Online banking first became available in Canada in 1996 with BMO’s mbanx platform, and it took another 14 years for major banks to start releasing mobile apps for smartphones. With the emergence of fintech, the landscape in which we interact with financial services looks much different today. By 2021, Canada was home to approximately 700 fintech companies, and in 2017 alone, there were over 100 fintech startups founded in the country.
Chris Ford recently joined the leadership team at Intelliware as President. Formerly the CEO of Capco Canada, a global technology consulting firm, Chris has extensive experience with the implementation of technology initiatives for financial institutions. As an engineer turned tech leader, he has witnessed the evolution of the Canadian tech scene throughout his career, and its impact on the fintech landscape.
Over the last 30+ years, Intelliware has built a strong reputation as the pioneers of Agile adoption in the Canadian tech industry. The company has worked with some of the largest banks in Canada and multinational FinTech firms to help build enterprise-grade software solutions.
Fintech.ca sat down with Chris Ford to discuss the evolution of the financial services industry, and to learn more about Agile and the future of work.
How has the financial services industry adapted to the rise of fintech?
CF: In Canada, we’ve seen a rapid growth of fintech companies that offer alternatives to the big banks over the last few years. Whether it’s how you pay for things, how you apply for loans, or how you invest your money, technology has given us many new options to manage our financial future.
The traditional banks have also been leading technology efforts of their own. One way banks have adapted to keep up with the rapidly-growing fintech market is by adopting Agile methodology. It’s a technical framework for developers to deliver software, and has helped many of these companies understand how to build technology better and faster so they can continue to innovate amidst the rapid rise of fintechs.
Intelliware was one of the first tech companies in Canada to adopt Agile. Can you elaborate on what Agile is?
CF: Agile is a methodology development teams use to build software products. The method is centered around cross-collaboration, iteration and being able to respond to change and feedback. Agile brings developers, IT and business people together, and outlines a process to allow these cross-functional teams to continuously deliver solutions with speed.
Agile is used everywhere – from startups to big tech and Fortune 500 companies. Large organizations in particular, like banks, have traditionally worked in silos where technology teams didn’t necessarily sit with the business teams. That made it difficult for developers at these companies to build software products that aligned to what the business was actually looking for, and keep up with new tech companies that were able to get innovative products to market much faster. To address this gap, companies started to adopt Agile to remain competitive and drive innovation.
Is there anything Agile can teach us about the future of work?
CF: The pandemic showed us that the key to the future of work is understanding what employees want, and how leaders can respond to it. With Agile, teams engage in a set of practices to surface what work is being done, what’s upcoming, and what challenges people are facing. These practices allow for transparency and collaboration amongst team members, and are also some key factors that drive employee engagement.
You don’t need to be technical to learn from Agile. Transparency and collaboration are elements of the framework that anyone can adopt. When there is transparency and a way for people to come together to learn from each other, it helps leaders understand what employees want. There are so many opportunities for organizations to consider Agile practices when thinking about how they want to adapt to the future of work.
As a senior business executive and a new member of the Intelliware team, what is your leadership philosophy?
CF: It’s okay to have fun at work! When people are happy and feel trusted by their leaders, they become more productive and engaged – and building a strong culture is really important to me. I truly believe that people respond to good values and good leadership, and just like technology is always changing, it’s important to help people grow and develop as well. I know my colleagues at Intelliware agree with this, and I see a great learning culture here that I’m excited to now be a part of.