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How To Design Innovation In Payments

This is not a news flash: Payments is about the most complex platform industry there is and igniting innovation in payments is anything but a given these days, even if a company is doing it within the construct of a successfully operating platform. The complexity, as we all know, rests with the discipline of having a strategy that can create the delicate balance across all stakeholders, deliver traction in a relevant timeframe and drive profits.

But this perhaps is: “An abundance of evidence suggests that greater attention to the ways in which organizations and incentives shape the innovation process can produce significantly better results,” remarks Josh Lerner, Harvard Business School Professor and author of The Architecture of Innovation. This new book sheds new light on how corporations should organize their innovation initiatives in order to produce the best results: getting innovation to market and ignited. The implications to the payments industry are real and they are relevant.

This topic, The Architecture of Innovation in Payments, is one of several interactive keynote sessions at The Innovation Project 2013, a two day gathering of senior executives in payments who are driving innovation in the payments and broader commerce ecosystem hosted by

Lerner makes the case in the book that Corporate R&D doesn’t necessarily yield the desired outcome. He points out in his book that as recently as the end of the 1990s, for those companies that organized innovation that way, R&D-driven innovation contributed less than 25 percent of the value of what investments in traditional assets would have produced for that company (e.g. supply chain efficiencies, cost reductions, etc.). Venture investing isn’t seen as the panacea either. Investments made by the entire venture capital sector over the course of any given year amount to much less than the R&D budgets of a single giant pharmaceutical firm like Merck or a automotive giant like GM. And, in 2011, venture-backed firms represented less than 10 percent of all publicly traded firms in the U.S.

So, what would? Well, surprisingly, what many have already started to do. Simply stated, it involves having corporations invest in promising start ups, usually through a separate entity, and then creating an operating model that is helpful enough to the venture without drowning it in the corporate bureaucracy that would only slow things down – or worse.

There are two forces of nature that are moving the industry in this direction. First, the largest players in the space are today funding dozens of “innovation experiments” focused on driving payments into the mobile realm, and more broadly expanding the reach of electronic payments. At the same time, access to new technologies and the availability of IP-enabled devices such as the smart phone and tablet reduced the barriers to entry for many an emerging venture to make a play for something new, innovative and game-changing. Hundreds of millions of dollars of venture money poured (and are pouring) into the sector to foster the “next” new thing in payments. In 2012 alone, more than $1 billion was invested in emerging payments firms by VCs. But as good (and well funded) as their great ideas might be, most of these ventures will need distribution and scale to ignite and access to the “incumbents” to make that happen in any sort of meaningful way. They’ll also need access to the people inside the organization who can “school” them on what it means to be in the payments business. Many of them have no clear idea of its complicated inner-workings.

Those two forces, Lerner believes, sets up exactly the right environment for the right model for innovation in large organizations – corporate venturing – something that takes the best of both worlds and devises a structure, a framework and a set of incentives for advancing strategic goals and generating good returns on those investments.

The Innovation Project 2013 interactive keynote session on The Architecture of Innovation in Payments will tackle this topic head on. Lerner and Diane Offereins, President of the Discover Network, will engage four C-suite innovators — all pioneers in designing and deploying innovation in payments — on a wide-ranging discussion of incentives, partnership strategy, innovation design, ignition obstacles and more. Offereins is credited with coming up with the idea to license the Discover network to other innovators to propel their innovation agenda four years ago. She will give Innovation Project 2013 delegates a peek inside the strategy that was used to develop and deploy this strategy internally, and use that to engage the panel on the impact of that strategy on innovation inside of the payments sector. Panel participants include:

  • Chris Gardner, co-Founder and CEO of Paydiant, a cloud-based solution that enables banks and merchants to accept payments via the mobile phone. Gardner will share his thoughts on how he and Paydiant have aligned incentives for innovation with some of the biggest bank and merchant partners in the US.
  • Mike Kennedy, Chairman of ClearXchange and EVP for innovation at Wells Fargo, will describe ClearXchange’s blueprint for getting the three biggest banks to the table around a new idea, and how that framework may change in order to take ClearXchange to the next level of innovation in mobile payments.
  • Chitra Narasimhan, Managing Director at CitiVentures, will offer her insights about how to structure and incent innovation inside huge financial institutions and provide support to emerging ventures without overwhelming them in corporate bureaucracy.
  • Mike Pasilla, CEO of Elavon, will describe how innovation works at Elavon and explain how he attracts and retains key partnerships while balancing the requirements of his bank parent company, and payments regulatory environment.

The Innovation Project 2013 is being held on March 20-21 at Harvard University. For information on how to register and for a look at the entire programming line up, please visit

About The Innovation Project

Over 2 days, more than 100 speakers and 500 senior members of the payments industry will change the way that the payments and its broader commerce ecosystem thinks, talks, delivers and ignites innovation. On March 20th and 21st the greatest minds in commerce and payments will assemble at Harvard University near Boston to kick the conversation about innovation up to an entirely different level at a program called The Innovation Project. Speakers and delegates are among the most senior executives and elite innovators from literally every established payments company worldwide, along with the CEOs/founders of the most innovative start-ups. One of its five modules includes pairing industry CEOs with external thought leaders such as Al Gore (former US VP), Steve Levitt (Freakonomics), Eric Reis (The Lean Start Up), Rosie Rios (US Treasurer), Russell Simmons (Rush Card), Raj Date (CFPB), and Josh Lerner (Architecture of Innovation) to challenge the conventional wisdom around what it will take to get merchants and consumers to adopt new ways to shop and pay. Warren Buffett is the program’s keynote. The Innovation Project also hosts the industry’s 2013 Innovator Awards, given to 15 of the industry’s top innovators over dinner, which this year will be emceed by B.J. Novak of The Office and will introduce delegates to 40 of the hottest “next generation” payments innovators. The ThinkAThon will challenge a small group of delegates to frame solutions to tough industry problems and compete in front of delegates and judges for the title of “Master Payments Guru 2013.”

About is reinventing the way in which companies in payments share relevant information about the initiatives that shape the future of commerce and make news. This powerful B2B platform is the #1 site for the payments industry by traffic and the premier source of information about “what’s next” in payments. C-suite and VP level executives read it daily for these insights, making the audience the most valuable in the industry. It provides an interactive platform for companies to demonstrate thought It provides an interactive platform for companies to demonstrate thought leadership, popularize products and, most importantly, capture the mindshare of global decision-makers. It’s where the best minds and best content meet on the web.

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