Manulife awards $10,000 at FinTech Hackathon

Winning idea looks to reward customers for good banking habits

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Manulife hosted its first public hackathon on Dec. 1 and 2, a 48-hour event held at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, involving employees and members of the local tech community, working together to develop innovative financial technology concepts.

The event, called Unleash Toronto: From Paper to Prototype began with an initial brainstorming of 61 concepts by aspiring hackers, which was narrowed down to 11 best concepts. The first place team, which goes by the name 7 Deadly Hacks, received $10,000 and will be awarded a reception with Manulife senior leaders and strategic sessions with Manulife’s Lab of Forward Thinking (LOFT), a new innovation hub for Manulife. The team’s core idea is to reward Manulife Bank customers for their positive financial habits.

“We plan to take the energy and ideas from Unleash Toronto to feed ongoing development of our next generation of products,” said Unleash Toronto judge, Tim Ramza, Manulife’s Chief Innovation Officer. “By hosting events like the hackathon, we engage our global employee base to deliver solutions that deeply resonate with the evolving needs of our customers.”

Other judges included Warren Thomson, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Investment Officer of Manulife and Chairman of Manulife Asset Management; Steve Roder, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; and Rahim Hirji, Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer; Kai Sotorp, Executive Vice President, Global Head of Wealth and Asset Management; Tim Ramza, Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer; Stephani Kingsmill, Executive Vice President, Human Resources and Communications; Sebastian Blandizzi, Senior Vice President, Global Solutions Delivery and Chief Information Officer, Investment Division; Paul Lorentz, Senior Vice President, Investment Products; and John Palmer, Board Director.

Throughout the 48 hours, participants pitched, built and refined new business offerings, products and services to answer the following question: How might we help our customers reimagine and redefine what it means to invest with Manulife, utilizing new business models, channels and technology? Unleash Toronto brought together 140 participants, including public innovators, Manulife employees from Canada, Asia, Europe and the U.S. (where Manulife operates as John Hancock).

“We want to be an organization that is disruptive and forward-thinking,” Joseph Cooper, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Global Services, Manulife. “Through LOFT events like this, we’re building upon that culture and spirit internally.”

Other concepts prototyped at the hackathon included developing a virtual personal assistant, a crowdfunding website, an app for millennials to “swipe right” for investment opportunities, and a product that marries virtual reality with financial services.

Manulife’s Toronto location for its Lab of Forward Thinking (LOFT) is located in MaRS Discovery District’s FinTech Cluster – the largest of its kind in Canada. Centered on innovation, the tangible LOFT spaces provide a platform for employees across the company to collaborate and devise new technological solutions for Manulife’s various wealth and asset management, and insurance business lines.

Manulife opened a LOFT site in Boston in July 2015, and there are plans to expand its innovation network to Singapore. In 2014, Manulife launched another innovation hub in Waterloo Region’s Communitech Hub called RED Lab.

SOURCE Manulife Financial Corporation