SOURCE: marcus evans

marcus evans

November 07, 2013 11:24 ET

Leveraging a Corporate/Academic Partnership to Spark For-Profit Innovation

Interview With Dave Passavant, Senior Vice President, Banking Innovation Center Director at PNC Bank

BOSTON, MA--(Marketwired - Nov 7, 2013) - 2013 is turning out to be a momentous year in which banks and financial institutions are being forced to innovate or get left behind. These organizations are in an unprecedented period of increasing regulatory pressures and are being impacted by margin compression and alarming market uncertainty.

The emergence of new technologies in the banking and finance industry has had a permanent impact, especially in the payments space. All of this is happening at a time when customer expectations for banking services are being reset by other online experiences.

In order to address these arising challenges, PNC Bank has established a model for collaborative innovation through a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University. Senior Vice President, Dave Passavant, has directed the PNC Center for Financial Services Innovation's efforts to address potential areas for innovation including data, technology and the use of new channels, such as digital and social media. 

Dave Passavant, Senior Vice President, Banking Innovation Center Director at PNC Bank and speaker at the upcoming Innovation Models in Digital Banking and Financial Services Conference, answered a series of questions provided by marcus evans.

marcus evans: Can you provide a brief synopsis of PNC's journey into the use of a collaborative innovation model?

DP: As our bank has grown, we've used many models to drive innovation. Over the years we've had great success using both large and boutique consultancies for targeted innovative projects. We decided to expand our "peripheral vision" in this space to look for opportunities to innovate with academic institutions and a broader range of large and small business partners. 

We view innovation as a funnel of ideas and are using new methods to expand the top of the funnel. We then run a structured vetting and prototyping process for ideas with potential. We believe this process will lead to more innovative projects that create a meaningful business impact and help our customers to achieve their financial goals.

marcus evans: At the Innovation Models in Digital Banking and Financial Services Conference, you will be presenting a case study on the partnership PNC has with Carnegie Mellon. What were the factors that put PNC in the position to establish the Center for Financial Services Innovation?

DP: PNC's business needs match up very nicely to the core research strengths of an institution like Carnegie Mellon. Themes of consumer technology, marketing analytics, digital privacy and security, human computer interaction, big data and machine learning, and consumer decision making are becoming increasingly important in our business. These areas match up nicely with the highly advanced technology and quantitative research work done at CMU. The partnership was a natural fit in that regard, we just had to figure out how to structure it. 

marcus evans: What internal obstacles did you have to overcome in relation to collaborating externally? How did you approach those obstacles?

DP: A for-profit, publically traded bank and an academic research institution are very different places. We've found however that it is possible to structure a relationship in a way that both provides benefits for and protects both parties. We did have to work through many legal issues concerning the privacy of our customers and intellectual property ownership of research.

How you execute the collaboration is also critically important. Our approach is to connect the researchers at CMU directly with key business owners at PNC. That increases the chances that the researcher will address areas of immediate business interest, and that the right people at PNC will use the results when the research is delivered.

marcus evans: What type of output do you expect to see from the Center for Financial Services Innovation?

DP: The center will produce a broad range of academic research in the form of published literature as well as unique customer research, predictive data models and algorithms, web and mobile utilities and designs, and early stage technology prototypes. Much of the data and findings from our research will be published and available to the financial services community at large.

marcus evans: Looking back as you continue your collaborative journey, what will be the learning you will always carry with you?

DP: Collaborative or open innovation can feel uncomfortable in a large organization, and even when you think you have a good model you have to constantly manage internal and external parties to keep research on target. One of the most challenging parts of the job is selecting the right projects to work on from the universe of interesting topics. It's critically important to select projects that are not just in areas of interest, but also have a high probability of success and will produce tangible business benefits. Shoot for small wins, and then ride the momentum to bigger things.

The Innovation Models in Digital Banking and Financial Services Conference will enable attendees to leverage innovation models that diversify initiatives based on strategic value, risk, and time-to-market concerns, identify criteria by which to measure the viability of new ideas, analyze organizational cultures that embrace risk and creativity in the process of bringing new ideas to market, and establish a common language across their organization to articulate the goals of the innovation practice.

For more information, please contact Robin Yegelwel, Marketing & PR Coordinator, at (312) 540-3000 ext. 6483 or

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Contact Information

  • For more information, please contact
    Robin Yegelwel
    Marketing & PR Coordinator
    (312) 540-3000 ext. 6483