Uma Meyyappan is the Senior Vice President of Digital Innovation and New Venture Platform at LPL Financial. LPL is an independent broker-dealer helping financial professionals and financial institutions build their businesses. At LPL, Meyyappan’s mission is to create a culture of innovation: “I’m innovating the innovation.”
Meyyappan was previously a Senior Vice President of Innovation Research & Development at Wells Fargo. Her research into financial technologies has generated more than 32 US patents. Meyyappan spoke with InnoLead as a part of our Member Spotlight series, where we profile our members and discuss their role in innovation.
What is your role as head of digital innovation?
To foster the culture of innovation, and to build up the innovation DNA across the company. How do we do things in a nimble, simple, easier way, and fostering new ideas for the existing products? Oftentimes, companies build [a new product or a feature for an existing product], and then put it in front of the customers, and then test. But how can you do a little “playground” on the side to really build it in a nimble way—and then test it out. And if it makes sense, then bring it into the mothership.
What websites, email newsletters, or podcasts do you rely on?
Monitoring the signals on trends are key. We do have 10 to 12 different places that our analysts will keep monitoring and collecting info on what’s happening…so definitely we go to CB Insights, we go to TechCrunch, we go to [The] Verge, we go to all of that. And, then, when there is a particular area in which we have to focus on for example…we did explore augmented reality…[it] is going to be one of the things that the industries [are] moving forward with, where it can add a lot more value especially with the hybrid world. So we take a technology area and we go deeper and explore those and build prototypes.
Have you had challenges in getting buy-in from colleagues and teams?
Yes, change can be a challenge and it’s all about educating. I foster the culture of innovation as a tool to knock on doors and move forward. We do something called “tech snack” which is like a little newsletter that comes every week….it’s bite-sized information…I’m a strong believer that nobody these days wants to read big articles.
We also are trying to do something called a coffee talk…We educate people on emerging technologies through that, saying [to people], “This is how you need to put together a presentation for 15 minutes, and let’s get you up to speed and get you on the stage.” And, you know, you learn something new in the process of learning, and you’re educating others in these short coffee talk sessions.
And obviously, internally hackathons… We recently did a hackathon within the company…[it] attracted 30 teams and over 200 people. Doing it in this scale is new and people were able to learn new technologies. These were all tangible signs that prove the value of investing in and cultivating a culture of innovation. We’re building it into our DNA to be open and move forward together.