To drive innovation within the highly regulated banking industry, you have to open people's minds to the potential of new technologies and innovative solutions by bringing awareness and facilitating experimentation, resulting in educated decisions on investments. That's why financial institutions increasingly rely on dedicated teams to steer them toward potential partners. We work at Itaú, the largest private sector bank in Brazil. For the past 4 years we've taken many approaches to engage with our business units to identify their technical and operational challenges and discuss partnership opportunities with innovation hubs in the fintech and startup spaces here and abroad.
We Needed a Way to Fill in the Blanks
Our Emerging Technologies team generates a constant flow of insights and benchmarks to assess how we can use new technologies in our business activities. We also look at how competing banks and financial institutions embrace innovation to better serve their customers. To gain additional perspective, we leverage our relationships with venture capital firms and other banks to source ideas about innovative technologies and recommendations for startups to work with as partners.
To back up these insights and recommendations, we did a lot of legwork. That meant going to one meetup after another, and spending hours online verifying the viability and financial health of attractive companies. But there were still too many blanks to fill, and we needed a better way to gather information about new technologies and promising partners.
Facilitating Discussions Between Business Units and Partners
Innovation is a two-way street at Itaú. Sometimes, we map the challenges our business units are facing and scout for solutions that may be a good fit. On other occasions, we provide a fresh perspective of the ecosystem, bringing awareness on new technologies and business models.
To gather better intelligence and facilitate discussions between our internal business units and promising enterprises, we started to use CB Insights in early 2019. We needed reliable data that accurately reflected the strengths and weaknesses of potential partners. As a small team, we lacked the resources to vet hundreds of startups, nor could we travel to countries like Israel to meet with our partners there.
CB Insights gave us the tools to zero in on the fintech companies that best matched the problems and opportunities identified by our business units.
Transforming the Business Units
We curated many lists of companies, scouted various innovation hubs, organized internal demo days and events in partnership with venture capital firms, and invited customers and internal stakeholders to contribute to the process of mapping opportunities and solutions. We’ve witnessed how our efforts have influenced the development of new products and services, and even contributed to the relationship of our customers, who are ultimately our top priority. We’re incredibly proud of our work and we saw firsthand how CB Insights created value for the bank and for our customers.
Gathering Verified Business Intelligence
CB Insights allows us to gather verified business intelligence and supplement it with our unique perspectives. Starting form a broad perspective we get from the CB Insights' research – including quarterly State of Venture and State of Fintech reports – we can drill down and find the best partners and technology solutions to improve Itaú’s products and services. We have partnered and created an innovation journey with many business units across the bank – from wholesale to retail, from technology to operations – and we have iterated this cycle many times, addressing specific needs and challenges.
More broadly, we are looking at the impact of emerging technologies like 5G, blockchain, cognitive technologies and quantum computing on our banking services. We are also compiling research, building business cases, and assessing how these new technologies will strengthen our activities and bolster our bottom line.
Given how fast technology changes and the volume of data we compile on fintech companies of interest, we needed a tool to easily manage the scouting process. We found it in CB Insights Collections, a powerful collaborative tool that keeps all our conversations about partners, competitors, and new technologies in one place, that can easily be integrated with our internal Vendor Relationship Management solution.
Instead of combing through Excel spreadsheets and dealing with endless emails, we now gather business intelligence about companies, technologies, and entire sectors in CB Insights.
CB Insights helps us see the big picture. It serves as an initial filter when we're exploring a new technology, industry, or company and allows us to filter for specific keywords. It also gives us detailed information about valuations and funding rounds that we can then use to present a clear business case to our investment banking and corporate venture capital arm.
Competition in Banking Is Fierce
With the vision of being the leading bank in terms of sustainable performance and customer
Satisfaction, Itaú needs to listen to our customers and find ways to meet and exceed their expectations. Competition in banking is fierce, but with the ability to understand the moment and innovate, it will allow us to face the challenging landscape ahead of us.
Fintech companies can help us fill the gaps in our product and service portfolio. CB Insights gives us the tools to keep pace with technology and build better banking experiences to keep our customers coming back and asking for more.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
CTO of Emerging Tech and Corporate Architecture
Vanessa Fernandes is a multi-lingual, innovative, and experienced CTO at Itaú Unibanco based out of the New York Office, with international expertise in originating/launching and managing successful global business IT strategies. Including distributed ledger (blockchain), quantum computing, 5G, connecting the Fintech and Startup ecosystem in US with Itaú business and IT areas in Brazil.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emerging Tech Specialist
Junji Katto is a Specialist in the Emerging Tech team at Itaú Unibanco in New York City. In his role, he brings awareness and insights on tech and business trends, and he partners with business areas to create strategies on how to get value from and collaborate with peers, ecosystem of Fintechs & Startups, open-source communities, and consortia. He is also part of collaborative efforts to use blockchain to address climate related challenges.