Business, Technology a Smart Marriage at Innovation Centers

Dan looks at the wave of innovation labs popping up across the industry and points to one example as a great combination of technology and business.

Dan DeFrancesco, deputy editor, Sell-Side Technology

Innovation centers aren’t considered innovative anymore.

That might sound ironic, but the act of setting up an incubator, a center for digitization or a digital lab is hardly groundbreaking stuff in the industry today. Just about every big bank has at least one, if not many, of these “centers of innovation,” often headquartered in fintech hotbeds like Palo Alto, Calif., or London. 

Sure, the actual work being done in these labs is worthwhile and beneficial to the industry. Plenty of amazing solutions and platforms have been born from them. 

But no firm can honestly say they’re on the cutting edge because they opened an office outside Stanford University with some developers and a goal of creating the next big thing.

This week, however, I saw something I did appreciate within the realm of innovation centers.

Scotia’s Plan

Toronto-based Scotiabank announced the hiring of former BBVA Bancomer CEO Ignacio “Nacho” Deschamps as strategic advisor for global digital banking to Brian Porter, president and CEO of the Canadian bank. 

Deschamps' role will include him working with Scotia’s co-heads of technology Michael Zerbs and Kyle McNamara, who were both featured in a September issue of Waters, during the bank’s digital transformation.

Unlike Zerbs and McNamara, however, Deschamps isn’t a pure technologist. While he did work with fintech firms during the latter part of his career at BBVA Bancomer and assisted in the firm’s digitization project, Deschamps is a businessman for all intents and purposes. You can’t spend 30 years in banking, including six running the largest bank in Mexico, without knowing a thing or two about how to efficiently run a business. 

Merging of Worlds

Having Deschamps help plan Scotiabank’s digital roadmap, particularly his work with the bank’s digital factory (see innovation center), is a great way to bring someone with a business perspective into a technology-heavy world. 

I know some of you are probably sticking your nose up at this notion. 

CIOs and CTOs have plenty of business acumen already,” you say.

And you’re right. Many of the C-level technologists I speak with have a master’s in business administration. They’re adept at running a budget and understanding the investments they make in technology have to have strong use cases. 

But bringing in someone like Deschamps to be so heavily involved in a firm’s digital roadmap offers a different perspective. During our conversation, Deschamps told me he is a facilitator for all the different business lines in the bank, allowing Scotia to properly prioritize its investments. 

Having this buffer in place provides a real benefit to both sides. The business gets a translator to relay its wants and needs to the tech folks, who now are afforded more time to work on those new solutions.

I’m not naïve enough to believe Deschamps' role is the first of its kind. However, more of these intermediary roles need to be developed at banks. From my perspective, there is no downside to adding someone with Deschamps’ experience to your firm as you look to transform it. 

At the end of the day, as Deschamps told me, the key to these big projects is collaboration. If all the involved parties aren’t willing to work together, things are bound to fall apart. 

Having someone whose sole purpose is to straddle those two worlds as the firm looks to evolve can only be beneficial. 

Food for Thought

  • Next week is a big one for Waters in New York. On Monday, we are holding our flagship conference, Waters USA. I’ll be chairing a panel on innovation at the end of the day. Click here for the full program. Following Waters USA we will hand out the American Financial Technology Awards, our only end-user-specific awards. Click here to view this year’s finalists. If you happen to see me at either event, please feel free to come up and chat. 
  • I’ll also be hosting a webinar on holistic market surveillance on Tuesday. It should be an interesting conversation and a worthwhile listen to anyone in the industry. Click here to register for the webinar

Like the column? Hate the column? Let me know via email ( or Twitter (@dandefrancesco).



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