30 March 2017

Innovation Essentials: In Conversation with Scarlett Sieber

Watch this series examining top tips from leading innovators in the financial industry on how to make innovation a success. This week: Interview with Scarlett Sieber, BBVA.

scarlett_sieberInnovation Essentials - Interview with Scarlett Sieber, BBVA

The New Digital Businesses (NDB) group at BBVA drives all the bank’s innovation initiatives, which helps to reduce friction that can occur in large organisations.  “Something that’s happening all the time in startups is fail fast, fail forward,” says Scarlett Sieber, BBVA Senior Vice President and Head of NDB. “We’re allowing that through our NDB group. We work in small teams and we can make things happen. We can test, fail and learn.”

The NDB group includes digital M&A and API development teams and an Open Talent Competition. “Our goal is to be the best digital bank in the world,” Sieber explains. “Through all of these initiatives, we are looking for the most amazing technologies, which we can buy and invest in, who we can partner with, or how we can actually help scale and grow by using our APIs.”

Understand your skills and the value that you provide, and then dive in.

Scarlett Sieber, Senior Vice President and Head of New Digital Businesses, BBVA

Executive management buy-in is imperative for any innovation initiative, but support from the firm’s traditional business leaders is also critical. “It’s one thing to have an innovation arm and say ‘we just want to know what’s going on in the space’, and then another to actually implement initiatives within the organisation. So, it’s also very important to get the traditional lines of business lined up with what you’re doing,” Sieber advises.

One of the ways the NDB group gets that alignment within BBVA is through the Open Talent Competition. BBVA’s business leaders are involved in the competition from start to finish by providing input about the type of solutions needed in their businesses, helping to evaluate applicants, selecting finalists and participating in the finals. “This provides us with tons of competitive intelligence and allows us to meet the companies first hand and see how we can help accelerate their group, both for BBVA as a whole and for our New Digital Business group,” Sieber says.

It’s one thing to have an innovation arm and say ‘we just want to know what’s going on in the space’, and then another to actually implement initiatives within the organisation. So, it’s also very important to get the traditional lines of business lined up with what you’re doing.

Scarlett Sieber, Senior Vice President and Head of New Digital Businesses, BBVA

Sieber also stresses the importance of hiring not only experienced talent, but also looking for individuals who possess creativity and an entrepreneurial mindset. Sieber explains, “People graduating out of top schools no longer want to go to the big banks. They want to start their own company or go to Facebook or Google. It’s all about having an impact. They don’t want to be a cog in a machine. So, I would really encourage the hiring managers to not only focus on experience but really look for things like impact potential and ability to learn quickly.”

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