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#24 How Deutsche Bank Innovation Labs operate – Niklas Grunewald

Niklas Grunewald joined Deutsche Bank in 2016, working out of the Deutsche Bank Innovation Labs on various technological and strategic initiatives across the bank’s business and infrastructure divisions.

Prior to Deutsche Bank, Niklas built and sold an accounting-tech company, helped build, operate and scale Berlin-based VC Redstone as first employee and Investment Manager, and served as an investment analyst at a super-Angel fund.

Niklas holds a BSc. from WHU and MSc. from ESCP Europe


  • The labs have five core focuses: tech transfer, supporting digital strategy, narrative communication, collaboration within Deutsche Bank, and fostering a digital culture. (01:17)
  • Technology transfer involves scouting technologies in the market and matching them to internal needs or developing solutions for external clients. (01:54)
  • The labs work with various divisions and stakeholders to test and evaluate solutions before adoption. (02:29)
  • Deutsche Bank’s innovation efforts vary between B2B and B2C projects, with a focus on digital transformation. (03:35)
  • They educate employees on technology and digital literacy through workshops and sessions tailored to different stakeholder groups. (08:20)
  • The labs work closely with business counterparts to align their innovation projects with the bank’s priorities. (12:35)
  • Niklas discusses examples of successful projects, such as supporting a startup like Sophia Technologies and the Beyond Banking efforts. (22:11)
  • Keeping up with market trends and technologies involves monitoring blogs, academic research, and strategic intelligence teams. (27:36)
  • Niklas emphasizes the importance of understanding domain-specific expertise and seeking opportunities to learn and collaborate. (30:55)

Interesting Quotes:

Deutsche Bank Innovation Labs have 5 Goals:
* Drive technology transfer
* Support digital strategy
* Co-develop digital narrative
* Drive global collaboration
* Foster innovation culture

At the beginning, communicate well and raise awareness with internal stakeholders

Create demand for change by exposing stakeholders to technological possibilities and ventures in the market

Innovation is about adapting to ever shorter product life cycles by challenging the status quo and act on the findings respectively

Align well and work closely with top management and digital leaders to deliver along the right priorities

Build a strong network of internal stakeholders with similar beliefs

Have bold ambitions

Book Recommendations:

Under the Volcano – Malcolm Lowry

About Deutsche Bank Innovation labs:

Deutsche Bank’s Innovation Labs are a significant part of its strategy to integrate emerging technologies into its banking operations. These labs provide a platform for startups, giving them access to key decision-makers within the bank. This approach helps in identifying and adopting emerging tech trends, which are then tailored into solutions for their clients. The primary objective of these labs is to maintain a balance of creativity, agility, and optimized methods in their working process.

One of the notable aspects of Deutsche Bank Innovation Labs is their relationship with financial technology startups. The labs are not just about fending off competition from fintech companies, but more about collaborating with them. This partnership aims at enhancing Deutsche Bank’s position as an innovator in the industry. For startups that meet the bank’s needs, these labs offer access to influencers and decision-makers across the bank’s global units, resources for refining and developing products, and support in integrating external technologies into the bank’s ecosystem.

The labs operate on a demand-driven model. They work with various teams within the bank to understand their specific needs and challenges and then find, vet, and experiment with appropriate solutions. These solutions can be either external or sometimes internal. The labs also serve as a gateway for startups into the bank, simplifying the process for these companies to pitch and demonstrate their products to relevant business lines within Deutsche Bank.

In terms of technology, the most innovative solutions from the labs so far have been in the AI and automation space. These technologies have helped in automating manual and repetitive work, allowing employees to engage in more strategic and interesting tasks.

The Deutsche Bank Innovation Labs signify the bank’s commitment to staying ahead in the rapidly evolving financial services sector by embracing fintech innovations and collaborations.

For more detailed information, you can visit the official site of the Deutsche Bank Innovation Labs and read more from sources such as FinTech Magazine and Built In NYC.

## Transcript:
### Introduction
**(00:00) Florian:** Hello, I’m Florian from 99 Startups. Today, I’m here with Niklas from Deutsche Bank Innovation Labs.

**(00:05) Niklas:** My name is Niklas Grunewald. I work at DB Innovation Labs, where we focus on integrating new technologies into Deutsche Bank. I have been serving as Vice President for Innovation for two years.

### Main Tasks of the Innovation Labs
**(00:37) Niklas:** In the labs, we focus on five key areas: technology transfer, support of digital strategy, development of a digital narrative, internal collaboration, and culture development. Technology transfer is at the forefront of our activities.

### The Process of Technology Transfer
**(01:54) Niklas:** Our process starts with the exploration phase, where we identify and evaluate potential solutions. This is followed by the evaluation phase, where we select the best providers. In the pilot phase, we thoroughly test these solutions. After successful tests, we enter the adoption phase, where the solutions are integrated into the bank.

### Differentiation between B2B and B2C Technologies
**(03:02) Niklas:** We work with both internal process technologies and customer-centered technologies. Both approaches are crucial in offering more comprehensive services to our customers.

### Development and Focus of the Innovation Labs
**(04:11) Niklas:** The labs have been in existence for three years. Initially, we were heavily outward-focused, but we have adapted our approach over time. Today, we are more internally focused and work closely with our internal stakeholders to understand their needs and find appropriate solutions.

### Challenges and Cultural Change
**(05:17) Niklas:** Large companies often face the challenge of adapting to new technologies. Our task is to create awareness of these challenges. We work closely with digital leaders in various departments to drive digital transformation.

### The Role of Digital Leaders
**(06:32) Niklas:** Almost every department has a digital leader responsible for digital processes. These leaders are important contacts for us and facilitate the introduction of new technologies in their respective areas.

### Integration and Education
**(08:20) Niklas:** A key aspect of our work is education and culture promotion within the bank. We offer workshops and training sessions to improve understanding of new technologies and ensure that all employees are on the same page.

### Collaboration and Innovation
**(10:11) Niklas:** We place great emphasis on collaborating with different departments and stakeholders. Through workshops, informal meetings, and specific trainings, we promote the exchange of ideas and support departments in finding solutions for their specific challenges.

### Future Perspectives and Innovation
**(14:23) Niklas:** For us, innovation means challenging the status quo and taking action. In a rapidly changing world, it is crucial to keep pace with growing demands and continuously promote innovations.

### Selection and Prioritization of Projects
**(15:04) Niklas:** The selection and prioritization of projects are carried out in close coordination with top management to ensure that the projects align with corporate goals and provide added value to the company.

### Effective Communication and Coordination
**(16:10) Niklas:** Conflicts between the needs of top management and those of employees at lower levels occasionally arise. Our role is to mediate these needs and sharpen awareness of different priorities, always striving for a balanced solution.

### Global Presence and Collaboration
**(17:20) Niklas:** We have labs in various parts of the world, including New York, Silicon Valley, Berlin, London, Frankfurt, and Singapore. Despite the challenges of global collaboration, we are well connected through effective communication tools, facilitating collaboration.

### Autonomy and Decision-Making
**(18:29) Niklas:** Although we work closely with business areas, we maintain a degree of autonomy in decision-making, especially in selecting and recommending technology solutions. We aim for consensus with business areas, but sometimes we have to accept differing opinions.

### Project Management and Approaches
**(20:20) Niklas:** The way we approach projects varies depending on their complexity and scope. Some projects require more intensive coordination processes and the involvement of many stakeholders, while others are more straightforward and simpler to handle.

### Successful Projects and Examples
**(22:46) Niklas:** Successful projects include our early engagements with new ecosystems and API teams, as well as supporting strategic initiatives like the API Open Event. Another example is our involvement in Beyond Banking efforts, which encompass innovative financial solutions for business customers.

### Future of the Banking Industry
**(24:33) Niklas:** Over the next five to ten years, the focus in banking will differ depending on the sector. In the retail sector, the emphasis will be on the customer contact point, while in corporate and investment banking, technology will play a bigger role, especially in terms of blockchain applications.

### Continuing Education and Information Sources
**(27:00) Niklas:** To stay current, we use a variety of information sources, including blogs, academic research, conferences, and internal teams specializing in strategic market observations.

### Final Reflections
**(30:21) Niklas:** If I could go back to my 18-year-old self, I would advise being bolder and open to learning from others. In my current role, I value the opportunity to constantly learn new things and develop myself.