The growth of the digital economy keeps accelerating. Payments modernization and the global adoption of digital ID, for example, are rapidly altering what was already a complex landscape. Leaders may be asking: How can my organization stay on top of changing behaviours, needs, and digital innovation?
For us at Interac, the answer lies in redesigning collaboration through a dynamic Innovation Partnerships team. We bring together a unique web of players and perspectives with a method that is fast-paced and geared toward success.
Interac, innovation and the digital economy
Interac has decades of experience developing core products and services — such as Interac Debit and Interac e-Transfer — that Canadians depend on every day. That’s why we’re a trusted household name across the country.
But we’re more than a payments provider. Interac is a key player in the digital economy and an incubator for emerging systems. More recently, our priority in the innovation sphere is to focus on ecosystem-level initiatives including payments modernization, digital ID and open banking. These developments will improve how Canadian businesses and individuals exchange not only money, but their identifying information, securely.
Solving challenges through collaboration
With Canadians increasingly relying on technology, we want to provide better solutions and services to help them conduct business and interact securely online.
Bringing leaders together to solve industry challenges is an important part of what we do at Interac. That’s why the Innovation Partnerships team works with other industry leaders – partners, Canada’s financial institutions and the broader tech ecosystem – to ensure we’re all striving towards better technology-driven solutions and user experiences to help Canadians thrive.
Organizations we’ve worked with in the past include open banking leaders to explore a Canadian-made framework, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada to power better choices with real-time incentives, and Alectra Utilities and IBM to test energy incentives through blockchain, to name a few.
Today, the Innovation Partnerships team is exploring collaboration in the areas of emerging themes and technologies across a variety of verticals, including open banking, digital ID, crypto regulation, data, value exchange, and, of course, payments. We look forward to working with a wide range of collaborators, including regulators, policy makers, government organizations, credit unions, small- and medium-sized businesses, advocacy groups, academia and other partners.
Our approach may seem uniquely Canadian, one that champions stakeholder engagement, both internally and externally. But at Interac, we know working together just makes sense.
The Innovation Partnerships process at Interac
Getting down to the work is where it gets interesting.
To strengthen strategic business opportunities, the Innovation Partnerships team has developed its own disciplined process for working with other stakeholders and leaders.
Regular engagement is a key facet of our partnerships program. We gather input on key topics, themes and initiatives, validate concepts, and disseminate information to relevant participants and stakeholders in that ecosystem.
We consider this an “always-on” approach. We don’t reach out to partners cold. Instead, engagement starts early and is continuous.
For stakeholders, this means sharing inputs often. It means being part of the build and reaping the benefits from early outputs. This always-on approach is a way for us to co-discover and co-create opportunities that mature into solution-oriented arrangements.
Plus, this ensures Interac brings together partners who care about the same things.
Our collective end goal is important. However, it’s not our only focus. We work to ensure the process and methodology adds value to our partnership, too.
So, what are some things you can expect when working with Innovation Partnerships?
- A partnership built on our past insights, data, and existing foundations
- Alignment to core values prioritized across like-minded organizations
- A discovery session for requirements, ideas, goals, and objectives early in the process
- A framework in place to ensure active collaboration between partners
- A focus on robust and diverse perspectives during co-creation, testing, and iteration
Our work on the Future of Retail and open banking, both of which employed a “minimum viable ecosystem” approach, are two examples of our team’s strategy in action.
Using a ‘minimum viable ecosystem’ approach
A minimum viable ecosystem (MVE) involves a coalition of like-minded companies coming together to work on a challenge before scaling it up by collaborating to produce the output in the fastest, most efficient, and valuable way possible. It’s a means for a group of businesses and stakeholders to experiment and plan before the idea or concept is taken to the public.
That all may sound like a similar concept, a “minimum viable product” (MVP). You can think of a MVP as an iterative, circular process to build, measure and learn about market demand. MVPs allow companies to identify their riskiest assumptions, find the smallest possible experiment to test that assumption, and then use the results of the experiment to produce a better, more polished product.
With a MVE, you’re doing something similar, but with an added focus on relationships with partners. To me, the ideal collaboration within an MVE brings together like-minded yet diverse parties. They’re seeking success for everyone involved in developing the ecosystem they are a part of. This type of collaboration is meant to eliminate biases and improve iterations, feedback and outputs.
In the areas we work in, an MVE would typically and ideally involve a financial institution, a consumer or small- to medium-sized business, a regulatory or government entity, a fintech or multiple fintechs, and an association that represents the end-user.
As for the ideal result? In Canada, where ubiquity is valued, where innovation often moves forward through strong alignment, consensus and hard work, and the financial sector is relatively centralized, the Innovation Partnership team recognizes the best results often come from a process of collaboration — one that’s rich in consultations and engagements.
Interested in working with Interac?
Our way of working allows us to balance the need for innovation with the realities of our role as a unique (and uniquely central) player in the Canadian technology and payments ecosystem.
Understanding our engagement model is key. Our fondness for collaboration doesn’t mean that we get to work with everyone who shows interest. Our goal is to find partners and collaborators that fit the model and our mandate. That being said, we’re continuously looking for partners and collaborators in many spheres and with a multitude of perspectives. Your organization might not fill a space we may need now, but there’s always the future.
We welcome participants to come with open minds — and a willingness to share, engage with others and invest the time and energy into the effort. It’s a big job, bringing innovation to Canadians at scale. But we know the ecosystem is well equipped to handle the task.