How TD Bank Group employees are empowered to experiment with innovation and technology
Exciting, innovative ideas that help transform experiences and move the dial. All too often, we consider the seeds of these game-changing initiatives to be lightning in a bottle—a kind of spontaneous and unpredictable development that arises from serendipitous encounters and late-night flashes of “aha” brilliance.
Though it may seem counterintuitive, according to Imran Khan, head of TD Invent, organizations can unleash innovation—and drive employee engagement and empowerment at the same time—by putting the right models and processes in place.
TD Invent is just that. TD Invent is the bank’s enterprise approach to innovation that leverages a proven and repeatable model to help address the banking expectations and needs of tomorrow, with today’s customers in mind.
“This is something I think about a lot,” says Khan, who plays a key role in stewarding the company’s enterprise approach to innovation and is also tasked with helping to bring a pipeline of innovative, inclusive, human-centered solutions to market across the organization’s businesses.
“It’s really a delicate balance. On the one hand, you don’t want to constrain innovation by having too much process in place,” says Khan. “We don’t want to stifle creative thinking or limit ideas. But we’re also finding that bringing some rigour to the process helps us focus on the right areas and harness the collective power of our enterprise,” he says.
Three areas of focus
“When we started to analyze how we wanted to innovate in the future, we made a conscious decision to develop an approach to innovation that was inclusive, embraced the potential of our colleagues and was based on the concept of innovating with purpose,” he says.
To intertwine innovation with its business goals, TD has built an approach around three core areas of focus: human-centered experiences, colleague ideation and innovation acceleration.
“Everything we do is really grounded in that human-centered approach,” says Khan. “We’re focused on driving towards the right outcomes and making sure we take the time to understand and empathize with the needs of end users. That’s where the idea of colleague ideation comes in. We want to engage all our colleagues in our approach to innovation. Whether it is our colleagues on our front lines or in our corporate functions, we want them all to have a voice and the ability to drive change in the operation.”
Members of the TD Invent team also take the pulse of larger macro trends in innovation such as generative Artificial Intelligence (AI), spatial computing and new business models, collaborating across the organization in a connected way that is aligned closely to the enterprise.
One of the core principles of TD Invent that defines its approach to teamwork is how it integrates perspectives from the bank’s different lines of business. Scott Ignall, senior vice-president, head of direct investing and delivery at TD, notes how, through TD Invent, innovation isn’t being siloed so that ideas can be developed collaboratively.
This includes creating interactive platforms, such as iD8, which allows colleagues at all levels to upload their ideas for innovation and track their progress. Since launching iD8 in 2019, TD colleagues at all levels and in all lines of business across North America, have submitted more than 78,000 ideas. TD also encourages group collaboration and problem-solving in its innovation-focused Biz and Tech Jams, hackathon-like events in which teams compete to help solve real-life banking challenges.
“Our human-centered approach to innovation inspires our work as we create new tools, resources, and insights to help empower our clients as they grow their investing abilities,” says Ignall. “It also inspires us to constantly think about how we can work together across the bank and harness the skills and experience of our talented colleagues.”
The third piece of the puzzle? Putting the tools and processes in place—and removing barriers that can slow down the implementation of good ideas—for innovation acceleration.
It’s a way to think about innovation that, to date, has allowed TD to name more than 1,600 colleague inventors on patent applications filed globally. And countless more colleague-generated ideas are helping to improve the lives of customers and staff every day, from the TD Accessibility Adapter—a browser plug-in that allows users to customize the settings of any website to help make it more accessible—to a virtual reality onboarding program, born from a Tech Jam event, that allows interns to train and network together in the TD metaverse.
These are innovations TD celebrates at its annual Patent Inventor Celebration and Patent Awards—and every day. “It’s our way to keep encouraging more innovation,” says Khan. “These are colleagues who are taking their own time to share ideas and improve the organization. We want to recognize that.”