Data in, value out: how Julius Baer’s corporate start-up drives innovation

With the goal to leverage available data, spur innovation and foster the culture of analytics, Julius Baer handpicked three employees a year ago, and created its first corporate start-up, TargetInsights. We look back at its journey so far and where TargetInsights is heading.

In today’s Big Data era, companies are seeking data scientists that can make the best use of the data they collect. Ideally, these so-called unicorn data scientists should bring a business, computer science as well as a mathematics background. They need in-depth knowledge of a wide variety of topics, and an even wider array of skills. 

“Instead of trying to find that one unicorn data scientist with magical powers, Julius Baer formed TargetInsights with three cross-functional internal employees: a former relationship manager, a data-migration expert and me, a mathematician. And this has been one key ingredient to the magical formula to our success”, explains Christian Jauch, who helped to set up TargetInsights in 2018 after four years with Julius Baer.

Earning their wings at 6-month F10 accelerator programme in Zurich
TargetInsights was founded with the clear objective of developing a first working version of a product on the topic of Advanced Analytics, A.I. and Machine Learning. The three team members were tasked to find new and different ways to work and gather inspiration from both internal and external experts.
 
Everything happened at a very fast pace. With little time to get to know each other, the TargetInsights team applied for the Zurich-based F10 FinTech accelerator programme in March 2018 and were accepted by the jury, thanks to their vision and strong combined skill set. The six-month programme provided exactly what the corporate start-up needed: support and guidance in creating a product, methodology lessons and workshops, coaching and mentoring by industry experts as well as a valuable platform for networking and building relationships.

“During the six months at F10, we had access to some incredibly experienced coaches and mentors who helped us shape and create our product. But not only this – our coach also implanted the ‘start-up gene’ within us and helped us to abandon the engrained company thinking that we used to have”, said Jauch.

The TargetInsights team (from left to right): Emiliano Ingrassia, Matthias Wilde, Pascal Engeli, Christian Jauch

Innovation lab within Julius Baer
Since graduating from the F10 programme in September 2018, TargetInsights has not slowed down. They may have moved their offices back to Julius Baer’s headquarters, but the “lab character” as well as the fast and agile way of working has remained. While their first use case is currently in the roll-out phase, the team has already started on new use cases. 

“The idea is that TargetInsights remains an innovation lab that creates a simple working version of the tool or concept as proof of value, brings it into production, and supports the initial roll out. The day-to-day business and maintenance of the product, however, are within the responsibility of the respective operational unit at Julius Baer. Leaving us free to tackle other exciting data science challenges”, explained Emiliano Ingrassia, the business expert at TargetInsights. 

By building internal know-how on getting real value out of the existing data, Julius Baer strives – through TargetInsights – to stay ahead of the curve in an increasingly data-driven world. Then, the importance of using data to make informed decisions is undeniable.

Data helps to identify client discontent
TargetInsights’ first project is currently being rolled out internally. During their 6-month F10 tenure, TargetInsights developed a system that is able to help relationship managers to identify client discontent and react to it. By using a large amount of data to classify patterns, the tool identifies frustration points and helps to predict when a customer is likely to move part of his/her assets. 

During the pilot period, the TargetInsights team worked closely with internal relationship managers as control groups to ensure the solution is highly relevant to them, but also easy to use. “Our solution will help our relationship managers to react in a prompt, targeted and personalised manner – before the relationship is broken. It is a tool that ultimately will strengthen client relationships”, said Jauch. 

Importance of investing in innovation – internally and externally
Julius Baer’s Chief Operating Officer Nic Dreckmann believes that collaboration schemes with start-ups are fundamental for the Bank to keep advancing in innovation. While Julius Baer is involved in different FinTech accelerator platforms such as F10’s FinTech Incubator & Accelerator as well as its Hackathons, Dreckmann also wants to further internal innovation processes. 

“Start-ups stand for agility, disruption and novel ideas. But good ideas aren’t exclusive to start-ups. We knew that we have the talent in-house, we just needed to provide the framework for our very own ‘speedboat’ to operate with agility, disrupt the status quo, and move quickly through product prototyping, development and deployment – without the usual corporate governance. Looking at all the results that TargetInsights has already achieved in its first year, I am very much looking forward to seeing what else is in store in the coming years”, said Dreckmann. 

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