Photo: Ian McDonald leads TD’s new innovation team at the Communitech Hub.

A green-and-white sign bearing two familiar letters – TD – lit up a fresh new space in the Communitech Hub today.

TD, one of North America’s largest financial institutions, has docked with Communitech to explore new innovations focused on customer experience.

Under a five-year agreement announced today, TD has not only set up new lab space in the Communitech Hub, but will support programs for startups, small-to-midsize companies and women in technology across Canada, through the Canadian Digital Media Network, Communitech’s national initiative.

TD is the latest major corporation from beyond the tech sector to partner with Communitech and move into the Hub. Canadian Tire and Manulife also have innovation spaces.

Ian McDonald, who leads TD’s development team at the Hub, sat down for a quick interview with Communitech News today, to talk about why TD is here and what it hopes to achieve.

Q – Why would a bank want to have space in an innovation hub?

A – An important part of what TD is doing at the Communitech Hub is exploring new solutions and technologies, uncovering opportunities that will deliver value to our customers a few years from now, and beyond.

To do that, it’s important to be embedded in an environment where these ideas and advanced technologies are being explored, and Waterloo Region is obviously a community that has this in spades.

Q – Why Communitech and not someplace else?

A – There are a lot of these types of ecosystems being built in cities around the world.

Why we look to Communitech and Waterloo Region is because of factors like the strength of education and access to talent, and the number of really interesting startups and small, medium and large technology companies. It’s a rich ecosystem that way, with a lot of support.

Also, through Communitech and CDMN, we can access other sites across Canada and around the world.

Q – What kinds of things can we expect to see out of the TD space here?

A – We’re really looking across TD’s business. TD is a large organization, with more than 85,000 people, and business areas cover everything from banking – which most people would be familiar with – to wealth management, insurance and credit protection.

So, we’ll be looking across those different areas and investigate new technologies that will contribute to those businesses, and ultimately to the customer experience.

Q – What’s the difference between trying to do this type of thing in-house at a large corporation and doing it in a place like the Communitech Hub?

A – What we’re doing here really reflects a startup methodology – lean, with a focus on creativity, exploration and experimentation.

Those types of things are best done in a startup-like environment, so we’ll operate as a small team, and that will give us a lot of flexibility to explore different directions from a technology and solutions perspective.

Q – This seems to be a bit of a trend, large companies docking with organizations like Communitech. Why do you think this is happening?

A – TD is a large organization, and it’s also a very large technology organization. It’s one of the largest technology employers in Canada.

When you look at any company, there is a drive to develop solutions quickly, understand more about where the market is going, and what new technologies need to be brought into the business.

So, I think enterprises are looking at new ways of doing that, and looking to startups as a model of how that might be done more efficiently and effectively.

Q – What are your early impressions now that you’re in the space and working?

A – It’s exciting to be into the space.

We’re already up and running with our team of co-ops and we’re already at work, so it’s exciting to see it start and imagine how it will grow from here.

 

About The Author

Anthony Reinhart
Director, Editorial Strategy
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Anthony Reinhart is a veteran journalist who left the Globe and Mail to join Communitech in 2011. Tony has covered everything from crime, politics and courts to business, the arts and sports, and his writing has won numerous journalism awards. He is Communitech's Director of Editorial Strategy and senior staff writer.