The Innovation Odyssey

John previews the upcoming WatersTechnology Innovation Summit and talks Super Mario.

Bendy road, Mam Tor, Castleton
It's an obvious metaphor, but it's still an accurate one.

Innovation is always a hot topic in any industry, but particularly so for technology. How do you consistently stay ahead of a curve that is constantly moving? Financial institutions and vendors are faced with this question every day. Capital markets participants could do worse than looking to Japanese video game institution Nintendo for inspiration (hear me out).

After a few duff console releases and stagnating game franchises led to a serious slump in profitability, the company this year returned to the heights of its past glory days after unleashing the Switch console upon the world.

A combination of its historic strengths, blended with seamless switching (get it?) between handheld and TV-based gameplay, meant the Switch flew out of the gates upon release, clocking over 7.5 million sales in six months and is on course to double that figure by the end of 2017.

But it’s not just the hardware that’s new. Nintendo has also taken its two most-beloved and, more importantly, marketable franchises and turned them upside down and inside out for the new system.

Following on from the critically acclaimed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild title that launched alongside the Switch in March, Nintendo has recently released the latest installment of the Super Mario games series to almost universal praise. Review aggregation site Metacritic actually crashed when the review embargo for the game was lifted, as there were so many people attempting to upload their ratings.

The driving force for what makes Super Mario Odyssey a truly great game is innovation. From the most basic physics of jumping onto and into things to the perfectly designed sandbox environments, every aspect of the game’s mechanics have been finely tuned with a view to introducing new options to traverse the various worlds whichever way the player sees fit. Even the title, Odyssey, speaks of a great journey, new trials to be overcome and prizes to be won, rather than focusing on the end goal.

It’s a prime example of innovation that works. While I’m under no illusion that it must have been a difficult and long process to develop these ideas and execute them in the finished product, it’s the approach to forward-thinking that underlines just how well new ideas can rejuvenate a company that has seen progress stall and its competitors win greater market share.

So what does a video game about a quasi-Italian plumber who enjoys collecting mushrooms, stars and gold coins have to do with capital markets technology? 

The Innovation Summit

Next week will see the inaugural WatersTechnology Innovation Summit held in London and we at Waters are particularly excited about an event that will bring together technologists, heads of innovation, business leaders and fintech entrepreneurs to discuss the latest advances in financial technology.

A host of speakers and panelists from some of the financial industry’s more prominent players will be talking about how technology innovation is shaping both their firms and the wider industry, addressing issues such as how to create the right corporate culture to foster innovation, what firms need to do to capitalize on new sources of data that are becoming available, leveraging the advancements in technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning and, of course, blockchain. The event will also give three of the most innovative startups in the market the chance to show off and pitch their wares to delegates.

We’ve also spoken to two of the day’s speakers ahead of the event to give you a taster of some of the discussions you can expect to hear. Elly Hardwick, head of innovation at Deutsche Bank, and Stewart Carmichael, CTO at Schroders, have shared their views on key innovation topics and will no doubt have much more to say on the day itself.

Ultimately, innovation is a journey, not a destination to be reached. Much like Nintendo’s mascot, we are all on a journey when it comes to technology innovation and it is that experience that best informs us, not the objective we are striving for—an innovation odyssey, if you will.

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