Vanguard Creates a Culture of Innovation with Discovery Challenge Day

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Companies in every industry are constantly striving for innovation. That innovation may take the form of a new way of servicing customers, or a change to company policy. It may even involve the introduction of an exciting new piece of technology, designed to either add to the customer experience or assist employees in the performance of their role.

The investment and wealth management industry is no exception, and Vanguard is looking to boost its innovative status with an annual competition of inventive thinking.

A Spirit of Innovation

It was less than two years ago when Vanguard opened its own innovation center from which it could launch new and exciting ideas designed to make wealth management easier and more accessible for all.

"If you were to ask most people to think of an innovative company, they would probably picture a tech start-up in Silicon Valley," said Innovation Sales Manager, Jeffrey Maichrowycz. "That's certainly what I used to imagine. But when I joined Vanguard, I learned that it doesn't get much more innovative than our founder, Jack Bogle, creating the index mutual fund, resulting in the disruption of the financial services industry. Vanguard has continued to invest heavily in innovation through investments in technology, a relentless search for process improvement methodologies, and the opening of the Innovation Studio in Philadelphia."

Vanguard is now continuing in this spirit of innovation with a companywide initiative. One of the most effective ways to create an innovative company is to give the entire organization the room and opportunity to flex its creative muscles.

Discovery Challenge Day

The idea for the Discovery Challenge Day came about when a member of Vanguard's emergent technology research staff was asked about how to make the company more innovative - how to mine those great ideas which must be lurking in the hearts and minds of the staff. In the end, the answer was a simple one - ask them.

"I would say the biggest commitment Vanguard has made towards innovation has been through its crew," added Maichrowycz. "One of the things I love most about working at Vanguard is that it recognizes the skills and abilities of its employees and empowers them to help promote meaningful change within their departments. Vanguard offers its crew multiple channels to brainstorm, share ideas, and innovate."

So, in the summer of 2018, after much planning and brainstorming, the Discovery Challenge was born. The Discovery Challenge was created as an ideation event which asked Vanguard staff to come up with ways of deploying emergent technologies within the existing organizational business model, from the perspective of solving a current company pain point. Billed as a professional version of the popular television show Shark Tank, the idea quickly gained traction and started creating no small amount of buzz in the Vanguard offices.

The Discovery Challenge was held over three weeks, during which 196 Vanguard employees submitted no fewer than 121 innovative ideas. The entries were then made public within the company and staff were invited to cast their votes for the very best ideas from the bunch.

In the end, over 5,250 votes were cast, and the selection of entries was whittled down to the five most popular. These five finalists were then invited to present their innovations in front of a panel of senior business and IT leaders at an event called Discovery Challenge Day. At the end of the day, an overall winner was selected.

"When we submitted our idea to the Discovery Challenge there was an excitement that so many people wanted to be a part of," said Discovery Challenge Day winners, a husband and wife team from Vanguard's North Carolina location. "We bounced our ideas off crew members across job disciplines, divisions, and job sites. The enthusiasm we received while we looked for feedback blew us away. By the time we presented our idea to management we had all the business knowledge we needed to make an effective pitch. The whole experience made us realize that innovation is on everyone's minds across Vanguard."

Final Thoughts

Vanguard is now working hard to try and put as many of the Discovery Challenge ideas into practice as possible, as well as planning the next round of competition, of course.

You can hear Vanguard Research Economist, Carrie Wenjing Xu speak at Digital Wealth 2019, taking place in May, venue TBC.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.

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