Spark ideas. Explore new trails.
Credit Suisse Perspectives

Spark ideas. Explore new trails.

What happens when you gather the finest minds in the banking industry and set them a problem to solve? Creative sparks fly. Solutions are puzzled out. A healthy dose of competition drives new ideas.

When we launched the Credit Suisse Future of Banking Hackathon back in 2018 we had no idea how much it would evolve just two years later. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic the organizing team had to think creatively and speedily to set up the event completely online. It was quite a feat and a tribute to the very innovative and expansive thinking hackathons are designed to foster. Here's the story of this year's incredible Future of Banking Hackathon.

But first: what's a hackathon?

A hackathon is simply a competitive event designed to tackle difficult problems using technology and turn them into opportunities. A hackathon can be made up of groups of teams within the same company with a defined problem they need to solve, it can be an international event with teams from diverse regions and backgrounds puzzling out different challenges, or a combination of both.

Hackathons are at their most exciting when they bring together people from different areas, like developers alongside specialists from non-technical areas like business or design. They usually run for between 8-48 hours and foster both friendly competition and collaborative teamwork to create inspirational outcomes.

At Credit Suisse we've successfully participated in or hosted several external global hackathons, including TechGig Code Gladiators, Raleigh Hackathon/Code Suisse, CodeIT Suisse and HackZurich.

What is the aim of a hackathon?

Organizers bring a range of goals to their events, from team-building, finding new talent, figuring out solutions to real-world technology problems, educating colleagues or facilitating charitable work. Whatever the challenge set, a hackathon is an excellent way to bring together people with different skillsets and talents (both technical and non-technical), and to create a new network across an organization.

The Future of Banking Hackathon 2020

After a spectacular effort by the Credit Suisse team to pivot the event online, this year's hackathon was a roaring success. Over 10,000 colleagues generated ideas during the Future of Banking Challenge and then took two suggested challenges forward for the hackathon.

The two challenges were:

  • Machine Learning Challenge – Creating a platform using public data and Machine Learning techniques to solve a problem
  • Augmented Reality Challenge – Working out the best way to leverage AR to improve colleague collaboration, client interaction and promotional activities.

As we had invited coders and non-coders alike, we wanted to give everyone an equal chance to shine, so we set up the Hackathon Academy. Here, teams learned simple, practical techniques to help strengthen an innovative mindset, time management, storytelling and pitching. Almost 300 colleagues in eight countries successfully unpacked these challenges together at the hackathon, with 37% of the teams made up of cross-border collaborations. Every winning team contained at least one person who'd received training in the innovative mindset sessions, which just shows how effective this approach can be.

Perhaps now, more than ever, events like these hackathons are vital ways to bring us together to solve shared problems. They allow us to connect differently, to develop and put our skills into practice and to complement each other's strengths. They also help to find common goals across countries, organizational entities and professional backgrounds. They are great fun too. It really does show that the old adage 'two heads are better than one' is true – except in this case it's 300 heads!

Read more about working in Technology at Credit Suisse.