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Banks in Time of Digital Change

Christian Schmitz, Senior Consultant Innovation & Digitization

"As soon as CBDCs are available. As soon as there's a digital Euro. I'll check it out. That's the task of an innovation manager."

In this episode, it's all about banking, cryptocurrencies, and the big question of how to explain modern banking to grandma. We welcome Christian Schmitz from DZ BANK, who in his role as Senior Consultant in the Innovation and Digitalization department not only runs DZ BANK's Innovation LAB and Think-and-Do-Tank, but also oversees trend and technology scouting to support strategic innovation management initiatives. 

Together with Christian, we exchange ideas about the future of the monetary system, take a look behind the scenes of the DZ BANKS’s innovation radar and discuss the various LABS, how they are interlinked and their innovation impact for the DZ Bank. If you want to learn more about where DZ Bank is headed in the future, stay tuned!

Below you will find the full transcript for the episode


Banks in time of global change

Chris: Hi, and welcome back to Innovation Rockstars. My name is Chris Mühlroth, and in this episode, I am thrilled to welcome Christian Schmitz. Christian is a senior consultant for innovation and digitization at DZ bank, focusing on making an impact on the future of finance and banking through trend scouting, foresight, strategic innovation, management and digitization efforts. Christian, great to have you on the show and thanks so much for joining Innovation Rockstars.

Christian Schmitz: Thank you. Chris, thank you for having me. I'm really looking forward to the show.

Chris: Brilliant. Okay! So as usual, we start with a sixty-second introduction sprint about you, your career and your role. For the next sixty seconds, the virtual stage is all yours. Let's go!

Christian Schmitz: Yes, thank you very much. I'm 32 years old and was born in Bonn. I did an apprenticeship at a bank after graduating from high school. After that, I completed my under- and post-graduate studies in Business Administration while doing some internships in banking and finance. About five years ago, I started my traineeship at DZ Bank and felt I was being home groomed from the ground up at DZ bank. I began in innovation and digitization and have been there ever since. It's part of our strategy division, and my primary responsibility was tied to our innovation lab as a product and project lead. I was the internal accelerator in that role, but I am more involved with trend scouting and foresight management processes.

Chris: Alright. That was even below sixty seconds. I would call this Germany efficiency. Okay, coming up next, I have three sentence starters for you, and I would like you to complete them. Number one: "I decided to go for a career in finance and banking because…"

Christian Schmitz: I probably need more time for that as I won't be able to do it justice with just one sentence. My parents run a business, and I was intrigued by the accounting and finance aspect of the company, less with the craftsmanship. The business is a butcher shop, and they could never convince me about taking it over. However, my father got me hooked on capital markets, finance, etc., at an early stage, which almost immediately intrigued me and got my full attention. I'm also the first in the family to have done studies that went counter to their expectations of enrolling and completing an apprenticeship and then considering any career options. In hindsight, I believe that to have been the initial stepping stone for me to start a career in banking.

Chris: That's pretty cool to have a story behind that and to come close to serendipity, but ultimately you have your reasons. Great. Number two: "Recently I have changed my mind on [blank] because of [blank]…

Christian Schmitz: I've recently changed my mind on NFTs (Non-Fungible-Tokens). During the height of the hype that started sometime in April or May last year, I thought it was just a ridiculous price tag on GIFs and JPEGs. However, since we did a deep dive the previous year on NFTs, I changed my mind because I realized that there were a lot of practical uses in the banking and finance sector.

Chris: Do you own some?

Christian Schmitz: No. I own crypto currencies, but I don't own any NFTs yet. But who knows, maybe I will. 

Chris: Who knows indeed. Great. And finally, number three: "I usually start my mornings with…"

Christian Schmitz: I'm listening to news podcasts and finishing my daily Babel classes since "Estudio Espanol" (I am learning to speak Spanish). That's how I usually start my mornings. 

Chris: Muy bien (Great). Okay, great. Alright, Christian, let's imagine the following situation. You are at a family dinner with everybody sitting around the table. There is good food, drinks and a lively mood and so on. As you are enjoying the moment, your grandmother, who happens to sit next to you, asks you the question: "Christian, tell me, what do you do for a living?" What would you tell her?

Christian Schmitz: Well, I don't even have to imagine that scenario since I've faced similar on numerous occasions. My grandmother is old-school. She had been running the family business before my parents took over. As you can imagine, she's not a fan of innovation, digitization or strategy, etc. Nevertheless, I'm proud of her because she calls herself an owner of an iPhone and an iPad. She's using WhatsApp, and we're regularly texting. All things said, if I had to explain what I am doing for a living, I would start by explaining my studies to her. It would make sense to her since it's following the logic of an apprenticeship in a butcher shop by first completing your bachelor's and then your master's. It's a bit tougher to explain my job to her since no one has heard of DZ bank, despite it being the second largest bank in Germany. It's not a household name since you can't open a bank account at the bank. In contrast, if I tell folks that the bank is a central institution for the cooperative banks, like Volksbank and Raiffeisen Bank, it just about clicks with everyone. That's one side of it. The other thing about my job is that I connect people and colleagues with start-ups and experts to drive new ideas, product development, and sensible solutions with services to make people's lives more convenient. I do my best to take a glimpse into the future to screen the market for any trends on what might be the next big thing on the horizon and its impact. 

"The other thing about my job is that I connect people and colleagues with start-ups and experts to drive new ideas, product development, and sensible solutions with services to make people's lives more convenient."

Chris: Alright, that's great. Now, assume that grandma is on the same page with you. She tells you that back in the olden days, all she had to do was go to the bank, walk up to a counter, withdraw or deposit some money, maybe even look at some brochures before leaving the bank. In contrast today, banks are trying to minimize costs by relying less on branches and more on an online presence. Grandma then turns to you and wonders whether the bank is doing the right thing by gradually substituting branches since you'd also remove face-to-face contact with the customers. Instead, you are positioning yourself in direct competition with all these new digital companies that are faster and more aggressive than you. Why pursue such a thing?

Christian Schmitz: That's an excellent question from grandma. Let me turn the question back to you. When was the last time you visited a bank? Do you remember?

Chris: Sure. A few weeks ago, I didn't go to the counter but to the ATM machine to withdraw some cash around midnight.

"For example, customers expect solutions to be available and accessible whenever they want to apply for a loan. In this instance, they would commence the process online and move to a specialist at the branch to either complete or resume the cycle. The point is that everything has to be omnichannel. "

Christian Schmitz: Right. That's what I do regularly as well. Come to think of it, the last time I've been to the branch and spoke with a person was when I had found some money stuck in the ATM that didn't belong to me. Thus I returned it, and that must have been four years ago. I tend to do everything else online. I assume the question implies that most of our customers still want to visit a branch, but we are noticing a particular change in that. Some people expect their products and services to be accessible 24/7. They don't want to go to a branch with opening hours of nine to four but instead wish to complete their banking on the go. Therein we see a significant shift. For example, customers expect solutions to be available and accessible whenever they want to apply for a loan. In this instance, they would commence the process online and move to a specialist at the branch to either complete or resume the cycle. The point is that everything has to be omnichannel.  I believe we're seeing large initiatives within the cooperative banking world regarding making everything multi-channel related; one could picture it as merging the digital with the conventional. I think that is a significant development. There is little chance of it eroding simply by the lack of personal relationship-building efforts regarding our competitive advantage. Likely, these specialists and relationship managers won't be available at every branch across the street. Still, it's entirely possible that you would have to drive your car or take public transportation to reach them. However, they still hold a wealth of knowledge and would help you in any way possible, which isn't comparable to the digital version. Plus, they have ways to get specialists on board if you have specific questions, this will be a better banking experience in the future. 

Let's talk about the future of money

Chris: Okay it’s not black or white. So, there's more to it than just looking at the two parts in isolation, but it's clear that you are more in favor of the digital world. In any case, grandma is satisfied with your answer, turns away and gets a bottle of wine. Let's talk about money. Money, in its purest definition, is an economic unit, correct? It's used as a form of payment for exchanging goods and services. Then gold or other known precious metals are also used as a form of payment dating way back in history. Fast-forwarding to today and the U.S. dollar is still considered a global currency. However, you mentioned it earlier, and change might be on the horizon. Look at China, CBDCs (Central Bank Digital Currencies) or cryptocurrencies, etc. Christian, my question to you is whether you'd consider a significant leap forward within the monetary system or would it remain the same ten years from now? How do you guys see it’s evolving?

Christian Schmitz: In my opinion, the monetary system in Europe will remain the same. There will be a central banking institution, commercial banks and non-banks such as start-ups or fintechs. Ten years from now, nothing will fundamentally change due to the rise of CBDCs or similar, but most will stay as it is today.

"Ten years from now, nothing will fundamentally change due to the rise of CBDCs or similar, but most will stay as it is today."

Chris: What about cryptocurrencies? On one end of the spectrum, you have this free-floating, community-driven and distributed ledger thing, while on the other, the more centralized organizations. Control is essential to combat inflation and other responsibilities that centralized organizations oversee. For example, the latter favors the CBDCs, not necessarily running on blockchains but digitally distributed ledger technology. Do you foresee this settling in the future? Is it black or white? Is a merging of the two a possibility in the future? What do you think of that?

Christian Schmitz: Let's take a look at cryptocurrency markets. I looked it up on Coin Market Cap the other day and discovered that there are more than 16,000 available coins out there right now. That sounds impressive, but there are numerous alternative coins with no appreciable value, and I see a sort of consolidation soon. The markets were merely trending upwards for the last couple of years, and if I could be crystal-balling the developments for the next ten years, I most likely would not be sitting here anymore. Unfortunately, I failed at predicting the future. I remember during my postgraduate studies that I was observing the Bitcoin values, with their value averaging between three hundred to five hundred dollars. My reaction was that I wasn't going to shell out that much money for Bitcoin. Even when I joined the bank, the value was hovering around seven to eight hundred dollars. Today I am kicking myself for not having invested in them. There has been an exciting development happening for a few years, and we are witnessing a shift in mindset from traditional banking institutions and cryptocurrencies. It's almost been five years, and I still remember that we had a hackathon and worked on a crypto wallet prototype. A considerable hype train was going around, but the concerns were prevalent regarding the regulations and overall safety. Now, you notice large institutions offering ways to access cryptocurrencies securely and efficiently by providing a speculation platform for assets or investments. Concurrently initiatives from central banks are launched to offer CBDCs. There are already some countries, like Nigeria or the Bahamas, who have already started their CBDCs. There are a lot of other pilot projects where CBDCs are being used, and I am convinced that more is coming. It will also happen in Europe, and the Euro will be digitized. Of course, I can't be one hundred percent sure of that, but the ECB (European Central Bank) started their pilot project last October that will run until October 2023. They'll evaluate the feasibility and benefits of a digital Euro and the applications. Regulatory implications within the process would also have to be considered with a digital Euro and its impact on payments within the retail markets. I'm thrilled by those initiatives. All these trends like digitization and the transition to online are turning into 'Industry 4.0', as we call it in Germany. It's essentially connecting all the machines and embedded digital processes into a digital currency that CBDCs back might prove to be beneficial for customers as they place more trust into them than in mere cryptocurrencies. I believe this will be the way to go forward. There will be fewer cryptocurrencies, but they will have their specific fit and use, while the CBDCs will have a broader reach to people. But only time will tell. 

The ITONICS innovation radar at DZ Bank

Chris: Alright. Got it. Let's discuss the future more generically. I am aware that you author an article on how DZ Bank looks towards the future of using trend scouting to identify and evaluate trends systematically. I read that article and recall your point about the past, where future-relevant technological and social-cultural changes were often underestimated. I agree with that and that the identification and evaluation of these trends is critical to success. I also understand that since 2016 you've been using a self-built innovation radar. Can you provide a bit more insights into that innovation radar?  

"That's our digital collaboration platform built by ITONICS, and we've been using it for almost six years now."

Christian Schmitz: That's our digital collaboration platform built by ITONICS, and we've been using it for almost six years now. It allows us to collaborate with companies within the DZ bank groups, ranging from R&D insurance, investment asset management, and team banks, including the Visa Bank Groups. We get together with innovation managers and collaborate on the platform about innovation, etc.

Chris: What are some of the building blocks of this radar? Could you guide me through that?

Christian Schmitz: We have three main components. One of them is the eponymous innovation radar, where we attempt to provide transparency to current activities that are being worked on and at the DZ bank group. Any associated company can contribute to a project, share what's happening, or check current tasks. Other areas include addressing trends, keeping track of phases within our specific innovation activities, assessing when projects go live, their costs and who gets involved, etc. 

Chris: How do you manage all that, and what does that look like? I'm confident that I can just contribute and enter at random, right? Is there some sort of review process in place? If so, how does that work?  

Christian Schmitz: Yes, we've got some key users from the DZ bank group, who represent our main point of contact for innovation and digitization with the companies. They oversee the various companies' activities and contributions to the platform. However, we don't enforce any restrictions on contributing, so the more, the merrier. I enjoy seeing any action on the platform because it creates more transparency about ongoing projects. That potentially also leads to spill-over and synergy effects. Nevertheless, there is no obligation to use the platform since it's all driven by the idea and value it creates for participants or for all the innovation managers to gain insights into current activities.

Chris: Understood. Then, as mentioned before, there is the trend radar, which is also fed by your trend scouting efforts. How does that look like? Is there a process behind that? What are the components, and how are trends identified? I'm aware that I have many questions, but I'm curious to see how you guys do it.

Christian Schmitz: The trend radar is the second component of the innovation radar platform. We simultaneously screen about two hundred and twenty trends and technologies on the platform. We identify them using various sources ranging from research papers, trend reports and consultancy studies. We don't have a specific trend system to gain insights because we do all of this ourselves. We want to tailor it to our particular requirements or the relevance of all the companies at DZ bank groups. Thus, there's no need for us to have a comprehensive look at trends worldwide but pinpoint what is of interest and ultimately use for us. That's why we put a lot of effort into identifying these types of trends. We usually do this in workshops with colleagues from all over the DZ Bank group, often including members of other cooperative financial networks in Germany, to get broad insights into the business model that is of interest to our group. Research is also an activity we pursue on these trends by creating profiles for identified trends that serves as a stepping stone for any innovation manager who wants to focus on a blockchain or artificial intelligence, for example. Anybody can use the trend radar and get a glimpse of what those trends are about, which impacts they might have on the DZ bank group and what's the way to go forward.

Chris: Okay, that covers your digital platform, the innovation and trend radar, etc. What about the labs? I believe you have quite a few of them, known as trend or sprint labs. How do they fit into the picture? Is that where you conduct your workshops, or is there more to them? How do the labs come into play?  

Christian Schmitz: The labs are and lay, as I would like to call it, at the very heart of everything we do in our department. The so-called innovation labs function as an umbrella for the various programs like trend labs, sprint labs, prototyping labs, data labs, and strategy labs. So, yes, we have quite a few individual labs, but they all work together and support each other. At its core, they create the whole innovation process. Suppose we look at the Trend labs, for example, the main component of our trend scouting or management process. That is where orchestrate deep dives into future-ready trends and technologies, like tokenization, Stable Coins, artificial intelligence or quantum computing. Last term, we had a look at non fungible tokens, as I mentioned earlier, and that is an excellent program. It's a workshop series where experts from all over the DZ bank group come together to gain insights and deep dive into a specific trend unilaterally to create a shared understanding of the market and potential applications. It attempts to address questions such as: What do our competitors do? What are start-ups doing in a specific field? What are the other participants in the market doing with regards to digitization? You get the idea. After that process, we try to create potential case studies relevant to us after assessing and determining the impact those trends might have on our business models. In the end, a research paper contains the identified implications and recommendations for further actions, then presented to the management board. I believe that is an excellent baseline for future innovations. There are a couple of additional formats; thus, allow me briefly to go over them, of which the sprint labs encompass the primary format. These labs are rolling out rapid weekly workshop series based on Google Design Sprint and Design Thinking methods to create ideas or solve problems. Then there's the most extensive program, the prototyping labs that can last up to three months. The way they work is that there is a business unit or a company from the DZ bank group, and they are announcing that they have an idea that they'd like to work on. That, in turn, will lead to creating prototypes to evaluate the concept against potential customers. They are given our infrastructure, resources, developers, UX designers and so on at their disposal for that task. They are then given three months to produce a prototype and a solid business case to confirm the feasibility of their idea. The work style is primarily agile, like scrum, but relies on the lean start-up methodology. I consider that fantastic as the lab serves as a platform to draw from for other departments within the bank, like IT, which provides analytics and business intelligence. These folks do that in the data lab. We also have lean management and process optimization experts who help units improve and optimize their procedures and processes. There are many labs, but they all contribute collaboratively to the innovation process. 

Chris: Quite a lot of labs indeed. Who runs the labs? Are those labs a one-man show or a one-woman show? Are there five people? Ten people? What are the sizes of the teams?

Christian Schmitz: Well, our teams mainly consist of nine people, and we split them up into a virtual team setting. We have five to six individuals organizing and coordinating the labs and three running the strategic part of innovation management regarding sprint scouting for asset management and other strategic initiatives. Within the lab teams, we've got specific responsibilities and accountabilities to the format, like an agile coach who's the scrum master and works as an innovation coach for the teams in the prototyping lab. Then we have an agile coach overseeing the Sprint lab and runs design sprints and design thinking workshops, etc. We've been working together with external developers who support the teams in the prototyping lab to create the prototypes. But apart from that, we try to do most of it on our own.

Chris: Okay, got it. That sounds like a solid process, especially since you have a considerable impact on the board's decision-making process during the presentations.That’s great. I'd like to talk a little more about the impact. However, before we move on, let's play a quick game called "either-or." It's a game of choice. Christian, I will present you with two options. Your task is to choose one and briefly explain your choice in one sentence. Note to all non-German speakers watching us, one sentence can have a lot of commas in German, so you know! Anyways, let's see. Number one: Would you rather fail fast, fail hard and fail often, or make slow strategic but very thoughtful moves?

Christian Schmitz: I consider myself an entrepreneur at heart, or at least I'd like to be. I'm all for option one: fail fast, fail hard and fail often, but never at the expense of missing out on learning opportunities. Hence, failing is acceptable, provided you learn from it. 

Chris: Great answer. Number two: Either read books or watch movies, and why?

Christian Schmitz: That's a tough one. I'd probably choose to watch movies. I'm an avid reader, but I'm humiliated to admit that I only read during vacations. That's the only time I can focus on a book and get immersed in innovation, trends and technologies. I prefer to listen to podcasts or watch YouTube videos because they're far more up-to-date and have all the latest news.

Chris: That makes sense, but you somewhat cheated. I count the choice of watching movies and remove the podcast one, okay? Finally, it's a tough one: Either use cash or CBDCs?

Christian Schmitz: Since I cannot use CBDCs yet, I'd have to go with cash. That hurts me sincerely, though, as I am trying to carry as little money on me as possible. I would only hold and use cash when I top up my card when visiting one of the bank's restaurants. Apart from that, I try to have little to no cash on me and as soon as CBDCs are available —not forgetting my keenness on the digital Euro— I'll check it up definitely. It's the natural calling of any innovation manager.

The impact of innovation labs

Chris: I'm assuming that you guys don't offer any DZ bank coins yet to go to the mensa, right? Interesting. Alright. Let's talk about impact, and thanks for the answers. I want to return to innovation impact for a couple of minutes. Considering your innovation lab as a whole and all the different formats, like trend labs, sprint labs, prototyping labs, etc. In your opinion, what would their impact on innovation and performance be at DZ bank?

Christian Schmitz: You reap what you sow. If I recall correctly, we started in September of 2016. Back then, it wasn't anything more than a tiny plant christened as the Innovation Lab. It ran only one program, what is now called the prototyping lab. We started a three-month program, and it was a novelty for the bank since nothing similar had been attempted before. Nobody was used to scrum, agile working style and had to adopt lean methods used by start-ups. It was a complete overhaul of creating products, services and processes. We somehow had to prove that it would work, and the results speak for themselves over the last couple of years. They showed that this working style is successful, it's rapid and efficient, and you can create valuable new products. That was the turning point when we first implemented HR-related processes into the bank. There are massive programs within our bank regarding digital readiness and working methods regarding projects all over the bank. I believe that a significant impetus was the cultural change of mindset. Of course, the lab can't take all the credit for it, but it functioned a bit like a tinderbox to get things started. There's always the contention of a culture clash too. I am convinced that if you try to roll out anything innovation-related and don't meet any resistance, you probably are doing it wrong. It took a considerable amount of time for the lab to be embedded in the organization. Fast forward to today, and even the most strategic projects are being validated in the lab within three months of prototyping, which was impressive to behold. If we take a look at the results, the one thing that I am most proud of is our 70% conversation rate of all projects that run through the lab. These projects end up being implemented within the bank. That's cool. There are just lots of success stories from the lab. It's not just a sandbox where you try things out and then just leave it hanging there.

Chris: That's cool. Alright. So we've covered the people culture and data processing aspect. What about technology? In other words, how has using a software platform to manage all those innovation trends changed the way that DZ bank innovates today?

Christian Schmitz: The platform is an essential piece of the whole puzzle, like a lynchpin, but it can only work if it's integrated into and part of all the other components of the innovation process. As I always say, it doesn't help if you have a lab or a platform, but each has to be entangled into a strategy, various processes and workshops. There's a lot of work behind it to make it work, and it often comes back to the chicken or egg problem when it comes to getting the users who know how to use the platform. The bottom line is that we have the technology, but we also need competent onboarded users to use that technology. Suppose they take a look at the trend radar. These individuals need to determine what is just noise and relevance. That may even go across several departments and companies within the group. Another challenge is to convince others of trends identified as relevant across the group and business models. 

"The platform is an essential piece of the whole puzzle, like a lynchpin, but it can only work if it's integrated into and part of all the other components of the innovation process."

Therefore, it is indispensable that we gather as much information from various sources and combine it into valuable data to gain insights from colleagues using the platform. The same applies to fintech radar. We have a vast database of one thousand two hundred start-ups, and it's nice to have all those insights. However, if people don't use it and don't enter their collaborations in the shape of transparency, the whole effort is useless, but fortunately, they do. They work the platform, and I'm pleased about that. You always have to create value for the users when accessing the platform. That's why we spend a lot of time researching trends and uploading fintech profiles in tandem with university students from the Steinbeis University. In the end, that is how we create value on the platform and the platform, making it an essential piece of the puzzle.

Chris: Alright. So to recap: We have to consider people, culture, data processing and how technology ties it all together. Can you give us a non-confidential example of a successful innovation project resulting from all of these activities?

Christian Schmitz: Sure. There are quite a few examples, but if I had to choose a recent one, I'd probably think of the collaboration we did with a start-up. The name of it is Paper Chain, and they are involved in a blockchain-based B2B platform that enables machine manufacturers to use paperless payments. That was impressive witnessing that rapid process that shows all the ways the cooperative financial network can come together. I vaguely remember back in 2020 or 2019 when I got a call from a local bank who mentioned that they had a large corporate customer who also had a spinoff. They described them as fintech, and they were looking for a banking and insurance partner, thus asking me if I could look into that. It sounded promising, so I did. That led to various DZ bank and start-up members' innovation managers. An extensive discussion ensued about the outcome and expectations of the start-up. That all went ahead full speed through the sprint lab to gain insights and figure out how to work together. After that they launched the prototyping for their idea. I consider this to be the embodiment of open innovation, the power of the cooperative network, and the resources of the DZ bank group and their various business models ranging from insurance banking to capital markets. Taking all that into consideration produces some solid solutions for customers. 

Chris: That's a great example. Alright, moving on. We are approaching the end of our episode but before that, let's briefly summarize your insights. What would you consider the three most impactful lessons-learnt in your field of work and innovation digitization at DZ Bank? 

"First, there is no I in Team. There always has to be a team involved in innovation. It's all about teamwork, like a sport where you cooperate and are not isolated."

Christian Schmitz: First, there is no I in Team. There always has to be a team involved in innovation. It's all about teamwork, like a sport where you cooperate and are not isolated. It's probably what I said before, but it's worth mentioning again. It's when all those companies and innovation managers get together to collaborate with outside external partners in an open innovation environment. It's about the interplay of various individuals, and our department's job is to support the bank to increase its innovation capabilities. I would consider this as my number one. Number two would be the support and commitment from management. I've come to appreciate that as one of the most vital aspects and part of innovation. Suppose you are dealing with leaders who are not driving innovation forward, who don't believe that creating new products, services, or business models will help the company in the long term, and are rejecting the notion of learning from mistakes as means to propel oneself forwards. They are stuck in the old ways and focus on cutting corners for meager results in return for efficiency and fail to look at the bigger picture. That, to me, is asking for trouble. In any case, our management board is top-notch about innovation, and I'm delighted to work with people who are entirely on board with innovation activities. Lastly, I mentioned it briefly before, about mindset and culture. Innovation is heavily intertwined with culture, courage and you have to be convinced of the core company values. I'm proud that DZ bank has a new charter of attitudes, as I would label it in English. Courage and innovation are main elements of these attitudes that we get to showcase daily to foster success for ourselves and our customers. It truly is all about culture. Getting your colleagues on board is essential, even those that might be a little unwilling to change since change is harder to adapt to if it directly affects you. 

Chris: Great. Okay, so number one was about team and building camaraderie. Number two was about the management and management board support, and number three was about the mindset and culture, not only in words but embodied and practiced by everyone involved. Okay, that's great. What would you consider your most outstanding Innovation Rockstar Moment so far when reflecting on your professional career?

Christian Schmitz: I guess we missed these moments in the last two years. I still remember organizing the first hackathon in Frankfurt. There were like a hundred and twenty colleagues who were all really excited to spend three days locked inside the tech quarter and just code and hack all day long. They would then present their work to the agile teams in the end. That was when I took to the stage and welcomed them to the show, and that was probably one of my big Innovation Rockstar moments. I feel the same with every kickoff meeting at the innovation lab. When we are about to start a new batch or have our demo day where we present all the lab results to our colleagues, these truly make me live through numerous Rockstar moments.

Chris: Hopefully, you'll be back soon on the big stage. Sounds awesome. Christian, thank you, and let me say it was a pleasure talking to you. Thank you for the inspiring insights and for being a part of this.

Christian Schmitz: Thank you very much. It was really great. Thank you for having me.

Chris: And to everybody who is currently listening or watching, if you like the show, leave us a rating or a review and share the podcast with colleagues and friends. If you want to get in touch, simply shoot us a message at That's it, folks! Thanks for joining us today, and see you in the next episode! Take care and bye-bye.

About the authors

Dr. Christian Mühlroth is the host of the Innovation Rockstars podcast and CEO of ITONICS. Christian Schmitz is Senior Consultant in the Innovation and Digitalization department of the DZ BANK.

The Innovation Rockstars podcast is a production of ITONICS, provider of the world’s leading Operating System for Innovation. Do you also have an inspiring story to tell about innovation, foresight, strategy or growth? Then shoot us a note!



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