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Members' Spotlight with Professor Tor W. Andreassen

Meet Professor Tor W. Andreassen from NHH in this month's edition of Members' Spotlight! We've talked about how the corona crisis has influenced companies' reputation and organizational culture, how the finance industry can challenge themselves more and the newly established Digital Innovation for Growth Centre at NHH.

Andreassen has passed the baton to CEO of Fana Sparebank, Lisbet Nærø. Stay tuned!

What is your superpower?

My superpower is my curiosity coupled with my super colleagues at NHH with whom I can develop my thinking and understanding of complex innovation issues.

Øyvind Thomassen (CEO in Sbanken) nominated you and wants to hear your view on how the corona crisis influences companies’ reputation and organizational culture, and what you think will differentiate the best from the worst. For example, is this a time to focus more inward rather than outward, and will the way we view ourselves, our customers, and employees change?

These are relevant and interesting questions. Let me try to break them into parts:

1) How may the corona crisis influences companies’ reputation and organizational culture

“When the tide goes out you can see who’s been swimming naked”. In booming business cycles there is room for all sort of leaders and businesses. But when there is a downturn, the bad will go out of the market. C-19 has been a game changer and separated outstanding companies from good and bad companies. For outstanding companies brand equity is improved. The bad will experience a loss of brand equity as it now becomes apparent to all that they were pretending to be better than they are.

2) What you think will differentiate the best from the worst C-19 and 12th?

March was a sky fall, a black swan to most CEOs, but not all. Some had started to reflect on signals coming from China on a potential epidemic. In a NYT-article, April 9, 2020, hedge fund manager Paul Singer warned his employees in February that they should prepare for a quarantine. In another NYT article reported on the CEO of a head-hunting company who in early March, in a test, had asked all employees to stay at home and to run the company from there. There are forward looking leaders who in advance have a game plan for a black swan and there are leaders who will develop a game plan during sky fall. The solution was and is to innovate in a way that enables customers (who also needed to reduce their operating costs) to uphold the use of the firm’s goods and services. Mantra: innovate to retain customers during the pandemic.

How can banks/insurance companies challenge themselves more in regard to customer centric innovation?

As with most Norwegian firms, banks suffer from an inside out perspective, i.e. How can we make someone buy or innovate these services? The future is outside in perspective, i.e. what will customers require from us/how may we help customers to get on with their lives/how can we simplify their everyday lives, make it more productive, improve their return on time?

Future of the fintech industry – What does it look like to you, any predictions, or thoughts on what will be important?

Currently it looks like the industry – banks and insurance - is going through the same piece meal disruption as newspapers did with Internet, i.e. section by section was taken over by new actors to the extent that newspapers became irrelevant and replaced by social media like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google. The core of any business is to own the customer relationship, collect and use AI for all customer data to gain insight for new innovations, and build a strong value/purpose-driven brand. All other activities/functions you buy from the market.

Money management, making investments for pensions etc is complicated and customers need support in the form of a AI and mobile based personal trainer that learns from past and current behaviors and rewards good future oriented behavior and illustrates the long-term consequences of “bad decisions”.

Telenor and Gjensidige are the biggest corporate partners of the newly established DIG Centre. From the left: Sigve Brekke (CEO, Telenor), Helge Leiro Baastad (CEO, Gjensidige) og Tor W. Andreassen. Photo: Siv Dolmen

NHH recently launched the Digital Innovation for Growth Centre (DIG). What can members of NCE Finance Innovation expect from the Centre?

As going to the gym, the more you put in the more you get in return. Digital innovations for sustainable growth is a multi-faceted issue and will require a close collaboration in a partnership model NOT master and servant model. For DIG to provide Finance Innovation with valuable insights and knowledge, we need to make sure that what we research is relevant and interesting to academics (who thrive on writing articles) and business (who thrive on making money) at the same time. This requires a dynamic partnership.

How can DIG contribute to FinTech innovations in the coming years?
If we succeed, you will get new insight in four important areas that can be used for commercializing and scaling innovations:

  • Adoption of new series, technology, and behaviors
  • Creating & capturing value in the digital era
  • Strategies for and in digital ecosystems
  • Organizational capacity for radical change & innovation

But, how much you gain is dependent on how much you invest.

Read about DIG here

5 on the go

Name a book that has made a lasting impression on you

This is hard. I read too many books which most if not all make lasting impression. The latest book (which I remember the best) is “The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes, by Zachary D. Carter. . New York Times wrote: An “outstanding new intellectual biography of John Maynard Keynes [that moves] swiftly along currents of lucidity and wit”

Business motto / personal motto

I have two:

Borrowing from Keynes: “When facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, Sir?” My second favorite quote is from the late Harvard Business School legend, Professor Ted Levitt: “Whatever took you to where you are today, is not what will take you to where you need to be”

Anything you wish you knew 10 years ago?

The more I know, the more I know what I don’t know! I wish I knew this 10 years ago.

Most used/favorite non-work-related app?
Washington Post & New York Times.

When I am not working, you will find me…?

In my cayak paddling away with a breeze in my sunny face, feeling free and creative.

Who should we challenge next in the cluster?
Lisbet Nærø, CEO of Fana Sparebank. I would like to ask her:

1. What is a customer centric bank and how does one implement this in the organizational culture?
How does this culture impact the work with developing new solutions and how one launches them?
Can a bank (small or large) be customer centric and simultaneously be an active player in a digital ecosystem?