Top Innovators

Banking's Top 10 Innovators of the Decade

Bank Systems & Technology presents 10 individuals whose vision and persistence have helped shape the 21st century banking experience.

There is something both frightening and inevitable about innovation -- it can be disruptive, risky and costly. But it also changes the rules of the game in ways that no players can afford to ignore. Banking executives know this as well as anyone. They have seen their industry transformed by technological, social and legislative developments that in many cases they resisted but eventually embraced. Many of today's capabilities for forecasting revenues and risks, communicating with customers, and handling core transactions did not exist at the turn of the 21st century, yet they are commonplace in 2011.

The innovations in technology, delivery, regulation and communications that have transformed the industry over the past decade are the focus of this special Bank Systems & Technology presentation of "The Top 10 Innovators of the Decade." The BS&T editorial team identified 10 individuals who we believe came up with innovative ideas, tools, strategies and solutions that have led to (sometimes disruptive) change, transformation and growth within the banking industry. Some of these individuals are (or were) prominent executives in the banking business; others are from outside the industry -- in some cases, way outside -- yet their innovations were adopted by financial institutions and vendors and became banking best practices. Some of our selections are probably predictable, while others may surprise you.

Yet, it must be acknowledged that there is still room for improvement when it comes to cultivating and embracing innovation in banking. According to the 2010 InformationWeek 500 study of innovative companies, just one-third (32 percent) of banking and financial services company respondents said their CIOs are responsible for innovation. More than half (53 percent) of the respondents said they are innovating to introduce new IT-led products or services, and 45 percent said they are innovating to improve web operations and customer experience. But only 24 percent of the bankers reported that their firms are innovating to engage customers in new ways, and only 18 percent said they are innovating to create a new business model or revenue stream.

These mixed results underscore how difficult it remains to create a culture of innovation and, as we also examine in this report, to protect those innovations once they start producing results (page 26). Successful innovators recognize that innovation does not come without risks, wrong turns or second thoughts. But without it, there is no growth or survival. By learning from the innovators of the past decade, we can drive the banking industry into a more dynamic and profitable next decade.