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Case study—

Building innovation capability

CLIENT Kiwibank


    How might we create a more human-centered
    culture of innovation within a bank?


    Customize capability-building around the bank’s real challenges and equip them to meet these challenges through design.

A progressive state-owned bank

Kiwibank launched in 2002 to offer New Zealanders an alternative to internationally-owned banks. The award-winning bank has successfully traded through the global financial crisis and continues to outperform many of its larger competitors by making innovation the cornerstone of its business model. Innovation in technology has always set Kiwibank apart. It beat the world’s biggest banks by introducing real time mobile phone banking. It was also the first in New Zealand to launch text alerts and online international money transfers. The Kiwibank senior management team wondered how they could keep the innovative spirit thriving and continue to push boundaries. They contacted Empathy to help. We partnered with Kiwibank to work beyond technological innovation. We explored how human-centered design could contribute to Kiwibank’s innovative culture and ongoing success.

Exploring and integrating design

We have big ambitions. Our ongoing work with the Kiwibank team aims to craft the culture they need to be the best bank in New Zealand.

When our collaboration began, Empathy’s experienced designers ran one-day sessions to familiarize members of the Kiwibank team with design mindsets and how design thinking applies to each person’s role. This learning was extended through work programs to help the wider team experience and understand design for innovation.

Kiwibank are now integrating design throughout their business. We’re working with them to build innovation capabilities as an organization, in teams and as individuals. With Empathy’s lead designers, Kiwibank teams continue to explore the value of design in the context of the banking system. We are now focused on coaching the team on live projects — taking innovation out of the realm of theory and into work that benefits Kiwibank and its customers in a meaningful way.

Empathy remains actively involved with Kiwibank as they plan for in-house innovation studios where people from diverse teams can collaborate and propel their thinking.

Human-centered innovation from within

Kiwibank has changed the way they work by taking a new approach to innovation through design.

“Now we can show people what we mean when we talk about design and innovation. People who weren’t expecting to embrace these programs are so engaged — they’re finding new ways of working and pushing themselves to do things differently”

Kiwibank capability manager Toby Cooper.

Our work with Kiwibank has meant stepping up the engagement of both their internal team and the people they serve. By committing to elevate their staff’s innovation capabilities on an ongoing basis, Kiwibank continues to capture, retain and help their customers in exciting ways.