Innovating with intention

August 31, 2021 Tarah Wolking
Neesha Hathi, Schwab's chief digital officer, shares what innovation means to Schwab and how all employees play a role in the future of the business.

Think about how you feel when you hear the word, “innovation.” Does it excite you? Or make you cringe? 

There’s no denying it’s become one of the most overused, dare we say misused, corporate buzzwords of the 21st century. 

And in a time when anything from smart phones and tablets, to workouts and street tacos can proclaim to be innovative, it’s easy to lose sight of the meaning. 

Which is why for decades Schwab has not only nurtured a culture that promotes true innovative thinking, but one that is also dedicated to doing what’s best for clients.

Where do ideas come from?

As a company that’s prided itself on being a long-time industry disruptor, Schwab leaders know how important it is to keep looking ahead. 

Just ask Schwab’s Chief Digital Officer, Neesha Hathi, who was named as one of the 2021 top innovators by InvestmentNews

Neesha knows you can’t predict when and where you’ll hear the next “aha!” moment, but you can be intentional about how you’ll listen for it.  

“Everyone at Schwab plays an important role in bringing forward ideas that help us meet the needs of the investors and advisors we serve, as well as our teams who are the ‘secret sauce’ behind everything we do,” shared Neesha.

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We encourage everyone, regardless of their role at the firm, to embrace our ‘challenger’ heritage, ask questions, speak up with solutions to help solve gaps or address needs, and not be constrained by the status quo.

- Neesha Hathi, Chief Digital Officer of Charles Schwab

But at a company as large as Charles Schwab, there must be a strategy in place to collect feedback and drive innovation at scale. 

“People prefer to share feedback in different ways and that’s great,” Neesha stated. “It’s important to create both the culture and the mechanisms to ensure ideas keep flowing—whether it’s through a town hall, a conversation with a manager, a team planning session, or through the various platforms and programs we’ve established to crowdsource ideas—we want this to be an environment where employees feel comfortable and supported sharing their ideas.” 

But the business doesn’t just sit around waiting for ideas to come in. As head of Schwab’s Digital Services enterprise, Neesha also oversees the innovation and digital accelerator teams. These teams partner with others across the firm to test new market ideas, design better user experiences, develop digital solutions, and concept client experience enhancements. And they do it year-round. 

On top of that, Schwab also hosts friendly competitions to spark creativity and give employees a fun way to collaborate. Most recently, Schwab hosted the Business Challenge Summit.

The Business Challenge Summit

The Business Challenge Summit was developed as a professional development opportunity for Schwab’s interns to collaborate with Schwab’s Innovation Accelerator. 

“This competition is great because it allows interns to demonstrate their leadership skills and use their creative problem-solving abilities,” said Neesha. 

The interns are given problem statements by the business and tasked with coming up with solutions for each. The interns then present their proposals to a panel of judges made up of Schwab leaders.

Neesha explains that this challenge is a perfect example of how Schwab takes innovation seriously. 

“The problem statements the interns receive are real, so they know what they’re working on could potentially influence the way we do things—that’s exciting for them. And it’s exciting for us to hear fresh ideas from the next generation of talent.”

Leading the way

Programs like these allow Schwab to continue to be a leader in the industry. Sometimes the developments may seem minor—like slight enhancements to the user experience or functionality within digital properties. And sometimes they’re bigger bets—like creating a digital inheritance center to help a daughter or son manage the transition after losing a parent or developing a financial literacy app for kids. 

By putting people first, caring about client needs and daring to disrupt the norms, the Schwab team plans to continue evolving to help people realize their dreams through the power of investing.

(0921-1CVF)