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Meet The Innovator

Pepper Financial Services whiz Matthew Tinker isn’t one to have a ‘lend of you’ when defining innovation. By Susan Muldowney


“Innovation” is a popular word in business circles but many leaders hesitate to define what it actually means. Not Matthew Tinker FIML. As head of innovation at Pepper, he’s in the business of developing ideas to attract more customers to the ASX-listed financial services group. “I define innovation as change that adds value,” he states.

In 2015, Pepper sought to expand its model beyond broker networks directly to consumer. Tinker, who has been with the company since 2011, was made head of innovation and was charged with finding out exactly what consumers wanted from a financial services product. “We also spent a lot of time trying to make data-driven decisions around what our product should look like or what service offering we can provide to customers,” Tinker explains.

Pepper also worked with a global innovation network that connects start-ups with expert mentors, the market and finance. “We partnered with 1776, so we can be exposed to innovations around product experiences that are being built by start-ups,” Tinker says.

Tinker then helped create a local start-up incubation program late last year, called Free Money. The program was a partnership between Pepper and Australian pioneering start-up consultancy Pollenizer. The aim of the program was to encourage start-ups to build new financial technology (fintech) solutions. The winner received 12 weeks of training and financial support to further develop their ideas.


“You have to be heavily focused on your customer and you have to challenge the status quo”


Exposure to innovative fintech solutions spawned many new ideas for Pepper. One involves mining data to give customers what they want before they know they want it.

“In one of our business lines, customers call us for statements once every three months. We’re using data and machine learning to predict those requests before they happen so we can provide a ‘wow’ moment for customers. It’s also a cost efficiency for our business because that’s a phone call we don’t need to answer,” Tinker says.

Tinker and his team help to foster innovation at Pepper through programs such as Spark Box, which encourages employees to nominate customer challenges that they would like to solve.

“We take them through a series of workshops to help them design solely for that customer challenge. We provide the framework for them to conduct interviews with consumers and we also give them access to the right people, whether it be lawyers or compliance people, so they can check things before they go further with their ideas. Then we help them execute the idea.”

Tinker says innovative solutions are formed when you put your customer’s needs at the centre of your business. “You have to be heavily focused on your customer and you have to challenge the status quo. You will be told ‘no’ a lot. I always follow up a ‘no’ by asking ‘why?’ That’s probably something that frustrates a lot of people about me. Around 99 per cent of the time, they end up saying ‘Tell me how we can do it’.”

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