Case study: How Westpac Group is using startup thinking to reshape its business – StartupSmart

In a bid to shrug off its corporate image, the organisation turned to the startup world for ideas on how to adopt a more agile and entrepreneurial attitude.


Westpac Group has adopted sweeping changes to its culture in a bid to simplify processes and governance, and to think in a more flexible and agile way.


Maria Ternezis, head of technology execution and optimisation, has been leading the change and she’s the first to admit her remit is immense.


“We’re really trying to change the way the whole business thinks. We want to be delivering like a bank, but adopt that startup mentality so we can be more nimble in our approach to everything that we do… We know this will make us an even more amazing organisation.”


As part of the changes, Westpac recently announced the creation of a world-class innovation centre to help the bank anticipate and respond to changing market and customer needs.


Chief executive Gail Kelly said the 800m2 hub, known as The Hive, is a highly collaborative space that enables staff and selected industry partners to experiment in new ways.


The Hive grants staff and partners access to the latest innovation research and expertise, enabling them to experiment with new ideas and, where necessary, fail fast by taking small steps that help them to quickly validate, shape and progress ideas towards clear customer and business outcomes.


Westpac has also invested in The Garage – a specialist team working to fast-track innovative new customer products – as well as investing in Reinventure, a venture capital group that supports new technology in startups.


Innovation isn’t a new concept for Westpac. The 200-year-old organisation was the first Australian bank to introduce ATMs and online banking.


Ternezis says the changes occurring within the bank are moving it from thinking about the organisation in silos and business units, in favour of a more holistic way forward.


Members of staff have also been given greater decision-making powers and accountability, and are being encouraged to test ideas and decide if they’re worth bringing to market.


“We’re taking disruption to the corporate world. My remit has been about simplifying processes throughout the business and assessing the technology landscape. This means assessing how many versions of operating systems are in place, and being open to taking risks in a bid to improve. This new approach has a major focus on achieving outcomes for the broader business.”


Job titles are also under consideration as part of the process with Ternezis and her team looking at how they source talent.


“As an organisation we’re very titled-orientated, and we’re looking at ways to break away from that mentality. It’s about no longer putting people into boxes.”


Westpac is also inviting leading entrepreneurs into the organisation to speak to staff about their approach to creating and running their startup.


“We’re on an exciting journey and, for a corporate, we’re definitely leading in this space.”


Written by: Nina Hendy


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