Innovation from the inside

By Caroline Beaulieu

It’s easy to spot innovation in the wild, free world. When we talk to inanimate objects around our houses, asking them to read us email and order us toilet paper (and then they do!), there’s no question. We are in the presence of an innovation revolution. But innovation can often be very, very subtle.

One of the biggest challenges for Fidelity Labs isn’t necessarily the conception of innovation, but rather the execution of innovation that carries our industry forward while simultaneously adhering to the rigorous (and sometimes complex) rules and regulations.

Think big and move fast

Financial technology start-ups, or “FinTech” as they are often referred, are a welcome disruptor. They bring fresh, new thinking, congruency with forward-thinking technologies, and keep humans at the center of their products. These are solid principles for all financial services firms, not just the quick and nimble. And while it may seem less obvious, those are some of our design principles here at Fidelity Labs. Only here, the stakes are often higher, the distribution channels larger, and the tolerance for error much, much smaller. Our job here is to think big, move quickly, fail fast, and find innovation that can ship. Because it’s only the innovations we get out the door that can have true impact on our customers.

Small changes matter

Fortunately there are also smaller, quicker ways to innovate in our industry; through visual and verbal dialogue with our customers. There’s never been more demand to find better, simpler, and more human ways to tackle complex and emotional topics. And while it can be complicated and lengthy to do the product dance with regulators and lawyers, creating language and design that is empathetic and human is quite simple.

How can we encourage millennials to focus on saving for retirement? How do we convince people with huge amounts of student loans to also start a rainy day savings fund? How do we help those in their retirement years navigate the distributions process? What about helping those in the gig economy? Or investors looking to get into Bitcoin?

We can build products—and that’s likely to happen eventually. But in the meantime, we can focus on creating experiences that simplify the complex, demystify the mysterious, and maybe even clarify new opportunities for innovation.

What’s one of your favorite examples of a small or subtle innovation?