Scoring ideas: How one financial services firm does it

SwisherHeadshotBrown Brothers Harriman & Co., with roots that trace back to 1818, is the oldest and largest private bank in the U.S., with about 5,000 employees, 17 offices around the world, and more than $1 billion in annual revenue. In the 19th century, BBH was an early investor in Britain’s Cunard Line, and in the 20th, when President Woodrow Wilson went to Europe to sign the Treaty of Versailles, he carried with him a letter of credit from the firm.

But having an executive responsible for innovation is relatively new for the storied firm: Phil Swisher created the role in 2010, with the mandate to be “a firm-wide catalyst.” Swisher, left, says his work focuses on six primary dimensions:

  1. Building new products and services ourselves – early stage product development
  2. Funding the promising new business ideas of our colleagues across the globe
  3. Being a catalyst for collaboration and innovation across the firm
  4. Building a stronger culture of innovation
  5. Providing metrics and analysis related to innovation
  6. Engaging with entrepreneurs, investors, innovation leaders, clients, and others outside BBH who can accelerate and improve our work

Here are the questions Swisher’s team asks to create a “score” for ideas that bubble up within BBH:

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