Corporate Entrepreneur Interview Series — Chett Matchett on setting up an internal innovation lab at ATB Financial

Iain Montgomery
Sep 6, 2016 · 6 min read

As part of our Corporate Entrepreneur interview series, we spoke with Chett Matchett, Director of Product Innovation for ATB Financial.

Market Gravity first met Chett a couple of years ago when one of her projects, a crowdfunding site called Alberta BoostR won the People’s Choice category at the Corporate Entrepreneur Awards.

IM: How did you find yourself in your current role within Business & Agriculture with ATB Financial?

CM: I was working on Alberta BoostR while I was with the Emerge Group (ATB’s group innovation team) which is a way for small businesses in Alberta to raise money through crowdfunding. Part of our model was to come up with a proposition, test it in the market place, and then decide whether or not the proposition was going to work for ATB or not. I packaged up the “formula for success” (aka the strategy) and while pitching to the Business & Agriculture (B&Ag) executive team to take on BoostR to scale into the marketplace, I was asked to move over to start an internal innovation lab environment.

IM: Tell me about some of the things you’re working on right now.

CM: Well there’s quite a lot! This year we were able to go from concept to launch in 4 months for two Entrepreneur Centres in Calgary and Edmonton to support startups and small businesses in the region. Our goal is to be the bank for Entrepreneurs in Alberta so it’s important we do everything we can to support them.

The team has also been working on a foreign currency platform called TradeFX. We identified that SMEs are underserved when it comes to foreign currency, that could be something as simple as paying an invoice abroad. The industry has often overcomplicated this and it leaves a poor experience for the customers.

I’ve also been working with one of my colleagues from the Emerge team, Sean Ballard, to help get something called ATB LendR to market. LendR is a platform for crowdlending, where Albertans, backed by ATB Financial can lend money to small businesses. Sean has put in a lot of work to design a great proposition that we now needing to drive to market. We are really excited to have our first funded loan.

We are also really excited about our newest proposition called, “Project X”. We will be launching this in November — so stay tuned for more details!

IM: How do you go about your role? Getting from concept to market?

CM: I bring a blend of Lean Startup & Design Thinking methodology to my work. Which helps to fuel what I think innovation is all about, a mix of creativity and execution.

One thing that I’ve learned is that you can’t just use these frameworks and assume you will be able to drive something innovative to market. You also need passion, perseverance, and persistence — which I would say is a part of the innovator’s DNA.

With TradeFX we identified the market gap, designed a solution with our internal teams and tested it with customers for about 3 months. The way I build my projects is 100% about collaboration with our customers. We listen, extract insights, and then iterate when it makes sense.

Part of my job is about figuring out “how” to do things differently. So whether or not a project scales or fails, there is always something valuable to extract that we can then use in a strategic way to inform “how” ATB does things going forward. I’m obsessed with the “how”, that’s where the magic really happens.

IM: Figuring out how to launch inside a corporation is a common challenge, how do you tackle that?

The people side is really important,there are lots of internal stakeholder groups that we need to consider and work with to launch something that is robust, compliant and right for the company. We have to bring them to the table to get a market test out. The teams include compliance, anti-money laundering, governance, risk, IT, legal, compliance, finance etc. I’m really lucky to be surrounded by a lot of really intelligent people that are all committed to making ATB better through the art of innovation.

IM: What would be your advice to other corporate entrepreneurs?

CM: The one thing that I think all successful companies, and projects have in common is: The belief that it can happen. What makes up that belief is that passion and perseverance inside of you.

One other thing, is listening to feedback in an objective way. Trying to understand the person that is giving the feedback, as well as the environment that surrounds them, helps me extract the appropriate insights I need in order to make something even better. Part of my job is to make innovation feel somewhat safe for people. So communicating the materiality of the risk helps to achieve that, and I find helps to move people from feeling “scared” to seeing the “possibility” — I always get excited when I see that happening.

IM: It seems the people side is really important to you.

CM: Absolutely. ATB has a mandate to transform banking for the benefit of Albertans. To do that, to me, it’s 100% about people. If our people don’t evolve with the times, then we won’t have the culture we need to be truly innovative. I believe that first and foremost ATB has the ‘people’, and will continue to attract the right “people” to truly transform banking. It’s going to be a really exciting next few years.

IM: What book would you recommend to people in roles such as yours?

CM: I recently read The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal. It’s not necessarily an “innovation” book. But I recommend it because some people think innovation is easy, but the reality is that sometimes it feels like you are the sole person standing in front of a herd of buffalo running full speed towards you. That can get stressful. So what I truly enjoyed about this book is that it repositions what “stress” is. Rather than thinking it’s something bad, that has negative impacts,research states that only the belief that it is bad, will lead to negative side effects. And rather, stress is your body preparing you and empowering you to take on what’s in front of you. Now that’s kind of exciting. When you “lean” in to what scares you, that’s really when new possibilities start to open up.I love it.

IM: As an innovator, who do you most admire?

CM: I’ve recently read Richard Branson’s autobiography, and found that to be pretty inspiring. He’s the ultimate risk taker and some of his success comes from a series of decisions that perhaps haven’t been fully thought through. He constantly seems to be putting out fires, but that process of iteration was required to find his success. You can’t innovate if you don’t iterate.

IM: What has been your biggest learning whilst at ATB?

CM: I keep coming back to the people. The relationships you hold with internal stakeholders are so critical, if people don’t understand where you’re coming from then you will find it very hard to get things done in a big company. You need to take the time to build those relationships. It’s so important.

IM: Do you have any final thoughts before we wrap up?

CM: I think it’s incredibly exciting that as a regional, government owned financial institution in Canada, we can be innovative and make things happen. That’s testament to our leadership team and our employees being focused on transforming banking for Albertans, but it also serves as a great example to any large organization.

To find out more about the Corporate Entrepreneur Interview Series, or Market Gravity. Contact or visit

Corporate Entrepreneur Interview Series

Market Gravity meets the people behind the best of big business innovation.

Iain Montgomery

Written by

Innovation Consultant. Former Market Gravity & Deloitte Digital. It’s Now or Never.

Corporate Entrepreneur Interview Series

Market Gravity meets the people behind the best of big business innovation.

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