Governance of Financial Innovation
Arthur, Keren Naa Abeka
Date: 24 June 2015
University of Exeter
PhD in Management Studies
The power of financial innovations to impact societies at global scales compels us to ask how innovation occurs, how it is governed and how to support the responsible initiation and emergence of such innovation in society. This thesis focuses on investigating and comparing current approaches to, and limitations of, the governance of ...
The power of financial innovations to impact societies at global scales compels us to ask how innovation occurs, how it is governed and how to support the responsible initiation and emergence of such innovation in society. This thesis focuses on investigating and comparing current approaches to, and limitations of, the governance of financial innovation and perceptions of responsible financial innovation in three very different institutional settings: a large, global asset management company; a SME developing disruptive, technology - related platforms and services based on big data and associated analytics supporting customer relationship management in the banking and retail sectors; and a global insurance broker. To date there has been almost no published empirical research into the processes and governance of financial innovation in such corporate settings. The initial hypothesis that financial innovation is not governed (internally, externally) was not supported by the empirical data: rather these suggest the existence of formal and informal mechanisms for innovation governance. As suggested in the literature, financial innovation was observed to be largely incremental in nature and involve multiple stakeholders, co-ordinated internally by an ‘innovation owner’ (e.g. an individual, a group of individuals or a department). The research suggests that while there is broad statutory (regulation) and non-statutory governance of the financial sector, there is limited direct regulation of financial innovation per se. Despite this, contextual regulation (e.g. EU) and industry standards set an important governance frame within which innovation was observed to occur, complemented by a range of organizational innovation governance approaches, which ranged from completely informal, ad hoc (‘de facto’) processes to formal staging innovation management tools. It was not possible to generalize across sectors, emphasizing the need for more empirical work in other organizations in order to understand innovation management and governance across the financial sector as a whole. Responsible financial innovation is an emerging concept associated with a very small body of academic literature. The case study data show responsible financial innovation to be perceived as an ‘interpretively flexible umbrella’ term, underpinned by a value system that leads to quantifiable positive outputs (e.g. creating customer satisfaction). The research suggests that several ‘competencies’ (e.g. compliance, learning, communication, monitoring, and ownership) were perceived as relevant to responsible financial innovation by respondents. Themes emerging from the study mirrored to some extent the seven framings suggested by Armstrong et al. (2012) and Muniesa and Lenglet (2012) and the four dimensions of responsible innovation proposed by Owen et al. (2013); these however were very narrowly framed, especially with regard to second-order reflexivity (e.g. on the normative purposes and functions of finance in society). While dimensions of anticipation, reflection, deliberation and responsiveness (Owen et al., 2013) were evident to varying degrees in the cases these were narrowly configured (e.g. around ethics of data monetization, or on anticipation of operational risks), with deliberation often being internally focused, or including only a limited range of external stakeholders. These observations cause me to argue that current mechanisms for governing financial innovation are not sufficiently robust to support their responsible emergence in society. I conclude that any framework for responsible financial innovation should endeavor to broaden the scope for stakeholder engagement and make use of multi-level governance mechanisms (including committees in the innovation and governance process), while continuing to acknowledge the importance of contextual legislation in the framing of innovation trajectories. I recommend the initiation of a cross sector and independent institution for systematic financial innovations assessment, the establishment of formal cross-sector fora and communication channels to facilitate engagement with external stakeholders, and the codification of responsible financial innovation competencies into contextual legislation.
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