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Standard Bank makes innovation Play

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Standard Bank, South Africa’s largest retail bank by customer numbers, has launched a dedicated innovation lab called the PlayRoom.

The intention is to cement the bank’s positioning as a customer-centric and innovative institution. The PlayRoom is a 1927square metre creative hub in Parktown North, Johannesburg, that seeks to unearth disruptive ideas from staff, customers and start-up businesses.

The lab enables Standard Bank to research and test in a controlled environment, before releasing new solutions into the market.

This is probably the biggest step we have taken to bring us closer to our customers,” says Vuyo Mpako, Head of Innovation and Channel Design at Standard Bank. “The vision is that the PlayRoom will form an integral part of our ongoing efforts to find innovative solutions that solve real customer needs and challenges. It is our response to the changing customer landscape.

Mpako points out that customers are living in a rapidly changing world and that evolving customer needs, coupled with technology, are shaping the way that businesses operate. The sum of this was the birth of a new type of business model for financial institutions – collaborative innovation.

“This form of collaborative innovation means that businesses are starting to look outside the confines of their walls for ideas. 2014 alone saw Standard Bank powering SnapScan and partnering with MasterCard to bring MasterPass to the South African market.

The PlayRoom will allow Standard Bank continuously to engage, listen to and co-create solutions with our customers with the aim of bringing every day banking value to them. Innovation sits within our overall strategy that starts with the customer in mind – taking an outside-in approach.

The focus of the hub is on creativity. The PlayRoom consists of a “think space” that is dedicated to jolting creativity and innovation.

This is where the magic happens. Here, nametags and formalities cease to exist and visitors are urged to work in their own particular style. Creativity has no boundaries and this space will allow for free thinking,” says Mpako.

The facility also features a state-of-the-art testing area where customers will test new innovations and can provide invaluable insights and help to create a seamless User Experience (UX) journey for all Standard Bank’s offerings. Standard Bank will be able to integrate both its customer and staff into the creative design process. Successful innovations will not only be rewarded, but implemented by Standard Bank.

The PlayRoom has already been put to the test with Standard Bank’s new-generation Internet Banking site launching soon. The concept, redesign, beta testing and extensive group testing sessions all took place at the PlayRoom. “This experience proved not only to be valuable in terms of creating a remarkable user experience based on customers’ needs but also a learning curve for us in how we use this space,” says Mpako.

We always aim to put the customer at the heart of our operation. For the first time, customers have direct access to shaping ideas, designing products and helping to build products that suit their lifestyle.

The centre will be at the forefront of solutions testing to make the customers’ banking experience simpler and more seamless. The ultimate aim will be enabling convenient, 24-hour banking from any location.

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