and Finance Awards.”
“I’m passionate about this because women are still heavily underrepresented in the financial services and technology industries, particularly in senior leadership roles. In fact, the number of female entrepreneurs and founders is two times smaller than their male peers[i]. Lloyds Banking Group has committed to 40% of women in senior roles by 2020, so I feel I can really play a role to help connect excellent female talent within the FinTech ecosystem into and within our organisation.”
[i] In 2015, the total early stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA) rate (the proportion of working aged people involved in TEA) in the UK was 7.1%. This is above the rate in Germany (4.7%) and below the rate in the US (11.9%). By gender, the TEA rate in the UK was 4.7% among women and 9.5% among men.
Source: House of Common Library, ‘Business Statistics’ by Chris Rhodes, Nov 2016