Magdalena Krön

VP Open Innovation at Barclays | Co-founder Geek Girl Meetup UK

London, United Kingdom

@MyKron  |  LinkedIn Profile

Please provide a summary of your current role & responsibilities at Open Innovation.Notes

I head up Rise London, Barclays open innovation space in Whitechapel.

My role is constantly evolving but the essence has three parts to it.

Firstly I focus on building the Rise ecosystem of startups in London and Europe. This includes shaping, implementing and positioning our Rise initiatives and to invite startups to engage with us. Rise is looking to help startups scale by providing resources, establishing partnerships and becoming their customer.

Secondly, I go out to source and identify startups that can help Barclays solve some of our major challenges and facilitate introduction, establish collaboration opportunities through ideation sessions and match making activities.

Thirdly, I am being a driver to change the innovation culture internally by showcasing startups and inviting and engaging colleagues to participate in our open innovation initiatives.

What makes the Open Innovation unique with respect to the FinTech ecosystem in your opinion?

The financial industry’s products and services are getting unbundled and we see new FinTech startups entering the playing field every day. The speed of change that this industry is currently facing makes it one of the most exciting places for innovation.

Banks as ‘trusted institution’ are challenged by non-traditional bank providers and consumers are more open to placing their money in alternative places. Banks will have to adopt and meet their customers new demands in order to stay competitive to incumbents. Partnerships and collaborations is a crucial step for banks to stay current in the FinTech landscape.

There is no doubt that innovating in the financial industry is without challenges and regulation is often a fork in the road.

Banks are hindered by internal processes, compliance procedures and risk assessments, they lack an agile and lean approach when it comes to innovation. A startup can add this capability. A startup, can also build and test fairly quickly but they face the challenge to operate within this heavily regulated industry. The environment often hold back the startups’ (organic) growth and complicates opportunities to form partnerships that enable them to scale. The benefit of collaboration is evident.

So, as an answer to the above question, what makes open innovation in FinTech unique are, first of all, the fact that startups and banks are co-dependant of each other.

Secondly, the FinTech regulatory landscape is rapidly evolving and will accelerate the change in the next couple of years. Banks will soon be forced (by law) to build out APIs and share data something which will rapidly will accelerate the growth of the FinTech industry.

What do you believe will be the predominant model for engagement between large FIs and FinTech start-ups and established FinTech companies?

Mag2The most efficient model is conducting small experiments where the startups work closely with the internal resources to customise the use of their product for the bank. With an early proof of concept with the bank full scale partnerships with startups can be pushed through faster.

Do you believe FinTech companies will disrupt and disintermediate the traditional banking players?  

Yes I do think startups are already disrupting us. Saying that, banks will follow and always play an important role with their power of the back end infrastructure. As I’ve mentioned previously I believe the two are co-dependant of each other.

What are the one or two areas you focus on when mentoring start-ups?

It depends on the startup I’m speaking to and the stage they’re at. As a general rule I put a lot of emphasis on the introduction of the product and that the entrepreneur is able to articulate their problem and solution fit with the use of relevant use cases.

I hate leaving a conversation with a startup and still feeling confused about the value of their proposition.

What are the key mistakes start-ups, and in particular FinTech start-ups, often make early on that could easily be avoided?

Approaching the banks too early when they’re product is not mature enough. Second would be when I see founders building up their full proposition relying on close collaboration with a bank, there is too much risk and difficult to scale a company that way.

You run Geek Girl Meetup along with Josefine Hedlund and Robyn Exton.  Can you provide a brief overview of Geek Girl Meetup and what does this program mean to you personally?

Actually, Robyn and Josie has both moved to the US so we have expanded the GGM UK with another three brilliant ladies Cathy WhiteMergimi Raçi and Caylee Fardon-Taylor.  Of course I’m biased but, I’d like to think that we’re doing some awesome stuff improve the gender diversity in tech by bringing together the community of GeekGirls, women (and men too) who are interested in tech, code, startups and design. Our simple approach to shift the gender imbalance in tech is by creating more female role models and we do this by showcasing brilliant women on stage, and lately, also in our newly launched podcast ‘GeekGirl meets’.

GGM UK is my passion project and I have seen the evidence that creating role models other women can aspire to is often the push needed for women to take their career in a more ‘techy’ direction. My inspiration comes from being connected to this community of curious, brave and knowledgeable women who are, each one individually aiming to drive their specific industries forward.


How would you describe the London FinTech scene?

Buzzing. The FinTech capital of the world, with access to all banks and talent that is needed to disrupt the financial industry.

How do you decompress, find time for yourself with your absolutely crazy work schedule and after work commitments?

The London startup scene can really suck you in so you have to be careful to not burn yourself out by saying yes to everything. In 2014-2015 I spent 6 months in Singapore, I was working remotely towards London but being away allowed me to look at my life from a different perspective. It helped me realise the effort it takes to consciously set aside time for the things that make me feel good. I learnt that one have to make active choices and check in with yourself on a regular basis so that you’re not forgetting what’s important to you.

To help me stay on track I have a checklist that I go back to regularly making sure I keep to my word. My checklist includes having at least two nights to just be at home every week (this was at first very unfamiliar to me), daily meditation and yoga. It’s all about being pro-active not re-active to everything that’s coming your way. Think about how you want to design your life.

Who(m) do you believe has had the most influence with respect to your own career? 

Definitely the GeekGirl community – Robyn and Josefine in particular, but also other brilliant women I’ve met throughout the years. I love watching doers, anyone who’s getting s*it done inspires me.

Who do you consider to be strong women leaders in the banking / FinTech space?

Eileen Burbidge of course – she’s undoubtedly the queen. Then there are some awesome founders that are doing great stuff Clare Flynn Levy (Essentia Analytics), Leanne Kemp (Everledger) and Jessi Baker (Provenance) to name a few.

What do you see as the 2 leading future trends for FinTech with respect to B2B? 

Identity – we need a robust solution to support the identity verification process.

Use of blockchain technology across a number of use cases including smart contracts, data sharing and transactions.

More about Barclays’ Rise and Open Innovation

Barclays has created Rise, a global network of talent, world-class accelerator programmes and workspaces. Rise is an exclusive place for start-ups to develop, collaborate, scale and innovate together.

As an open innovation platform, Rise is aiming to create the ultimate conditions for innovation and growth in financial technology. Achieving this by combining the agility and disruption of startups with the expertise and scale of Barclays – a unique synthesis of speed and security, youth and wisdom, ideas and knowledge.

Rise operates globally through physical sites in New York, Manchester, London and Cape Town, and in 2016 we’ll be expanding to a number of cities including Tel Aviv and Mumbai.

Follow Rise London on twitter

Check out Rise Radio for the latest updates in FinTech.