Presented by Jacques Celliers, CEO Designate: FNB

Jacques holds an Engineering Degree and an MBA obtained from the Universities of Stellenbosch and Cape Town respectively. He furthered his business studies at Wharton in the US. Jacques joined First Rand in 2000. Prior to his appointment as CEO Designate, Jacques held a series of increasingly more senior positions in various departments.


Jacques presented the keynote address and dealt with innovation. In his view, innovation has become the catalyst that drives business success. He should know because his bank was named Most Innovative Bank of the Year 2012. This is a coveted award given for creating a culture of innovation and the advancement of retail banking. It is noteworthy that FNB’s entry was chosen from over 150 entries originating from more than 30 countries.

Innovation must be all-embracing
Jacques explained that innovation is not about the bank, it’s about people and their needs. That’s why FNB constantly challenges customers and other stakeholders to hold them to account – what the bank says it will do must actually happen. He also stressed that at FNB, innovation is not an abstract concept that is the responsibility of one specific individual or department. Everyone is encouraged to be innovative and even small innovations matter. To encourage the process, FNB holds an annual internal competition. It results in the creation of over 2,500 innovations per year.

Core principles of innovation

  • Give customers what they want where they want it, how they want it and when they want it. FNB is committed towards doing just that. However, in a large organisation like FNB it can take 2-3 years to implement a major innovation. Only then comes the “moment of truth”; does it work or doesn’t it?
  • Successful innovation requires input from a balanced team of thinkers and doers.
    • All affected units should be represented;
    • The team must include at least some top performers;
    • A “me versus us” mentality has no place in this process.
  • Innovation should largely come from within the organisation. Because the execution stage is often more powerful than the idea itself, consultants, because they are outsiders, are unlikely to add sustainable value.
  • Planning must precede doing. Unless the first brick is placed into the correct position, the resulting wall may have to be broken down and rebuilt. This constitutes an unacceptable waste of time and money.
  • One constraint to the implementation of innovation within an organisation whose service culture has evolved over 175 years is that you cannot simply add innovations ad infinitum. Their implementation must release additional efficiencies.

ãKurt Illetschko 2013. Published with permission.

Franchising Plus