Fintech Interviews

Global Fintech Interview with Simon Hill, CEO and Founder at Wazoku

Global Fintech Interview with Simon Hill, CEO and Founder at Wazoku

Hi, please tell us a little bit about your journey in the tech industry and how you started at Wazoku?

“I began my career as a consultant in companies such as Deloitte and PwC. In those roles, I first realised the enterprise need for good ideas to improve efficiencies, deliver better CX and more. In my next role – at B2B start-up Huddle – I witnessed first-hand the agility and dynamism required to power a successful start-up and combined both experiences to start Wazoku.”

“We launched Wazoku in 2011 to help organisations capture, manage and develop ideas and have evolved our proposition over the years. We acquired US firm InnoCentive in 2020 and Latin American open innovation crowd Channge in Q4 2021, and they now operate as the Open Innovation Marketplace component of our Enterprise Innovation Platform. This is unique in the market comprising Idea Management Software, an Open Innovation Marketplace and Innovation Consulting services, explicitly designed to provide sustainable and scalable innovation to enterprises.

You recently expanded your fintech offering into Africa. Could you please tell us a little bit about this latest development with Old Mutual?

“Old Mutual is one of the biggest pan-African FS firms and has a very progressive take on innovation, which has made it a very rewarding client with which to work. Our platform was first used by Old Mutual’s personal finance division, where it impressed with its UX, security, scalability, and ease of integration into existing systems. The deployment was then scaled to the Corporate and MFC business units.”

“For years, the MFC held an annual ‘Siyakhula’ innovation event, which encourages and challenges employees to solve pressing business challenges together. But that was disrupted by the pandemic. Old Mutual wanted to digitise this innovation program to continue the culture of co-creation and collaborative strategy building. They deployed Wazoku’s platform to submit, evaluate, and store ideas, meaning Siyakhula became more impactful, and Old Mutual developed an always-on culture of innovation within the business.”

“Introducing the Wazoku to the Siyakhula innovation process was a huge success, creating an ongoing rather than annual event. Compared to the most recent in-person Siyakhula in 2019, they collected 150% more ideas.” 

“Following our work together, the MFC has introduced an ‘Innovation Lab’ that further develops the innovation capability seen with Siyakhula but on a larger scale. The Innovation Lab aims to foster an ongoing culture of innovation that not only sources ideas from within the business, but also from outside to form an Innovation Ecosystem. The Wazoku platform is integral to this.”

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How is UX becoming the epicentre of innovations and digital transformation in the enterprise IT frameworks? 

“UX is everything. There are many demands on enterprise workers and many systems they are encouraged to use, especially now in this era of hybrid working. The trend towards remote working was hugely accelerated in 2020 by Covid-19, which has meant more tools than ever to help people collaborate, communicate and stay engaged. But switching between tools can be time-consuming and frustrating for users, which is why we have deeply integrated Wazoku into the applications that people use the most, such as Microsoft Teams, Salesforce and Jira. This allows our platform to tap into the strengths of these tools and vice versa. It creates a powerful UX and an environment that allows innovation programmes to flourish, delivering higher engagement and creating more value.”

What kind of IT and cloud management solutions do financial services companies need to scale the demands of modern business worlds?

“Scale is the key element here. The challenges facing businesses are vast and therefore require big ideas at scale to address them. If a good idea is effective in one location with 100 employees, then the impact of such an idea scaled across an entire organisation will be far greater. And to achieve innovation at scale in FS, it’s time to look beyond the organisational boundaries and get the input of a broader group of experts – open innovation.”

“Open innovation refers to the practice of seeking ideas from outside an organisation, effectively creating a long tail of innovation by accessing a global crowd of experts to solve various challenges. It’s based on the idea that most of the smartest people in the world do not work for your organisation and that there are significant benefits from including these people when looking for innovative approaches. It’s a practice that has been highly effective in the public sector, pharmaceuticals and NGOs, and its use is accelerating sharply in FS.” 

Could you please shed some light on your enterprise innovation technology and how it specifically benefits the FINTECH customers?

“Our platform is explicitly designed to provide sustainable and scalable innovation to enterprises, and we work with FS firms worldwide to do just that. Our Open Innovation Marketplace is a global network of millions of ‘solvers’ – entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, technologists, CEOs, start-ups and more – that solves challenges on behalf of organisations. It has a success rate of 80%+ and can be used for all manner of challenges. The Mastercard Foundation, for example, used our platform to develop truly client-centric products and services that enable low-income individuals, households, and small businesses in the developing world to access relevant and adequate financial services, contributing to improvements in incomes and livelihoods.”

“Wazoku’s Idea Management software is a flexible and intuitive tool that allows organisations to uncover new opportunities from within the business and beyond. It functions as the central place to: generate and capture ideas, collaborate with stakeholders to develop those ideas and evaluate them, prioritise and select ideas, resource the best ideas following through to execution, and measure an ideas pipeline with standard and custom metrics and KPIs.” 

“The Credit Agricole Bank in Armenia used this software to great effect. It wanted to encourage its geographically diverse workforce to think outside the box to solve customer and business solutions and, via Wazoku, shifted to a culture of collaborative knowledge sharing. One notable idea was helping local businesses accept American Express as a form of payment, installing 25 POS terminals to help those businesses profit while generating a revenue contribution for the bank.”

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How do you leverage data management and machine learning solutions at Wazoku to scale your offerings?

Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing is a key part of our platform proposition. Wazoku creates a corporate memory of ideas for enterprises that can be matched with people and challenges later. This is something we did with Old Mutual. Our platform was used to store initially unused ideas for the company, which would otherwise be lost. Across the business, there are a number of problems where these ideas can be applied, meaning good ideas are never again lost or forgotten.”

“By using machine learning to match people, ideas and problems, unexpected relationships are highlighted and not left to chance. No good idea is wasted, and innovation will continue to scale and improve across the organisation.”

Where is Financial Services industry heading with better innovation management tools? What role do you see for yourself in this evolving time, particularly in the post-COVID world?

“The need for innovation in FS is well-documented. Banks and other service providers need to offer digital products and services in order to keep pace with changing customer expectations and requirements, especially in the face of more agile fintech providers.”

“FS firms also need to innovate for other reasons – navigating the realities of a post-pandemic world, managing geopolitical instability, meeting UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and conducting business more transparently and sustainably. However, not only are many FS firms not set up for such innovation, but a good deal of them are not even looking in the right place. But by embracing open innovation and utilising the right innovation tools, such firms will find it easier to address some of the major challenges they are facing.”

“For Wazoku, it feels like a perfect storm. The pandemic shifted how businesses think about innovation and how it is managed and delivered. The world is facing some of its greatest challenges, and addressing them is very important. The need for innovation has never been more urgent, and we have a unique Enterprise Innovation Platform that makes us a key partner to FS firms in their drive for innovation.”

Also Read: Global Fintech Interview with Daniel Greiller, Chief Commercial Officer at Weavr

Any advice to all CIOs and CFOs looking to leverage innovation tools like Wazoku:

“Don’t wait too long. The world is moving incredibly quickly. The last few decades are littered with examples of organisations that were once market leaders but failed to innovate and lost their way entirely.”

“Our Innovation Operating System (OS) is very easy to use, is fully integrated with most other enterprise systems and delivers incredible value to the organisations that use it. Being innovative is not nice to have now. It’s essential, and the right innovation platform makes sustainable innovation at scale a reality.”

Thank you, Simon! That was fun and we hope to see you back on globalfintechseries.com soon.

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

Simon Hill is CEO and co-founder at Wazoku. He started his career as a consultant at companies such as Capgemini, PwC and Deloitte, before heading up business development at Huddle, the collaboration software start-up. He attended ESCP Business School, where he completed an MBA in European Business.

He founded Wazoku in 2011 and has seen the company scale enormously in that time. It now offers a unique Enterprise Innovation Platform, including Idea Management Software, an Open Innovation Marketplace and Innovation Consulting services.

wazoku logo

Wazoku is the company powering innovation worldwide, offering a unique enterprise solution for innovation. Working with organisations including NASA, HSBC, Novartis, Shell, Enel and more, Wazoku’s Enterprise Innovation Platform is explicitly designed to provide sustainable and scalable innovation to such enterprises.

Wazoku’s platform helps clients address some of the biggest challenges facing the world. This includes the climate crisis, providing clean water in developing countries and innovation in areas of healthcare. Wazoku’s platform and crowd make it easy for organisations to crowdsource, capture and develop ideas, and its work helps save lives and creates billions of dollars of value.

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