Australia: Member-owned credit union will try to speed up the time it takes to bring new ideas to market after participating in KPMG’s first fintech accelerator for mutual banks, mLabs.
CUA was one of the corporate participants in the 12-week program which yielded 18 commercialisation opportunities, including a debit card and app for kids and a personal finance management application.
CUA chief digital officer Sue Coulter said the business had learnt it adopt a “fail fast” mentality for new products.
“You can actually do quite a lot in 12 weeks and you can come away at the end of the process with a product, service or idea that you can test or validate,” she said.
“There was also the realisation that you can go to market pretty quickly with something if you’re prepared to do that with a minimum viable product.”
Participating in mLabs was just one of many undertakings CUA has commenced in the past 12 months to try and build a more innovative culture within the bank.
In July last year CUA became a corporate sponsor of Brisbane accelerator River City Labs and every quarter the startups involved present to CUA’s digital team.
It has also formed partnerships with two startups which are yet to be announced.
“Internally we’ve also started our own design thinking approach and internal accelerator program that runs for 12 weeks,” she said.
“This has to be a cultural change. The sponsorship can come from the top, but it needs to be driven from the roots up … so we look to get people involved in new projects from all over the organisation. We have graduates going through the design thinking process.”
Other firms to participate in mLabs included Beyond Bank, Greater Bank, Heritage Bank, IMB Bank, Police Bank, and Teachers Mutual Bank.
In addition to the corporates there were 14 startups involved which they worked with to develop solutions to industry problems and also to invent new products which had never been thought of. The 14 startups were Avoka, Brighte, Chekk, Cloudcase, DSYNC, Easyshare, Edstart, Fitchain, Moneycatcha, Moroku, Pocketbook, Simplekyc and Spriggy.
KPMG Innovate head James Mabbott said the 18 ideas generated were all at different stages, but he was confident Spriggy’s debit card and app for eight to 14-year-olds that teaches them about financial literacy would be developed.
“We are currently working on several pilot projects which could see our technology help hundreds of thousands of families,” Spriggy co-founder Mario Hasankos said.
Mr Mabbott was also optimistic about Moneycatcha’s mortgage loan origination solution that is built on the blockchain.
Through the program, which KPMG intends to run again, Mr Mabbott said it became apparent that some of the “mutuals” were better equipped to deal with startups than others.
“Some mutuals have better infrastructure, in terms of things like open application programming interfaces, for being able to work with new entrants, while others had more legacy technology systems,” he said.
“The industry is going to have to work out how to deal with that legacy environment in the new world and it’s going to be quite challenging for some organisations.”
In 2013 CUA invested $60 million in upgrading its IT systems, as part of its aim to take retail customers off the big four banks.
Unlike other accelerators, mLabs does not take equity in the startups involved and it’s up to the corporates and startup teams to formulate the commercialisation agreement.
One of the core components of the program was to teach the corporate participants that there were new and better models of getting products to market.
“The old product development life cycle has changed fundamentally … Now you want to put products in front of customers as quickly as possible so that you can iterate on that feedback,” Mr Mabbott said.
“We worked on processes to get products in front of customers as fast as possible. That way if you find out there is no value in it you won’t have spent millions of dollars on it.”
Mr Mabbott was unable to go into much detail around which inventions will be commercialised as agreements were still being formed, but he said the program exceeded expectations and there were more “soft benefits” (such as the collaboration between mutuals, as well as between corporates and startups) than expected as well.