But there is hope, and here I want to focus on three of our customers who succeeded: Storebrand Helse, Sparebanken Vest and DNB.

I imagine that most CFOs and CEOs are motivated by winning and success. The fear of losing by not investing in innovation is therefore in itself a trigger for the desire to invest. Investments in research and development have long been a natural part of business, and we are now seeing a growing number of our customers taking this one step further with innovation.

As the former head of communications at the Oslo Stock Exchange, I agree with Rita McGrath, Professor of Management at Columbia Business School, when she says that a healthy investment portfolio always sets aside funds for options. As opposed to betting on different companies, the option concept creates opportunities for being a part of the future – or even helping to create it, she argues. Using conventional methods to determine the future value of the business, most businesses will underinvest in innovation.

Companies already view investments in research and development as a natural part of business, and we are now seeing a growing number of our customers taking this one step further with innovation.


Success in ‘The Double Game’ is characterised by four things

The international research company Gartner refers to the fact that mature companies that manage to innovate are characterised by managers who are experts in removing financial bureaucracy, short-term incentives, the fear of failure and capacity constraints. According to Gartner, companies’ scope for investing in risk projects is also essential for growth. Nevertheless, Nordic companies often appear to focus on reducing costs rather than increasing revenues. You primarily focus on maintaining the status quo, only faster and cheaper, rather than becoming a source of new services or new business areas. Surveys, both Knowit’s own and others’ (Magma v/Sannes and Andersen) show that Nordic IT managers are primarily concerned with cutting costs, while American and Asian IT managers have a much broader focus that also includes digital competition, new business models and channel integration.


Storebrand and its digital health initiative

‘Bli Frisk’ (Be Healthy) is a strategic innovation project in which Storebrand is developing a platform-based business model and a wholly digital business in parallel with its regular business. “Based on this platform, we are developing an ecosystem that we are already in the process of scaling internationally,” says Bjarke Thorøe, CEO of Storebrand Helseforsikring. “Together with Knowit, we have developed a complete digital customer journey that includes a number of players and that collectively represents the future of health insurance. This is a standalone project in which we are seeking to avoid old technology and not least the fear of failure,” says Thorøe. “A journey from ‘analog old school’ to a digital ecosystem where health insurance includes a wide range of readily available services for our customers.”

Knowit’s strategic consultant and account manager for Storebrand Helse, Fredrik Broch Elgaaen, explains that there are major players behind Storebrand Helseforsikring AS. Storebrand and Germany’s Munich Re own 50 per cent each. Munich Re also owns DKV, Europe’s leading health insurance provider. Storebrand Helseforsikring also has a subsidiary for the Swedish market, DKV Hälsa. “Being part of the global DKV brand offers many opportunities, including interest in the app from Belgium, Spain and Singapore,” says Elgaaen.

“In Norway, it’s “Bli Frisk” and Storebrand that counts but in Europe and the rest of the world it’s DKV. That’s always how we work when developing a product, independently of an insurance company, that has to be adapted to new processes, brands and languages – plug ‘n’ play for new markets.”

Bjarke Thorøe still maintains that scaling nationally and internationally remains a challenge.

“Storebrand Helse is a radical initiative, and internally we are seen as different, and must adhere to existing structures and processes in a mature group like Storebrand. What we represent will not automatically receive ‘buy-in’ in the established group. We’re trying to balance this in a good way. We stand with our left leg in the old world, and certainly tip-toe a little when we move a few stages faster into a digital world than the rest of the group. That balance both makes us sharper and is a challenge. We respect the fact that it’s still the old world that earns the money,” reflects Thorøe.


Small team; buys in external expertise

“We’re basically a small team based on highly motivated resources. That’s why we buy in external expertise from partners like Knowit. Storebrand Helse should only really do what we define as core expertise and true value-drivers. Our team will deliver extremely well on price and product, digital customer journey, and not least understanding and ability to manage our partners and the workflow that these contribute.”


Using conventional methods to determine the future value of the business, most businesses will underinvest in innovation.


A big noise from Sparebanken Vest

For a few months now, Knowit has been participating in an innovation project which, as with Storebrand, is intended to create something completely new on the back of a large mature player: Sparebanken Vest. “What’s known as a bimodal project,” says Torvald Kvamme, referring to how the major international consultancies describe this type of work. Kvamme has been the leader of the ‘A new nationwide out-and-out mobile bank’ innovation project at Sparebanken Vest.

“We definitely needed to maintain two concepts in our head at the same time. Innovating in parallel represents major challenges for mature enterprises. In practice, it means that we have adopted two ways of working at the same time. In order to avoid cannibalising the existing operations at the parent bank, we carried out a thorough segmentation analysis in advance. Bulder Bank, the new name of Norway’s first out-and-out mobile bank, intends to take up a challenger position as opposed to the relationship-oriented position of Sparebanken Vest. If we are going to steal customers from the parent bank, it would actually be better for them to go to Bulder rather than to one of the other competitors. We intend to be in profit by 2021 and have clear business goals for number of customers and, not least, cost level.”

To what extent do you recruit internally and have interaction and learning dynamics with the parent bank?

“Bulder will be a shared experience for good and bad, and we recruit both internally and externally. Yet, some questions naturally pop up. Are we a threat, a friend or a foe? In order to be able to launch the ‘mobile’ concept fully, we need to maintain close links with Sparebanken Vest. In the traditional banking world, there are long decision-making processes, but to make this innovation a success, the bank has set some tough priorities. Bulder has been given priority in a number of environments. Both the business side and the technologists at the bank have listened and become part of the team. In return, we have been on the supply side, and every Thursday we hold an open house during working hours which involves the entire banking environment. There we provide updates on everything from new bumps in the road to small and major victories.”

“It’s really important that we build a shared history everyone can take ownership of. We also need to create synergies both ways, and there is nothing to stop Sparebanken Vest from copying our code from our app, for example, to develop an app for children; stripped from Bulder, but a strength for the parent bank. We have also recruited resources from our own organisation, wherever that has been possible. We need the established organisation, which knows a great deal about a lot of things, but we also need a framework to take greater risks and more rapid decisions in order to get out into the market on time.”

Are we a threat, a friend or a foe?

Torvald Kvamme, leader of the ‘A new nationwide out-and-out mobile bank”’ innovation project at Sparebanken Vest


What has been the greatest challenge?

“It is clear that we underestimated the complexity of the project, and when we challenged the developers about this, we received clear feedback. They recommended a new cloud-based platform. And although we had devoted a lot of resources to Microsoft Azure, we accepted the challenge and chose Google Cloud, Firebase, instead to meet the short deadlines we had set ourselves. Firebase is a mobile platform that allows you to quickly develop high-quality apps. Now we have both Finanstilsynet and Google on board when we launch Bulder at the end of May,” concludes Kvamme.


DNB – Master of the Double Game

Following many years of cooperation with Vipps, BankID and BankAxept, Knowit has helped to characterise and has been characterised by the desire and ability to innovate. There have been a number of challenges along the way because established companies often view innovation as cannibalising their own business. That creates internal resistance. Despite that, DNB’s Vipps mobile payment application is an example where a Nordic player has been a success. A willingness to make quick decisions, the strength to act and, not least, the absence of a fear of sharing have all contributed to the history of Vipps. DNB has assessed value and delivery in various ways in order to be able to reflect on how the entire business is affected by an initiative like this.

It’s not enough to throw digital dust on existing processes

Storebrand Helse, Sparebanken Vest and DNB take the fact seriously that we, as consumers, have brand new expectations of companies and institutions that we need to take stand by. Things must move fast and be intuitive regardless of channel and time of day. They need to know who we are and what we prefer, and not least recognise us each time we interact with them. We want to feel that businesses listen to us and learn from our behaviour to allow them to constantly offer better and new services based on this insight. In that sense, it doesn’t help just to throw a little digital dust on an existing business model.

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