ING is innovating: bye departments, hello squads

ING is innovating: bye departments, hello squads

ING keeps ahead of its traditional rivals, but is it doing enough to keep the hungry fintech wolves at bay?

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ING presents itself as an innovative bank, and that is more than mere sales talk. The bank has a proud track record (first ATM in the Netherlands, the first with internet banking) and appointed a chief innovation officer in 2014. ING keeps ahead of its traditional rivals, but is it doing enough to keep the hungry fintech wolves at bay?

Innovation is one of the spearheads of ING’s Think Forward strategy. Brunon Bartkiewicz, the bank’s chief innovation officer, describes innovation as ‘a constant flow of ideas’. ‘You have to offer clients something valuable, something that makes their lives easier and that gives them the edge, both privately and commercially.’

A little app

ING believes that its staff are no longer bankers, but IT workers. However, some analysts remain sceptical. Doesn’t innovation often boil down to, in the words of KPMG partner Ank van Wylick in a recent blog, ‘product innovation, such as a little app’ instead of renewing the entire business model?

Managing Director Ralph Hamers wants the bank to change into ‘a flexible IT company’ that more rapidly responds to the changing needs of clients. To achieve this, the bank is going to work in small, multidisciplinary, self-managing teams – called squads. These are groups of nine specialists who’re responsible for new products and services from start to finish. Long meetings and terms like ‘line manager’ and ‘departments’ are – at least in the pilot stage in the Bijlmer office – things of the past.

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