2 weeks ago, I was chairing the stream about “How can banks innovate” at Money 20/20 Singapore. The audience was mainly professionals in banks and Fintech entrepreneurs, and I asked them the following question : “What is the biggest challenge for bank innovation?”

What would be your answer ? Have a think then see below how your answer compares to the audience.




If your answer is “Culture and Mindset“, then you share the same opinion as the majority of the audience of M2020 Singapore. If your answer is legacy or regulations, they were also two of the main reasons identified by the participants.

And I would certainly agree that one of the main challenges for transformation in banks today is the innovation culture, and the mindset of the employees. From senior leadership in banks to employees, from startups working with banks to clients, many internal and external stakeholders observe that traditional financial institutions are struggling to adapt their culture to the fast paced evolution that we see in other sectors.

In my presentation, I used a study from the Boston Consulting Group, that ranks of the 50 most innovative companies in the world. Although these rankings are always highly subjective – and there are many ways to define what “innovative” means – the trend is still interesting to analyse:

  • Out of the top 50, the top 16 are all tech companies
  • There are only 3 traditional financial institutions: one bank, JP Morgan, and 2 insurers, Allianz and Axa
  • And there are actually two tech companies that went into finance: Alibaba and Tencent, which are more highly ranked than any traditional financial institution.
Out of the Top 50 Most Innovative Companies, only JP Morgan, Allianz and Axa represent traditional finance. Alibaba and Tencent are tech companies getting into finance.

Out of the Top 50 Most Innovative Companies, only JP Morgan, Allianz and Axa represent traditional finance. Alibaba and Tencent are tech companies that went into finance.

A few months ago, I had the chance to be in discussion with Paul Misener, who drives innovation policy at Amazon. I was extremely interested to hear his views about why Amazon was such an innovative company – and his answers keep pointing back to this notion of “culture” and “mindset”.

It seems therefore that culture and mindset are really key to drive innovation, but how do you change the culture of an organisation? How do you change the mindset of individuals?

The answer is actually very complex when it has to be implemented for a large organisation. But I think that there is actually a pre-requisite that many organisations overlook in their quest to change their culture: Knowledge.

Let’s take an example: personally, I’m quite entrepreneurial – I did my first startup after MIT, always worked on new businesses in banks, mentored entrepreneurs. On an “entrepreneur mindset” scale, I would rank higher than the average. But if tomorrow, a biotech company asked me to drive their innovation, would I be the person with the right mindset? Of course I wouldn’t. I have no knowledge of biotech and I don’t understand the industry and the way it works. So there would be a clear knowledge gap for me to fill.

In the same way in banking, it’s unrealistic to expect employees to have a culture of innovation if they don’t understand the basics behind today’s transformation in banking, which are mainly around technology. From the trends in the industry to the tech tools such as AI or RPA, there is a huge knowledge gap to fill first. So Knowledge would be the starting point, well before culture.

If we assume that the issue of knowledge is solved, how can people acquire an “entrepreneur mindset”?  This is quite a challenging question, and that’s where we need to differentiate between theory and practice.

For example, how do children learn how to ride a bike? Most do not read a textbook or watch Youtube videos, but they just do it, and learn by trial and error. To think like an entrepreneur, reading biographies of great founders is helpful, but it’s really hard to think like an entrepreneur without having been confronted to the challenges of a startup.

And this is exactly why large organisations find it challenging to transform their culture and change the mindset of their employees – because teaching people about the “entrepreneur mindset” is a long way from actually changing their mindset.

So 6 months ago, at CFTE, we thought really hard about how to solve this dilemma: how do we get professionals to think like entrepreneurs and acquire these skills of adaptability, resilience, thinking outside of the box – without having to quit their job for a startup?

As entrepreneurs ourselves, we started with an MVP and  got 50 CFTE alumni to work on an intensive programme with Neat, a fast growing HK Challenger Bank. On average, these 50 professionals had between 10 of 20 years of experience, and no experience of startups. During the winter, they worked in small teams to solve challenging issues and experienced the reality and problematics of a Fintech entrepreneur.

We learnt a lot from the experience with these 50 pioneers. This helped us refine our framework, which then led to the formalisation of a whole new framework, called Extrapreneurship.

In a few words, Extrapreneurship is a framework of experiential learning that allows participants to be trained as part of an immersive experience in a high growth startup. The objective is for them to develop new skills, way of thinking and methodology of work. Unlike in class training, experiential learning is cross-disciplinary and simulates the real-world by letting learners play a critical role in their own development process & validate in practice their knowledge.

In the following video, Janos Barberis, Head of Entrepreneurship of CFTE, and Founder of SuperCharger, Asia’s largest Fintech accelerator, describes Extrapreneurship:


We are just at the beginning of Extrapreneurship, and there is undoubtedly much to learn from the experience of our participants – although we might be on the right track since most of the 50 pioneers are signing up to the new programme.

But if we want organisations and individuals to acquire the right mindset for today’s world, we’ll need many new initiatives like Extrapreneurship to transform the mindset and culture of large organisations. And it is urgent that it happens now, because the transformation in finance is not waiting


PS: if you’re interested in Extrapreneurship, the May cohort will see participants work with two exceptional startups: Revolut and Shift Technology. The programme takes applications during the month of April and is by application here.
(Revolut is one of the fastest growing B2C Fintech startups, with 4 million clients and $350m of funding after 3 years. Shift is one of the most impressive B2B AI startup in Insurtech, with more than 70 clients and just raised $60m a month ago)


PPS: for readers of Disruptive Finance, you’d have noticed that my posts are getting less frequent… A lot of things have happened at CFTE and The Disruptive Group, which is great, but running two companies leaves me no time for blogging, which I regret. I use Linkedin much more now, so don’t hesitate to follow me there (just say you come from Disruptive Finance in the message and I’ll connect you).

If you want updates on Disruptive Finance and Fintech:

– You can enter your email address to receive an email whenever I write a new post
– You can also follow me on Twitter here
Don’t hesitate to share if you like this post