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Innovative effort at Fidelity Investments results in Harvard students presenting new business ideas

John Dix | Aug. 11, 2014
Fidelity Investments today hosted four teams of Harvard students who demonstrated new products that Fidelity can bring to market, the culmination of a program the investment giant put together to collect innovative ideas from new sources.

Fidelity Investments today hosted four teams of Harvard students who demonstrated new products that Fidelity can bring to market, the culmination of a program the investment giant put together to collect innovative ideas from new sources.

The program was conceived of by Fidelity last September and designed with the help of the Harvard Innovation Lab and IDEO, a design and innovation consulting company, says Sean Belka, Senior Vice President and Director of the Fidelity Center for Applied Technology, what insiders simply call Fidelity Labs (see our Q&A with Belka).

Harvard I-Lab provided the venue and mentors for the experiment, and IDEO senior design lead David Goligorsky developed the curriculum and guided the students in use of IDEO's Design Thinking methodologies. Fidelity itself committed many internal experts to mentor the students, identify pertinent company data, and connect the students to appropriate internal business contacts.

The initial call for participation went out to the full Harvard student body, Goligorsky says, seeking people that enjoyed developing new ideas or envisioned starting their own company one day. That effort netted 160 takers, more than anyone was expecting.

This group, which included people from the graduate and undergraduate schools across multiple disciplines, was brought in for a Saturday/Sunday workshop to develop design briefs to see what ideas would percolate up and see how teams gelled.

From that original group 16 students were selected to participate on four teams examining business opportunities for Fidelity in four specific areas: artificial intelligence, data visualization, wearables and social media. Each team had nine weeks to put together their final presentation for demo day, which was held today (Aug. 8th) in Fidelity Labs in Boston.

Belka says one big challenge was how to guide the students, given the Labs already has ongoing programs in all four disciplines. "We didn't want to be so specific that we inhibited innovation, but making it too broad would reduce the usefulness of the results, so we had to walk a fine line." Of the four groups, the data visualization one probably got the most direction, he says.

The actual presentations were very well thought out and expertly presented using compelling visuals and life-like prototypes. While we can't do any of them justice with words alone (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n649SkWauiQ to get a sense of the students involved) , here are brief summaries of the ideas:

* AI. Many internal Fidelity groups use AI today, so the challenge for the AI team was intentionally broad, Belka says: How to leverage AI for competitive advantage.

This group of millennials decided to target their peers, adults 18-35 years old that have some savings and some investment goals (such as saving for a wedding or a house), but view investing as complicated and a time sink. The target market, their research concluded, was about 15 million people strong.

 

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