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Drones, big data and software-as-a-service solutions were just a few of the many highlights of a recent fact-finding mission to Silicon Valley carried out by Australia’s Bank of Queensland (Bo Q). Ever wary of  the threat of commoditization within their industry (where one’s bank’s services become largely interchangeable with those of any of its competitors), executives from the 138-year-old company set out to discover how new technologies might offer ways to stand out in a competitive market.

The bank’s motivation going into the trip was clear: in order to stay relevant to its customers, it knew it must move into providing more advisory and consulting services as opposed to just traditional banking operations.

Technology-centric approaches to making that step abound, but as an institution with branches in every Australian state and territory – including many rural parts of the country –  Bank of Queensland understood the need to focus on the latest developments in agricultural technology, or AgTech, so as to better serve the farmers who constitute a significant part of its client base.

Business management tools

Among the key learnings of Bank of Queensland from their Silicon Valley program was the potential of software-as-a-service, or SaaS. Bank executives met Granular, a firm which has developed software for farm management. They saw how, by partnering with such a company, the bank would be able to offer its clients similar software and enhance its own credentials as a consultant in the process.

What’s more, the bank would gain access to data on how clients manage their businesses. That, in turn, would lead to a more nuanced understanding of customers’ needs and thus allow the bank to offer services more precisely aligned with each individual situation.

Asset management

Bank of Queensland gained further food for thought when they were introduced to SKYF, an unmanned aerial carrier platform capable of vertical takeoff and landing. The pilotless drone can carry loads of up to 250kg, making it ideal for use in logistics and agriculture.

For individual farmers, however, the cost of owning such a device is prohibitively high. That’s where an institution like Bank of Queensland could add value: if it were to own one of the carrier platforms, it would be able to make it available to its various clients as needed. Once again, the bank would find its position as a consultant and innovative business partner enhanced.

Big Data, big opportunity

It did not take the Bank of Queensland executives long to see that data is the lifeblood of much of the technological innovation powering Silicon Valley. Here too, they sensed an opportunity. By diversifying into big data, they would be able to help clients do things like negotiate deals and close pricing contracts.

The bank derived great insight from meeting Farmers Business Network, a peer-to-peer platform which uses machine learning and data science to allows farmers to share agronomic information. Using such a system, farmers gain insights into business trends and vastly increase their predictive powers.

Partners in innovation

For Bank of Queensland, the dive into AgTech lasted just a matter of days. But that was enough to leave long-lasting impressions and provide the impetus for change in the bank’s business model back at company headquarters.

It was clear to the executives that they must embrace technological progress, not only in their own business but in the businesses of their customers. In doing so, they could become more than just another bank; they could serve as partners in innovation, offering access to the data, infrastructure and services capable of transforming an industry.

Bank of Queensland’s trip to Silicon Valley was organized by Silicon Valley Innovation Center. To find out more about how we can arrange a custom-made tour for your company contact us or browse our catalogue of ready-made programmes.


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