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Perth’s quiet smart creative revolution

When I moved to Perth from Johannesburg earlier this year I was surprised by the views and perspectives of some people I met on the prospects for the WA economy. While Perth and many regional areas have clearly been impacted by the state’s economic downturn, I could see many things to be positive about and proud of.

Johannesburg is a city with a very different set of social and economic challenges so perhaps I was looking at WA’s prospects though a different lens, but I could see a few parallels that gave me cause for optimism, especially around Perth’s potential to become an exciting hub for technology and innovation professionals.

While living and working in Johannesburg I’d led the acquisition for the CBA Group of a digital start-up called Take Your Money Everywhere (TYME), which introduced easy to use mobile banking to South Africans. Through this acquisition I came to know a cross section of Johannesburg’s community of ‘smart creatives’, people who think and work collaboratively to achieve rapid incremental improvements and enhancements in the pursuit of better customer experiences.

In South Africa, innovation has been driven by the need to solve pressing problems that face large parts of the community. It was a privilege to lead TYME and marry the technology capabilities of the CBA Group with the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit in that country. There’s a lot we can learn by looking at how other groups are solving problems.

On moving to WA I was pleased to discover that Perth had its own vibrant and growing smart creative community, which is quietly getting on with the business of helping WA companies, large and small, adapt to today’s digital economy and rapidly changing world.

Bankwest is no exception. While many customers still value the face to face interactions that our state-wide store network offers, the overwhelming majority of our daily interactions with customers are via digital channels. So we’re evolving and improving our digital offering by embracing emerging technologies that are increasingly influencing how customers want to interact with us.

For example, hundreds of Bankwest colleagues, including myself, have been trialling contactless payment technology to help us better understand how they can meet customers’ needs and lifestyles. We’ve been using wearable payment technology such as a ring, key fob, fitness-style wristband or a clip on a watch strap to make everyday purchases.

It’s really exciting to test these new technologies and it’s critical that we do so, as our customers have a diverse range of needs and preferences and a ‘one size fits all’ approach is a thing of the past. Continually testing and learning directly with customers, and evolving and adapting rapidly to meet customer needs is the new norm for us, which is where our army of smart creatives come in.

We’re one of WA’s largest employers of tech and innovation professionals and the traditional image of the suit and tie wearing banker is increasingly outdated. On many floors of our head office you’ll find software experts and Agile coaches, often bedecked in trainers, jeans and t-shirts, collaborating in small groups, testing and learning ideas directly with customers and approaching problems with different and diverse mind sets.

The need for talented smart creatives in WA is steadily increasing as more companies invest in technology and innovation to drive better customer outcomes, and Perth is especially well placed to become an influential tech and innovation centre due to the diversity of start-ups and large scale resources and financial services businesses based here.

As WA’s thriving start-up sector and larger employers continue to grow their investment in new technologies we need to incentivise more smart creatives to call WA home. Our lifestyle, climate and Asia-friendly time zone are all advantages that can be used to foster an international reputation for Perth as a hub for smart creatives – a Silicon Valley on edge of the Indian Ocean, if you will.

Ultimately, there’ll be a powerful flow-on effect to the broader WA community, which will benefit from an influx of new skill sets and mindsets, empowering WA schools and workplaces to prosper in this rapidly changing and digitally-driven world, thanks to the quiet revolution being driven by Perth’s smart creatives.

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