Creating an Ecosystem of Open Innovation Evolution and growth of our Corporate Accelerator program- Catalyst!


Authored by:
Rathnaprabha Manickavachagam, Head Innovation, Societe Generale Global Solution Centre

The banking ecosystem, as we currently witness is in a steady state of transformation, with evolving technologies, changing consumer behaviors and expectations. This makes it paramount for service providers to develop new and value-added services that are simple to use and that offer direct benefits to the customer.

At Societe Generale Global Solution Centre, the fastest growing subsidiary of the Societe Generale Group, which is one of Europe’s largest financial services groups, we started our corporate accelerator journey during the year 2016 and called the program ‘Catalyst’.  Catalyst, was born from the organization’s desire to impact every discerning customer across the world positively. And HOW?

  • By using Open Innovation, opening our doors to interesting Fintechs and startups
  • By placing emphasis on customer needs and experiences
  • By focusing inward and uncovering simple signals of change
  • By anticipating and resolving to stay ahead of “disruptions” in the banking world
  • Last but not least, by collaborating beyond functional boundaries

We focused on “Going Digital” for the large global bank that we are and the challenges that come with serving millions of customers worldwide and the hundreds of thousands of employees. Innovation is one of our core values and it is our responsibility too. We had the huge advantage of being at crossroads with technology experts, innovation experts, businesses leaders, digital savvy customers and added to these was our willingness to collaborate with an external ecosystem to build relevant solutions for our banking challenges.    


Our First Edition

After we identified key business use cases and the themes of focus, we flagged off the first edition of Catalyst in India in 2016, from our Bangalore Centre. We embraced Fintech and tech startups into Societe Generale’s Open innovation ecosystem and collaboration journey. We selected cohorts with a ready platform to co-create a minimum viable product(MVP), the goal for them being to help our business with a product or service solution that is ready to be tested in the market and can be further customized.

We timed our accelerator program, for a 10-week period of intense, rapid fire co-creation across a variety of themes, amidst several parallel business use cases, the best in class infrastructure, operational skills, design based decisive mentorship and disruptive innovation. For us, the goal lay in channelizing their know-how into banking domain by providing them with the motivation and guidance. We were also responsible for helping them achieve their own goals of simplification, digitization, new client experience, usage of emerging technologies, data volume scalability and multiple dimension of interventions to arrive at a win-win for our organization and their own business.

An apt platform indeed for the start-ups to test, iterate and scale their products on real business scenarios, data volumes, receiving regular feedback from business experts, aided by Design Thinking and Agile methodologies. For us, it is equally important to enhance and complement our internal capabilities with external expertise in order to impact our customer experience and learn from entrepreneurial mindset that startups can bring to us.

Going Global

This acceleration trend became prevalent for us since, and led us to strategically identify business challenges across regions and co-construct business solutions for various business entities across the globe. Each edition that followed, proved better than the earlier edition, thus increasing our global reach and solutions to unique business challenges increasing our customer serving experience.

Catalyst 2018, the 4th edition over the past two years, has evolved into a truly global program, that cuts across functional boundaries and includes stakeholders across businesses, technology and global business entities.

With increasing number of business use cases being fed into the Open Innovation ecosystem platform, Innovative solutions needs to grow at a large scale and reduce Time to Market (TTM)..  And HOW?

While the primary drivers are the business challenges and the customer impact, the role of Innovation (INO) is to provide consultancy and business solutions complemented by a concise innovation strategy, innovative capabilities and operational implementation. We adopt a highly participative and co-creative approach and extend multiple dimensions of interventions within the ecosystem in order to achieve the desired results. The ability to create/adopt new solutions using emerging technologies and design and see quick results depends on the scale of intervention. Our constant interface and collaboration with various businesses across the globe ensure that we are aligned with determining the time to market and in delivering the potential desired impact for the client.

We continue to experiment with various possibilities, betting on scale. We have Internal Startups, products created using emerging technologies, various design offers also to disrupt processes and experiences alike. There are several ways of dealing with a business challenge and that depends on the TTM and technology appetite apart from budget for the given challenge at the given time: we could simplify or digitize the existing process or disrupt and redesign the entire process using a new platform or a product. We can build the solution within the organization, then approach a start-up or a vendor to customize or completely build a new system driven by technology. Similarly, process disruption can use disruptive ideas from the industry, providing us the competitive advantage to adopt market ready innovative products quickly. Therefore, we need to deeply comprehend, tailor and customize, as one size does not fit all.

As a true partner, we help businesses in addressing particular problems at particular times and in influencing the decision making.

Team Innovation (INO), business impact and the ability to see results

Open Innovation, among others is proving to be a key enabler to the success of our Digital Transformation strategy. It is important for us to enhance and complement our internal capabilities with external expertise.

INO, currently a 50 + team, remains one of the primary hubs and is connected to the 16 innovation hubs across our global business locations. INO hosts a state-of-the-art, Digital Process Hub (DPH) at the India centre, that serves as a place where Service Design, technologies, expertise, products and methodologies come together as a process digitalization factory, encouraging co-creation by connecting the ecosystem of business, IT, a host of Centres of Excellence (COEs) (Smart Auto, Design, Innovation, Agile) in the process disruption journey.

INO drives open innovation and R & D (that includes Catalyst among others), incorporates Internal Start-ups, disrupts large process transformation and manages Intellectual Property (IP) and assets. The team brings in the business solutioning and execution capabilities and remains the powerhouse of skills, with two pillars: one that is external facing, looking for platform products and innovation, the other that is internal facing, strengthening the ability to develop solutions and products using emerging technologies, reimagining process, thus making a difference to business, without delay and dependency.

INO is the unique lab with solid exposure to back office and middle office challenges and is aptly aligned to propose solutions by understanding the business problem.

2 Thoughts


  2. Amazing innovative thought process. I am impressed by Catalyst – corporate Accelerator . Keep it up INO team. Welcome to Go Digital and change the environment asper customer needs to provide MVP in the global market.

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