How ING Innovation uses DataScouts to identify potential customers

How would you define ‘innovation’? What sets apart an innovative company from a regular business? And how to identify these companies? ING Innovation Expert Stéphane Leliaert was looking for an answer to these questions and found them thanks to the DataScouts platform. “Suddenly ‘innovation’ became tangible.”

ING Innovation: support beyond banking

To support entrepreneurs beyond banking. That’s the mission of ING Innovation. But why would a bank provide services other than financial ones? Innovation Expert Stéphane Leliaert explains. “Often companies with high potential are reaching out to us for their financial needs. They are for example looking for a major bank financing. But when it’s really early in their growth process, we are talking risk capital. And as everyone knows, banks and risk are not always compatible.

“So we support them in other ways. We match them to the right partners and experts, like imec or certain angel investors and VC funds. We help them grow until they are profitable and ready for the bank. It’s a long-term strategy indeed, but at the end of the journey, it shows in terms of quality and results in a true partnership.”

The biggest challenge? Defining innovation

“We had to come up with a strategy to identify, contact and involve innovative companies and to figure out what their needs are.”

“Our biggest challenge? We were having a hard time defining which companies were ‘innovative’. The traditional banking sector looks at companies vertically: doctors, notaries, architects, … But innovation spreads across all verticals, horizontally. Identifying innovative companies across different sectors required a new way of thinking.”

“We knew there was a potential market of about 4.000 innovative companies in Belgium, of which ±1000 were located in our region (East and West Flanders). One third of them were customers already, but we had no way to know who the other two-thirds were. We had to come up with a strategy to identify, contact and involve these companies and to figure out what their needs are.”

ing case innovation
case ing innovation

DataScouts to the rescue: innovation made tangible

“We were playing around with the Startups.be platform when we had our first Aha! moment. We realised ‘we could use this’. So we asked DataScouts how they identify companies they consider to be innovative. As it turned out, our ideas on innovation matched almost completely. DataScouts went to work with our criteria, and suddenly we had a list of 3000+ innovative companies. Suddenly the word ‘innovation’ became tangible.”

Getting to know the needs of potential customers

“We want to propose the best possible products to our customers. But in order to do so, we have to truly know them. “

It’s not just about identifying. “DataScouts provides meaningful insights about our (potential) customers. We get to see in which phase companies are and what their needs are.” For example, the social media feed shows that a certain company has entered into several new partnerships. “This tells us that this company is looking for something. So ING’s Innovation Experts reach out with a possible solution fit to their needs.

The customer’s response? “They think ‘wow, this bank really knows me,’” Stéphane explains. “We want to propose the best possible products to our customers. But in order to do so, we have to truly know them. DataScouts does the analysis, we draw the conclusions and suggest possible solutions, to point them in the right direction.”

Discovering potential opportunities

“The platform also helps us to detect potential opportunities. It puts all relevant actors on a map and helps us gain new insights on the ecosystem. For example, we saw clusters of innovative companies forming in regions we did not expect them to. That’s how we discovered areas − that weren’t on our radar before − where it would be interesting to look for new partnerships.” 

Putting data into action

Now that potential customers and partnerships are identified, it’s time to put the data into action. “Every regional manager now literally has a clear picture of the ecosystem within their region. The visual representation makes it easier to decide on our plan of action and to report during our follow-ups.”

Broader than innovative companies

“We are clearly seeing the benefits, so I would love to see it scale inside ING.”

Stéphane notes that using the platform to scout for innovative companies is just one of the many possible applications. “What we do at ING Innovation Belgium is just one case, but the platform can do so much more than that. We are clearly seeing the benefits, so I would love to see it scale inside ING. To other countries, but beyond innovative companies as well. That’s the message we would like to convey to the entire ING group.”

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Prefer to contact a human being? Contact us at natan.debie@datascouts.eu