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Banks tap hackathons for ideas to compete in digital world

Romita Majumdar | Mumbai Jun 27, 2017 05:22 PM IST
Photo: Shutterstock
Banks are opening up their platforms and data to people with ideas to improve their business in a digitally disruptive environment.

Unlike in the past, banks such as State Bank of India, RBL and Axis Bank are organising hackathons to welcome youngsters to innovate digital solutions.

Axis Bank held a similar event last year for technical and business roles across their offices. Hackathons help banks attract talent instead of recruiting people first and then putting them through extensive digital transformation.

SBI's Code For Banks which concluded last week was a month long event with over 1,000 participating teams. Based on this success, the bank is working towards conducting quarterly hackathons in the future with specific themes to increase speed of innovation.

"When we had conducted hackathons earlier for our own employees we would typically see 25 to 30 teams. A public event like this increases the level of engagement with young talent and also brings a host of new ideas from developers and startups," said Sudin Baraokar, Head of Innovation, SBI.

Baraokar of SBI sees hackathons leading to more practical engagement with future recruitment candidates as they can be asked to work on codes directly to judge their competence. However, banks still look at hackathons more as a brainstorming opportunity with hiring being a secondary outcome rather than the main goal. Code For Banks will be announcing winners later this month.

HackerEarth, a start-up in Bengaluru that helps tech firms and banks to conduct hackathons and discover ideas and talent, says the exercise is a low cost and high impact programme for organisations to achieve their objectives.

"Typically, an organisation would spend millions to drive innovation internally and might even end up acquiring a few companies in the process. Instead, hackathons provide a bottoms up approach where developers compete to come up with such ideas," said Sachin Gupta, co-founder of HackerEarth. ""Basically, banks have figured out that they need to be part of the entire user experience rather than just providing banking facilities if they want to remain relevant."

While it is difficult to reprogram bank employees to think from a user-experience point of view, it comes easily to a technically sound generation of developers. Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning and robotics are the hottest trends at hackathons although the events themselves are technology agnostic. The focus is always on finding the best solutions.

French multinational finance institution Societe Generale recently hired a number of candidates through a Hackathon. The ICICI bank Hackathon earlier this year generated over 600 innovative ideas in one event.

"Hackathon helps to position a brand like DBS as a highly digital platform to campus students. Our summer internships and Ideathon for B-school students are also designed as hackathons with huge focus on cloud and big data," said Kishore Poduri, ED & Head, HR, DBS Bank India. DBS made offers to almost 60 participants, in technical roles, out of 180 finalists at their two-day long Hack2Hire event earlier this year.

Most participants are between 18 to 30 years of age with a technical background in IT sector. One third of the candidates tend to be college students. Banking hackathons also see large participation from people from financial background. Also, the best talent and winners are often from lesser known institutions and remote areas added Gupta, of HackerEarth.

Sanjay Sharma, Head of Technology, RBL bank said Hackathons help a bank's own staff learn to integrate with tech-savvy participants. "Hackathons are useful not only in finding talent that may have great ideas but not the financial strength to achieve it. It also helps to increase the visibility of the bank itself," he said. RBL has partnered with IBM and PWC among others for a Hackathon which will conclude at the end of this month.


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