The Desire Yet Challenge to Innovate a Bank from Within

The Italian bank Mediolanum store front positioned behind a fountain and greenery.

Meet Oscar di Montigny, the Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer of Banca Mediolanum—and the man doing away with incremental engineering evolution to financial services.

“The task is ‘destroy the bank’,” di Montigny told Fintech Unltd.
The Italian bank’s innovation center has hired people from diverse backgrounds, ranging from scientists to philosophers, to bring new perspective and a diverse mindset to the bank.

If the bank is to survive, he said it has to pay people to create the products that will destroy it, before someone else creates those products for their own business.

And the products that will destroy the bank are the ones built with the younger generation of customers in mind, those who expect to be able to carry out services anytime, anywhere on mobile. Not at a brick and mortar store.

He compares this generation of customers’ relationship with automotives to their relationship with banks. People today don’t feel the need to own a car, they just need the service a car can provide. The same is true of banks. People don’t necessarily need to rely on the branded bank the way they have for generations. They may need the services they can provide, but because of the growing number of financial technology startups delivering new ways to move money around the world, customers can now get those needs met elsewhere.

“We have to reshape the offer,” di Montigny said. “The way we talk, the way we communicate, the way we interact.”

But it’s a challenge to get the leadership of the bank to see the future of banking this way.

Presenting at the World of Business Ideas forum in New York in Novemeber, Montigny said he believes humans only move in two instances: Either when we are scared of something, or when we’re attracted to it. So far, Montigny told Fintech Unltd banks are neither attracted to what financial technology startups have to offer, nor as scared for the future as he thinks they should be.

“We don’t really want to change,” di Montigny said. “We prefer to invest money, time, or whatever else, in maintaining the position instead of moving…When you look at companies from within, you see that, actually, there aren’t these big changes going on.” Arguing that current leaders of banks are neurocognitively wired to continue making decisions as they always have.

At Banca Mediolanum, the Innovation Board, which is comprised of the President, the CEO and the Managing Director, has ultimate control over the funnel of ideas. The Innovation Team first presents ideas and the use cases of potential products to the Inno-Leadership Team, which includes 16 senior managers across Mediolanum’s Europe companies, for their evaluation before the best ideas are presented to the Innovation Board. Ideas are evaluated on four different dimensions: grade of innovation, the product use cases, the risk and feasibility the bank can develop and deliver the product, and the value the product would deliver to customers. Over the last two years, the Innovation Team presented more than 50 ideas to the Inno-Leadership Team, 15 of which made it to the final Inno-Board for evaluation and seven of which advanced into the prototype phase.

While di Montigny emphasized that the ideas for innovation should originate from within the bank, the bank’s publicized green-lighted solutions, including the its development of an Instant Credit Product and a Natural Language Processing/Understanding solution, have been the result of partnerships with technology companies.

Have a story to share? We want to hear from you: [email protected]

Cadence is a fintech reporter and writer at Fintech Unltd, where she covers the changing landscape of financial technologies. Previously, Cadence interned at Psychology Today, Business Insider and the Wisconsin State Journal. Cadence is interested in how science and technology intersect with power and culture and is curious about the world we are creating for tomorrow, consciously or not. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2017 with degrees in Journalism and Chinese. Send tips and story ideas to Cadence at [email protected] You can also follow her on Twitter @cadencebambenek.