What’s on your weekend to-do list? For some hungry developers, the opportunity to get their work in front of industry heavy-hitters beats the pants off smashed avocado at their local cafe.

When you think of hackathons, your initial thought may not be a big bank, a think tank and a group of developers working full-pelt together all weekend to solve problems for the health sector.

Yet that’s exactly what NAB’s involvement in two recent hackathons delivered.

While the teams were competing for cash prizes of up to $6,000, the longer-term reward was the opportunity for successful teams to continue working with NAB, the newly-established Macquarie Park Innovation District and their partners to commercialise their idea, says James Bligh, NAB’s Senior Manager for Commercial Feasibility.

The winner of NAB’s very first hackathon, held in December 2014 by NAB Labs, Localz is now working with NAB on a new innovation for the health space. ‘Medipass’, to be launched later this year, allows consumers to manage their medical appointments, payments and claims all within a single app. NAB has a long history with the health sector, including running the industry-wide HICAPS health claims and payments solution, which gives the bank a wealth of valuable data to call upon when developing health-focused solutions.

"Our hackathon initiative was driven by the executive team with the goal of disrupting ourselves," Bligh says. "These events produce some great apps but the biggest benefit for NAB is that we learn so much."

"As a big organisation it's easy to stay within your own four walls and have a limited view of the real world, but hackathons offer a great way for us to bring in new thinking, try new things and expand our view of the world."

Thinking big

NAB's hackathons give NAB and partners the opportunity to innovate like start-ups, and teams of developers the chance to spend an intensive weekend building new apps and services which leverage the bank's existing data and IT systems.

Unlike typical start-ups, these hackathon developer teams – drawn from a cross-section of business and academia – have the full resources of the corporate world at their disposal. This year's Sydney MPID Healthcare Hackathon, in partnership with NAB, was hosted in February by the Macquarie Park Innovation District, while the Melbourne event was held on the same weekend at Telstra's Exhibition Street headquarters. Panels of technology and business experts were on hand at both events to help the teams bring their ideas to life, from partners such as Fishburners, Telstra, Macquarie University, Singtel Optus, Johnson & Johnson and Konica Minolta.

The 15 teams competing in Sydney were set the challenge of using NAB’s unique data sets and APIs (otherwise known as application programming interfaces) to develop solutions to support, empower and provide insights to health industry customers. Meanwhile Melbourne's 17 teams each chose from two challenges - how might NAB help customers move to easier, faster, richer payments? Or how might the bank help customers build, monitor and manage their wealth?

Over the course of the weekend, Sydney's winning team developed a streamlined mobile billing and payment service for hospital patients to manage the invoices issued by all their different practitioners such as specialists, surgeons and anaesthetists

In Melbourne, the winning team developed an app called Money Monster which helps parents teach their children about managing their money.

Forging relationships

For Macquarie Park Innovation District – founded in August 2016 – the hackathons are a microcosm of the district's wider mission to drive Australian innovation by forging stronger multilateral relations between academia and industry, says Nathan Plummer, Macquarie University's Corporate Engagement Manager.

"The idea behind hosting a NAB hackathon is not only to help put Macquarie Park Innovation District and Macquarie University on the map in terms of being a start-up destination and an innovation nexus, but also to forge relationships beyond bilateral partnerships," Plummer says.

"These kinds of initiatives are what make Macquarie Park Innovation District more than the sum of its parts, creating an ecosystem which ultimately benefits not just the university or a specific organisation but the Australian economy as a whole, establishing us as a start-up nation and an innovative nation of forward thinkers."

Enabling customers

For NAB, the hackathons offer the opportunity to embrace new ideas and keep pace with industry disruptors, while ensuring the bank remains focused on great outcomes for its personal and business customers, says Phoebe Yang, Associate Director of Government Education & Social Infrastructure.

The rise of industry disruptors like Uber in the transport sector, challenging industry stalwarts by focusing on improving the customer experience, is a wake-up call for sectors like health which are ripe for disruption, Yang says. Data is becoming a powerful tool for both patients and providers, empowering them to make better decisions and allowing greater collaboration between different stakeholders in the health ecosystem.

"Hackathons and the relationships we forge are indicative of a broader shift towards collaborative ecosystems which is required to meet the challenges of the future," adds Spiro Pappas, Executive General Manager of Corporate & Institutional Banking.

"For NAB it's co-creating and working with the wider community, while keeping the focus on solving customer problems. We have a long history in the health industry and with that comes a large amount of health transactional data from which to draw insight."

"The result is a customer-centric approach rather than a technology-centric approach which is all about enabling our customers to be more successful – whether that's by enabling them to make money, save money, reduce risk or improve their own customer experience.

“Technology is an enabler, but at the end of the day it comes down to how we work with people and the community."

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