Careers in FinTech: Innovation driver at financial institutions

Author: Shekhar Lele

Our introductory post provided an overview of the exciting roles a job aspirant can pursue in the FinTech world. With FinTechs disrupting the traditional financial ecosystem, the innovation story at financial institutions (FIs) has taken an interesting turn. Quite a few FIs have set up dedicated innovation centres of excellence (CoE) and are partnering with FinTechs in full gear to quickly roll out innovative solutions in the market and gain a competitive edge. The second post in our careers series discusses the emerging and dynamic role of an innovation driver at such CoEs.

What makes the role exciting?

FIs have traditionally been governed by complex, time-consuming processes and involve multiple levels of decision making. Thus, they have begun to assess ways through which they can become more agile and nimble. On the other hand, FinTechs, which have been able to achieve exponential growth through their innovative solutions, are trying to build strong governance and financial prudence, and minimise financial, operational, and regulatory risks.

The innovation CoE at an FI is uniquely positioned to have the best of the two worlds - namely to drive the innovation story of the FI ahead while adhering to minimum but necessary governance standards and being at arm’s length distance from the day-to-day operations of the bank - or what is typically referred to as business as usual (BAU).

What this role demands: Match demand and supply

The typical structure and working of an innovation CoE are shown below:

Financial institution jobs

Ecosystem of an FI’s innovation CoE

As depicted, requirements flow in either from business teams or are generated by the competitive external environment. The team collaborates with business and technology stakeholders to transform these requirements into innovation themes which set the tone for the overall working of the centre.


A few of the themes which typically drive innovation at FIs are:

FinTech Careers

Themes driving innovation at FIs

These constitute the ‘demand’ for innovative solutions. The CoE then collaborates with multiple partners and stakeholders across the FinTech ecosystem to ‘supply’ the solutions, and drive innovation over the short, medium and long term.

Key responsibilities of the role

The role is a very strategic one from the perspective of the firm and is at the centre of the FI’s growth story. The innovation driver is expected to perform multiple activities.

FinTech Careers, Financial institution jobs
  • Discuss with key decision makers and formulate a long-term strategy of the centre in line with the FI’s growth strategy.
  • Define phase-wise goals and milestones.
  • Continuously track and report progress and make changes as required.
Relationship management
  • Network with key business teams to position the CoE as ‘one stop for innovation’ and propagate the vision of the CoE.
  • Collaborate with teams to gather their requirements and pain points.
  • Translate them into innovation themes.
External networking
  • Envisage the FI’s accelerator programmes and hackathons.
  • Collaborate with marketing teams to increase the visibility of the programmes in the FinTech world.
  • Reach out to FinTech firms, technology developers and entrepreneurs that offer relevant solutions for the themes.
  • Identify strategic partners, knowledge mentors to run programmes; angel investors, private equity (PE) investors, and venture capitalists (VCs) for rewards and funding to FinTechs.
Accelerator programme management
  • Act as a single point of contact for the entire accelerator programme.
  • Collaborate with FinTechs to help them showcase innovative solutions using the FI’s APIs and run specific sprints.
  • Shortlist FinTechs with the most relevant solutions.
  • Execute a high-profile demonstration day, with the end goal of final selection of FinTechs for funding and further collaboration.
Change management
  • Post programmes, engage with the selected FinTech firms to run proof of concept (PoC) over sandboxes using actual data.
  • Assess progress of PoCs and absorb successful ones into the mainstream ecosystem.
  • Become a proponent of a long-term engagement with the FinTechs collaborated with during programmes, and assess areas to enhance FinTech partnerships further.

Thus, along with spearheading accelerator programmes and hackathons, the role entails developing and executing a sustainable and long-term vision and strategy in partnership with knowledge partners and mentors.

The end goal of the role

The critical success factor of the role is creating a ‘win-win’ situation which is sustainable over the long term for all stakeholders. Businesses should benefit from the roll-out of the innovative solution and FinTechs partnering with the FI should see a significant increase in their visibility in the FinTech space.

What it takes to land such a role

A candidate is expected to possess the following skill sets in order to successfully lead innovation at the FI.

Good to have

  • Strong knowledge of various functions of FI
  • Technology know-how
  • Previous experience at similar innovation CoEs

Should have

  • Networking
  • Relationship management
  • Local and global business and technical acumen

Must have

  • Excellent programme management
  • Innovative mindset and long-term perspective
  • Open to mentorship
  • Effective verbal and written communication
  • Simple and effective reporting and tracking
  • Self-motivation to drive large and critical programmes single-handedly

Skills sets to successfully drive the innovation CoE 

With FI–FinTech partnerships expected to continue to increase, aspirants can target new-age, technology-savvy FIs for exciting roles in their innovation centres.

If there is any specific area that interests you and that you would like us to discuss, do write in to let us know. You can email us or leave a message in the dialogue box.


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