What is ‘Intrapreneurship’ and Why is it Important for the Financial Services Sector?

  • Peter Sayburn, co-founder and CEO at Market Gravity

  • 24.02.2016 12:15 pm
  • undisclosed

The way big businesses in the financial services sector discover and implement innovation is shifting, with the launch of venture teams, accelerator panels and internal ‘incubators’ bringing a start-up mentality to corporate organisations. Big businesses are embracing this concept of ‘intrapreneurship’, an entrepreneurial approach where teams and individuals are driving new venture ideas from within the organisation, according to Peter Sayburn, co-founder of Market Gravity, the proposition design consultancy. 

Intrapreneurship or corporate entrepreneurship has been adopted by some of the world’s most successful companies, such as 3M, GE, Intel and Xerox, for several years. It is a great approach to maintain relevance and keep the company agile, customer-centric and innovative. Only recently has this concept become widespread and openly embraced.

Intrapreneurship can be defined as an entrepreneurial activity within a large, established business, usually to address a new market opportunity or develop a new way of doing things, outside the normal scope of activities. Intrapreneurship is also a change of mindset – thinking like an entrepreneur: seeing new opportunities, being completely customer-driven, making the most of limited resources, and above all moving quickly.

Within many big financial organisations there are talented people with brilliant new ideas. The challenge is working out how to realise these opportunities and bring these ideas to life. Large banking companies have become very focused on risk, compliance and tech challenges and are now beginning to transform their business. This is where intrapreneurship comes in.

With the development of new digital technology and business models, more and more people are becoming intrapreneurs.  Employees tend to move around more often, so intrapreneurs are adept at landing in a company, making an impact immediately, delivering one or two big initiatives and then moving on to another company.

Financial institutions are also more willing to collaborate and work in partnership than they used to, recognising that no one company can do everything itself. Organisations often look to acquire start-ups and SMEs to enhance their offering, but you can’t rely on acquisition alone for business growth. Acquisitions can be a great way to bring in new complementary capabilities and technology and can refresh the entrepreneurial spirit and culture within established companies – so a combination of intrapreneurship and acquisition can work well.

We’ve seen some great examples of innovation and intrapreneurship from companies such as Standard Life and Barclaycard. 

Large companies have struggled to help their employees understand workplace pensions for a long time, with information being static, dry and hard to understand. Standard Life responded to demands for more engaging communications by creating an entire communications consultancy, 56 Degrees. 

bPay by Barclaycard disrupted the payments marketplace with the launch of its range of wearables for banking. The way consumers shop, bank and pay for items and manage their money is changing and Barclaycard is really leading they way in bringing exciting technology and innovation to banking, through intrapreneurship. 

Speed is key when it comes to intrapreneurship. These dedicated, purposeful teams can cut through the corporate layers that can often slow big companies down. There are other benefits to banking businesses, such as the ability to explore and experiment in new market areas before making a big financial commitment, and the impact on the wider workforce – intrapreneurial projects can bring new energy and direction to a business. 

We are witnessing an increase in the launch of venture teams, or internal ideas incubators, as well as in investment in research and prototype development. Around 28%* have invested in their own innovation centre. It is essential for businesses to work collaboratively with experts in this field, listen to creative new ideas from all levels of the company and encourage a culture of change and innovation to facilitate commercial growth. 


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