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A brief history of the Financial Innovation Awards

05 June, 2015Alison Thomas-Steer

As nominations open for the 2015 bba/ifs Financial Innovation Awards, Judges Co-ordinator Alison Thomas Steer takes a look back at the 18 year history of the Awards.

The Early years of the Awards

The origins of the Financial Innovation Awards seem many light years from our current digital, internet-based, global Awards.  Cast your minds back to 1997, where mobile phones were not de rigueur and mobile banking a sci-fi dream to the man in the street.  A world where not every home had a computer, where payment cards were swiped onto multi-layered carbon papers, cheques reigned supreme (accompanied, of course, by a cheque guarantee card) and where money cleared over several days.

The Financial Innovation Award ceremony began in far humbler surroundings as well – a far cry from the glamour of the New Connaught Rooms experienced by today’s finalists.  Around 10 awards – framed certificates – were presented to winning entrants in a function room at a London hotel in recognition of their technological advances and financial successes.

Building on strong foundations

From such beginnings, the Awards grew in prestige and popularity and the first sizeable event took place in the historic London Guildhall, in black tie glamour and a leading after-dinner speaker.  Entrants were invited to submit their nominations via Financial World magazine and gradually the Awards grew, gathering momentum.

As payment cards and POS systems replaced cheques, and Chip and PIN was introduced, so our Award categories began to evolve.  Older categories were dropped in favour of those that reflected the changes within the financial services industry.  While some awards have stood the test of time – remaining relevant in their evolving areas -  ‘Most effective Back Office Initiative’, ‘Excellence in Customer Services’ and ‘Most Innovative Application of Technology’ – so others have evolved and been introduced.  We have seen the rise of Internet and Mobile Banking awards, Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability Awards and Risk, Governance and Regulation Initiatives as others have dropped away. 

Global Innovation

As the Awards began to garner global attention, this in turn led to international entrants – first from Europe, then from across the Atlantic, across the Mediterranean to Malta, Turkey, Cyprus and Israel; to the Far East and Australasia, and finally to India and Africa. Each year we receive entries from new countries – Peru, Hong Kong and Vietnam in 2014.

Indeed, some of the most exciting innovations have come from those areas that skipped a technological generation and moved directly into digital and mobile technologies.  Our first overseas Overall Award was presented to Standard Chartered Bank, Kenya for their innovations in mortgage finance. Since then we have seen winners from South Africa – e-wallets and mobile banking and payments, Tanzania – microfinance and mobile banking.

Even the recession has not materially affected the Financial Innovation Awards as organisations met the challenges of the downturn in new and creative ways that hold as much merit as those conceived in boom times. 

Now our winners receive the prestigious silver ‘sparky’ trophy – new and established organisations, from home and abroad, large or small, first timers or experienced entrants – all are welcome and receive the plaudits of their peers in a wide variety of categories. 

Now we are very excited to begin our 18th year in partnership with the BBA, the UK’s leading trade association in banking.