Peek Inside 7 of The Banking World’s Coolest Innovation Labs

The Financial Brand: Banks are often ridiculed for their lack of innovation, but some seem to be taking it pretty seriously, at least from the looks of the innovation centers they’ve created. Take a tour around these digital playgrounds, idea labs and test kitchens built by banks looking to keep pace with the wave of digital disruption sweeping the industry.

Standard Bank – PlayRoom Innovation Centre

Standard Bank’s PlayRoom consists of a high-tech testing facility along with “free-thinking rooms” that allow staff and customers alike to trial new innovations and provide instant feedback. Opening its doors in January 2015, the 20,000 square foot space boasts bright colors and a modern, playful design with a wet pour rubber DIY kit—the very opposite of a corporate environment.

The bank says its innovation hub is a response to constant change and challenges, spurred by technology. “The best ideas rarely come from behind a desk or an imposing meeting room,” says Vuyo Mpako, Head of Innovation at Standard Bank. “In fact, entrepreneurs often credit their ‘eureka moments’ to collaboration or being frustrated by problem that just won’t go away.”

“The PlayRoom was created to bring people together to solve real-life customer challenges through collaborative innovation,” Mpako continues. “The PlayRoom will allow us to continuously engage, listen to and co-create solutions with our customers with the aim of bringing every day banking value to them. Innovation sits within our overall strategy that starts with the customer in mind — taking an outside-in approach.”

Capital One Labs

Capital One has three — count them… three! — innovation labs, with locations in Washington DC, New York City and San Francisco. Over 100 employees work in the banking giant’s innovation division (Capital One calls these people “entrepreneurs”).

In order to allow for brainstorming throughout the space, walls were turned into a whiteboard from floor to ceiling. Nooks were build to allow for a comfortable meeting area for staff to collaborate. Overall, the space has an open plan that helps create a fun, vibrant, and stimulating environment.

Capital One has a number of goals for its labs:

  • Accelerate the Capital One Labs enterprise-wide digital agenda
  • Facilitate and institutionalize design thinking and lean startup learning across the organization
  • Research emerging technology and consumer trends
  • Seed disruptive ideas
  • Rapid prototype and pilot test products
  • Collaborate with the digital ecosystem, including academics, VCs, and entrepreneurs

Capital One says their innovation process starts with a deep understanding of consumers. “This human-centered methodology, coupled with a ‘fail fast’ attitude, allows us to quickly identify, build, and test our way to success,” the bank explains. “We spend less time planning, more time doing. That’s why ‘design thinking’ is our go-to method for building the products and experiences that our customers need.” Read the full article