Innovation is a key element of our global business model and a focus for WEXers in all our lines of business and offices. At a recent Leadership Lesson presentation, our VP of Strategic Partnerships and Innovation, Rodrigo Meirelles, spoke about the organization’s strategic approach to innovation. He provided insight on blockchain and spoke about the technology’s potential impact on our business and customers.
“We have an amazing mission and goal for the organization, and it all starts with a strategy that focuses on fostering a company-wide innovation environment,” said Meirelles in his introduction. “Within WEX, we seek to collaborate with all business units in all geographies to achieve maximum efficiency of knowledge, assets and material resources that can support innovation.”
Strategic partnerships are also vital to the innovation agenda developed and executed by Meirelles and his team. The approach he outlined seeks to build outreach to business communities using new technologies, as well as foster innovation conversations and initiatives with partners in academia, venture capital, startup accelerators and more. The ultimate goal is to pursue new business models and lines of business, engage with new partners and bring new value and revenue to the company and our customers.
The Innovation Process
Meirelles outlined for WEXers the six-step process below that he and his team follow to identify, vet and develop opportunities. The entire process is dynamic and fast, with each of the steps often taking only a day before iterating to the next. The innovation team also seeks to co-create with an external and/or internal partner on everything they build. Meirelles pointed to the recent WEX Hack Attack as a perfect example of this process at work.
Idea: “Everything starts with an idea,” says Meirelles, and that can be everything from a gut feeling, research or trend to something heard from a key partner.
Concept: Initial research into the value and feasibility of an idea helps provide basic structure and early direction.
Business Case & Planning: More detailed research on an idea’s value and feasibility allow the team to draft a business case and plan for the next important step in the process.
Proof of Concept: The idea comes to life with a proof of concept (POC) effort that provides insight into user experience and how the idea would operate within the organization.
Incubation: In collaboration with the appropriate business unit, a validated POC may transition to be incubated, and then executed, as a new product or service offering.
Lifecycle Management: Ideas that make it through the full innovation process to be launched are then monitored for performance and ongoing integration and innovation.
This innovation operating model was likened by Meirelles to a chef who has a variety of tools, ingredients and partners to work with when creating a new recipe. If you have an open heart and mind to test new things, he observed, amazing things can come out collaboration and experimentation. And while sometimes you create a dish that needs to be thrown away, chances are you take away learnings that improve your next attempt.
Meirelles concluded his presentation with a primer on blockchain and how the innovation team is approaching this technology, which is currently one of the hottest topics in the payments industry. Though still in their relative infancy, a number of blockchain initiatives and investments seem to be driving a progression to viable commercial solutions, he noted.
“Blockchain has the potential to disrupt how value is exchanged, and WEX is working to understand the technology, use cases, threats and opportunities,” said Meirelles. “In addition to impacting how people and companies make payments, blockchain also serves as a shared ledger that can be used to show real-time value and transfer requests to anyone with access to that ledger. This aspect of blockchain holds real promise for further innovation.”