Innovation Beyond Technology: Q&A With J.P. Morgan Payments’ Lori Schwartz

Lori Schwartz, Global Head of Liquidity & Account Solutions and Digital & Design at J.P. Morgan Payments, discusses fostering innovation within the corporate treasury with Global Finance.

GF: How has artificial intelligence affected your organization’s performance in the past year?

Lori Schwartz: We are looking at ways to harness the power of such technology to simplify and make our internal processes more efficient.

We have large amounts of extraordinarily rich data that, together with AI, can fuel better insights and help us improve how we manage risk and serve our customers. For example, our data solutions help harness a client’s data into actionable insights while helping them confidently navigate rapidly changing economic environments. With Forecasting through Treasurer Insights, clients can strengthen cashflow accuracy, increase cash availability return, and find previously invisible patterns via cutting-edge technology, including AI and machine learning.

Overall, there is enormous potential with technology and how creatively we deploy efforts in a targeted manner.

Has the investment ratio between keeping the lights on and innovation changed? Why?

Nothing has drastically changed in terms of investment ratio. We have always been committed to the cause of technology, and we continue to be a front-runner at various levels, leading by example in the industry.

We also evolve alongside our clients, and we are fortunate to continue to do the right things on their behalf, with the sponsorship and support to push forward on our ambitious tech investment agenda.

GF: What is the most misunderstood thing about having an innovation within the treasury?

Schwartz: A big misunderstanding is that innovation is only about technology. Innovation is more than improving your technology stack or rebuilding your platforms, such as treasury management systems, enterprise resource planning, or bank connectivity. It is also about transforming your process and approach to how business is led within an organization—it’s about creating efficiencies, changing mindsets and re-engineering to drive maximum gains.

Collaboration is critical to managing inefficient processes through innovation. Treasurers who take a long-term approach to technological development and work with technology and innovation teams can greatly impact business efficiency. With a seat at the table, treasurers can apply their financial expertise to advise on technology and cash flow in a way that creates operational efficiencies and saves costs.

GF: Which are the most common innovation-related pitfalls that organizations should avoid?

Schwartz: Some pitfalls that can hinder innovation include not having strategic alignment with key stakeholders, unclear or unvalidated benefits to the customer, lack of prioritization, and lack of long-term commitment to the program and resources needed.

GF: How have you changed your approach to innovation since starting your role?

In this role, I learned that innovation is not just about the next cutting-edge idea or opportunity. It is just as much about the path or journey to innovation, changing how we think about solving problems for our clients. For example, getting folks to see problems from the client or user’s point of view will fundamentally change how we solve problems in existing capabilities.  The outcome will almost always be an innovative solution. Also, sitting down and talking with our clients about their biggest challenges and trying to understand an experience from their point of view is critical to the innovative process.

GF: Does your team “move fast and break things?” If not, how does it approach innovation?

Schwartz: Moving fast is relative but involves alignment and buy-in across critical stakeholders and teams. The most important thing is to relentlessly and continuously prioritize. Competing priorities will challenge most big projects. Innovation requires extreme prioritization and commitment. Instead of “breaking things,” we focus on driving modernization across the ecosystem.

GF: What was the most important lesson you learned during your tenure?

Schwartz: Some important lessons I’ve learned include:

You can’t throw design on top of development; it must be deeply embedded in the organization’s fabric.

Our Digital Channels strategy in my Digital & Design portfolio must be omnichannel, which drives the data and architecture strategy and approach. This gives our clients the option of digitally engaging with our solutions. Whether sitting at a terminal, on the go with mobile or relying on machine-to-machine transacting, we can deliver what clients are looking for.

GF: How have the skill sets needed within the corporate treasury changed since you started?

Schwartz: The corporate treasury function has evolved from the back-office function to leading transformation from within their organizations. They are at the forefront of driving change, whether it is strategic planning for long-term business objectives, expansion plans or even execution of the innovation agenda.

Treasurers are savvy and leverage technology to solve day-to-day needs such as bank-agnostic reporting, virtual accounts and real-time liquidity. This frees their time and resources to focus on strategic projects and initiatives.

Not only are treasurers becoming technology experts within their functions, but they are also key agents of change and collaboration. Given the digital transformation that treasury is experiencing, collaborating across departments to inform effective outcomes is on the rise. Treasurers can create value by speaking the language of their peers across the business and leading with influence.

GF: How will your position change in the next five to ten years?

Schwartz: With an increased focus on innovation in the industry, we will continue to expand our capabilities and solutions to empower our clients.

Continued investments in areas such as the technology stack and expertise mean we can consistently build on our offering over the years.

As a team, we’re committed to continually raising the bar regarding quality. We want to ensure we meet and guide our clients at every step of the way through market movements and their evolution journeys.