December 2017: Innovation—the Battle for Hearts and Minds

Victor says chief innovation officers are becoming more common in the industry, but they have their work cut out for them.


For many capital markets firms, innovation is much more of a cultural thing than simply a decision that they’re going to implement a new methodology or technology.

It’s not about arriving at a conclusion about a specific technology to roll out, but rather reaching a tipping point where end-users are comfortable with change and are happy to embrace new ways of addressing old problems. That might sound trite, but there are reasons why stereotypes come about, many of which center on the fact that they contain more than a grain of truth to them. Waters has a proud history of focusing on innovation across the capital market. After all, that is our raison d’être. Over the years, we’ve looked at DevOps and Agile, Lean, Julia and Python, blockchain and distributed-ledger technology, IoT, machine learning, natural-language programming, robotic process automation, and for the best part of the last two decades, the emergence of algorithms and their impact on a variety of business processes across the buy side and sell side. 

Chief innovation officers (CIOs), once something of a curiosity at a handful of forward-thinking firms, are now more common—though hardly ubiquitous—across the financial services industry. And while having a dedicated person championing innovation throughout the organization might still be fairly rare, the vast majority of capital markets firms do have an innovation focus even if it isn’t being driven by a CIO. That trend was confirmed at WatersTechnology’s recent Innovation Summit in London, immediately before Elly Hardwick, head of innovation at Deutsche Bank, delivered the morning keynote, where 92 percent of the 130 attendees indicated that their firm has an active innovation program, even though CIO numbers are still limited. 

But CIOs have their work cut out for them in terms of engendering a culture of change within their firms, the most acute of which lies in overcoming what some refer to as “the army of no”—those staff members unconvinced that a new methodology or technology is practical and necessary. After all, innovation is not about the technologies that the propeller heads in the IT lab come up with, but about the adoption of new ways of working across the organization as a whole, underpinned by technology. The IT guys will always support innovation, given that it is an integral part if their jobs. The real challenge is getting the technology users to embrace change and innovation—and do so willingly—in order to move forward. In this respect, purpose-led businesses and brands hold the keys to unlocking much of that potential, although that is another discussion for another time. And so for CIOs, the battle is as much for colleagues’ hearts and minds as is it about developing and deploying cutting-edge technology. And that is not a problem easily remedied. 

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