#30 – Startup collaboration: Wealthtech program & Responsive AI

“For us startup collaboration is creating win-win situations with startups. We are a big bank in Finland with a wide service portfolio, trusted brand, existing distribution channels, and a wide customer base when startups are usually focused on a niche thing they are solving very well, using the latest technology and working very fast in an agile manner. There’s definitely a lot of value for both parties.”

In this 30th episode of OP Tech Podcast our host Kristian Luoma interviews two Product Owners from OP Group; Miikka Niemelä and Philippe Santraine. Miikka and Philippe work closely with startups while creating new products in both internal OP Lab teams and in collaboration with external startups.

In this episode Kristian, Philippe and Miikka will talk about

  • how startup collaboration is handled at OP,
  • what are OP’s smart programs and
  • one of the most recent startup cases: Wealthtech program & Responsive AI.

Remember to check what our last episode (in Finnish) was about >>

What are smart programs?

”When I joined OP three years ago, we started our smart programs with startups first with health, commerce and, living oriented cases. Later on, we’ve moved more towards financing oriented cases, such as open banking and wealth,” Philippe says.

Smart programs are usually scattered into three phases: scouting phase, co-creation phase and pilot phase. Miikka has recently been a part of the scouting phase.

“For these partnership programs we usually start with a business unit within OP and we try to find the problems or opportunities we are trying to address. Then we boil those down into attributes that sort of give us quite a clear list of what we are looking for in a solution. Based on that we start scouting for international startups and we usually go through 200 to 300 startups per program which is quite a lot,” Miikka explains and continues:

“Then we contact the most promising startups based on those attributes we want to address and ultimately we invite usually 10 of those startups to join us here in Helsinki to OP headquarters in Vallila for a 4-day co-alignment week. Those days give us an opportunity to work face-to-face with the startups and we have for example speed dating and workshops with key stakeholders within OP and of course the startups.”

“So basically, we are able to address the business side, then we are able to address the tech side also very relevant matters in these types of projects are the risks involved: legal, compliance, data. we are able to get a lot done in that very short 4-day period, proven to be very useful,” Miikka says.

Startup collaboration: Wealthtech program and Responsive AI

”In our latest wealth program, we had a very strong focus on AI. There were two kinds of companies we were able to work with in this program: the first one providing actually consumer-facing types of solutions, way beyond the apps that help for instance manage one’s budget, investments, and so on. The second type was very much like internal tools that could be used by some of our advisors to basically gain more intelligence from our data and better projections to serve our customers better in the end,” Philippe says.

One of the second type companies is Responsive AI which partnered up with OP in the latest Wealthtech program.

“Responsive AI is a Canadian company who came up with a quite solid and a mature tool to help private advisors reading from data the type of investment and help the advisors to prioritize who would actually be the customers needing help with their investments,” Philippe explains.

“Company like Responsive AI is an expert in the field of AI and private finance. Obviously, they have gained lots of experience with various deployments worldwide and we wanted to work with them to also learn how this is done in the proper way,” he continues.

“The biggest challenge in our collaboration was the 9-hour time difference which was the only thing that was holding us back. For instance, we couldn’t have any long workshops. But still, any needs that came up were addressed the next day and we were still able to work with a responsive and iterative manner. They are a great bunch of people”, Miikka adds.

“Startups usually move quickly and that was the case with Responsive AI as well. This kind of startup partnership model is a great way for trying out and introducing new products to our customers. There’s such accuracy in speed in which startups move and they utilize new technology which enables scaling and services quickly but still starting small and piloting in a very agile and iterative manner. Working with Responsive AI was a great experience,” Miikka says.

Listen to the whole interview on Spotify >>

Episode content

  • Startup collaboration at OP
  • What are smart programs?
  • Startup collaboration: Wealthtech program and Responsive AI
  • Tips for running a startup collaboration

Episode time: 18:42 min

Let’s continue the discussion online! Connect with Philippe, Miikka and Kristian on

You can contact Miikka and Philippe also via email: miikka.niemelä@op.fi & philippe.santraine@op.fi