Innovating in a time of coronavirus: considering different scenarios

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Edwin van Bommel leads ABN AMRO’s Group Innovation. Now that we’re slowly settling into the new normal, he wonders what effect the coronavirus crisis will have on his field. “A lot is still unsure, but we are considering all possible scenarios”, he writes in the blog below.

Consequences depend on the duration of this situation, the decisions made by the government and behavioural changes Edwin van Bommel Chief Innovation Officer ABN AMRO

“How can we keep focussing on sustainability? What consequences will the crisis have for the people who work on innovation within the bank? And how do we give shape to ‘Banking for Better, for generations to come’ – our bank-wide purpose – in an everchanging context? These are just a few of the questions I was faced with in the past weeks. Although I don’t have any ready-made answers, I know one thing for sure: we will stay on course and focus on the opportunities this situation is giving us.

Now that the initial shock of the coronavirus has worn off a little, I see that colleagues, consumers and business owners are increasingly acting from a new normal mindset. Our innovation managers brainstorm using online whiteboards, my children have online classes via a digital dashboard and our innovation partners have adjusted their processes and models to continue making progress. We accept uncertainty and deal with it as pragmatically as possible.

But Group Innovation’s focus remains unchanged. Together with our innovation partners we will continue developing business models that contribute to smarter and more sustainable environments, and we will help business owners protect their digital belongings and cash in on them. What we do take into account is that the crisis is changing our clients’ needs, though it’s too early to say what consequences it will have for our innovation portfolio. That will depend, among other things, on the duration of this situation, the decisions made by the government and whether the change in consumer behaviour is permanent or not.
 
Together with our Group Economics, we are working out different plans that will help us quickly respond to social and economic developments. Based on these plans we are investigating what projects we should speed up, because they are now more relevant to our clients. This demands a lot from our partners and our organisation. We need to be flexible, and we can’t be taken aback by inevitable setbacks. Fortunately, I see that there is complete unanimity among colleagues and partners, which is helping us make decisions more quickly and get more done.
 
It goes without saying that soon we will pay more attention to topics on innovation that the one-and-a-half-meter economy is putting in the spotlight, such as mobility and working remotely. These matters have been high on ABN AMRO’s agenda for a long time now. This is how years of investing into the optimisation and improvement of online services such as Video Banking are paying off. We’re now seeing such applications also quickly being implemented in other sectors, such as healthcare. We’re happy that we’re already experienced in this and that we can easily offer our clients that are new to video banking our usual service standard.
 
Whatever new reality the global developments will lead to, we must keep doing what is best for our colleagues, clients, business owners and society. If we build on the unanimity and the willingness to change that we are now seeing within the bank and throughout the whole country, we will make it out of this situation stronger than ever.”

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