Using incubators and accelerators to drive innovation

Disruptive forces are set to radically transform financial services over the next decade. Traditional players are being asked fundamental questions about how to respond to the emergence of nimble and agile competitors and how to thrive in a disrupted world.

But how can financial services brands respond to these challenges? I recently attended a talk at the German Symposium at the LSE with Urs Rohner, Board Chairman of Credit Suisse. Rohner noted that trying to drive truly disruptive innovation within an organisation is akin to letting ‘inmates run the asylum. So how should financial services providers best drive innovation?

Internal innovators are often so enmeshed with their company’s ways of doing things that innovative ideas and solutions are constrained within the invisible box that is corporate culture. Therefore some firms are looking further afield, to incubators and accelerators in the hope they might help them to gain sustainable competitive advantage. Here are 3 great examples of firms doing just that:

Barclays Techstars Accelerator Programme

Barclay’s accelerator programme focuses on the exploding fin-tech sector and has already established four locations in New York, London, Cape Town and Tel Aviv. The 13-week intensive programme is designed to accelerate the progress of chosen start-ups by supporting them with business mentors, funds, a strong network and access to Barclays’ technology. Startups that have made the cut so far are as diverse as GUST Pay, a firm that produces NFC wristbands and smartphone apps that facilitate cashless payment at festivals to Crowdestates, a peer-to-peer lending platform for mortgage deposits.

Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator

The US bank offers start-ups and small businesses access to its network, resources and up to $500, 000 of funding though this twice yearly programme. Unlike many firms that run incubators and accelerators, Wells Fargo takes a minority equity stake in the successful startup. Alumni of Wells Fargo’s startup accelerator include Kasisto, which helps financial services providers add virtual personal assistants to their mobile offerings, and Eye Verify, which provides technology to enable customers to open apps and make payments through their biometric information.

Standard Chartered’s SuperCharger Fintech Accelerator

Standard Chartered Bank has also jumped on the accelerator band-wagon. Rather than opening its own accelerator the bank has clubbed together with Baidu, China’s leading search engine, and TusPark Global Network, to run Supercharger, a 12-week accelerator programme for fintech companies. The international banking group is also investing in internal innovation initiatives, having recently opened up a new innovation lab in Singapore.


As these examples illustrate, financial institutions are recognising and adapting to the rapid change within the financial services industry. Incubator and accelerator programmes are proving to be an effective way of keeping pace with the market and disruptive forces. It will be interesting to observe how incubator and accelerator programmes such as these develop in the future. Will they be the silver bullet that many financial services providers expect them to be? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.