The online magazine of the Swiss Bankers Association
June 30, 2015


The SIX Incubator: A breeding ground for inspirational ideas

The SIX Incubator: A breeding ground for inspirational ideas

In mid-July, SIX will be launching its Technology Incubator in Zurich. This creative workshop will become a birthplace for great ideas that will render the Swiss financial centre sustainably digital.

Andreas Iten is responsible for technological innovation at financial services provider SIX. He welcomed "insight" to the rooms that from mid-July onward will be bubbling with new ideas. Although the Incubator is not quite finished, the atmosphere can already be described as inspiring.

Every beginning starts with an idea

Andreas Iten, SIX Group SA

The Incubator will host stand-alone startups which are invited to work together with the SIX Incubator team. Inspiration will be generated through dialogue, networks and through input from the financial sector. In three-week long work cycles, so-called Innovation Sprints, the teams will then develop a prototype based on an idea that holds promise. This will be followed by a pitch to business sponsors who could be interested in investing in the project. Iten is convinced that the approach taken by startups can be combined very well with the approach followed by more traditional companies. If an initial idea were to be measured using traditional criteria, such as return on investment (ROI), it is possible that investors would choose not to implement the project due to the results of the risk assessment. They would thus miss the boat in terms of technological development. The Incubator also has a general technology push function, and will serve as a radar with regard to the newest technologies and developments. The idea is therefore to invite other companies to the Incubator in future, in order to give them an idea of the possibilities and trends that exist.

Cultural spill-over

The Incubator aims to discover, within a short space of time and at minimal cost, which ideas are worth developing further. According to Iten, it is the feeling that counts here, more than the facts. For SIX, a central factor in this process is how the teams are composed.

Model of the Incubator

The Innovation Sprint teams ideally consist of three types of individuals: The classic manager, the person with an affinity for technology, and the coordinator, who presides over the creative process. While the technician gets cracking right away and begins with the programming, the classic manager can bring significant benefits in terms of concrete implementation and assessing the numbers thanks to his or her expertise. The coordinators, for their part, push the project ahead and coordinate the implementation throughout the process, leading all the way up to the final product. The Incubator brings together these different cultures and approaches to work. As a result, a prototype that is ready for the market can be developed in a short period of time. The goal of the Incubator is not only to serve as a creative workshop, but also to deliver results that create added value. This approach to work is not a new concept at SIX. Instead, as a result of the digital revolution, it has been institutionalised under the banner of Innovation Management.

The Incubator brings together different cultures and approaches to work.

Why SIX?

The Incubator is certainly not the norm in terms of the kind of boost that startups usually receive in their early stages of development. The objective of the Incubator is to promote innovation. SIX is therefore also not to be viewed as the actual investor, but will instead take on the role of the coordinator. SIX sees itself as the shared hub for its clients and owners, who are all confronted with the same trend and similar challenges. "Why, for example, should every bank develop its own app when SIX can provide such an app to all market participants?", asks Andreas Iten. Spokesperson Jürg Schneider concurs: "Paymit is a good example. SIX developed it, SIX belongs to the banks. Paymit is therefore accessible to all. SIX is predestined to offer systems that all banks can use." "The technology is developing exponentially. If bank services, for example payment transactions, are to remain a core business for the banks, they must take action now and work on finding new solutions", states Iten. "The countless authorisation procedures often required in Switzerland stand in the way of speed and efficiency. The advantage in other countries is that processes are faster and more pragmatic. But we can’t constantly use framework conditions as an excuse for not having to undertake anything. We have to build networks, take risks, just get on with it, instead of waiting for better framework conditions." At the same time, he calls on the regulator: "FINMA should address the current developments in the fintech segment." SIX, on the other hand, can count on the right in-house framework conditions: Both the Board of Directors and the Executive Board fully support the new innovation strategy. The last remaining critics were most likely silenced in March 2015 when Andreas Iten’s team held the SIX Hackathon: The Incubator prototype, developed in thirty hours, so to speak.