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Bringing the start-up in-house with Leap by McKinsey

Leap by McKinsey brings the energy of a start-up to corporations, helping to build winning digital businesses.
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What does it take to jumpstart new businesses?

“If you’re not reinventing your business every five years, you risk losing relevance,” says Neal Larkin, a design Associate Partner in the Firm’s Digital Labs group. “For businesses to stay competitive today, they’ve got to be thinking that way.”

Enter Leap by McKinsey, a dedicated group of consultants that partners with clients all over the world to build winning digital businesses. “We’re about doing,” explains Ari Libarikian, a Senior Partner and global leader for Leap. “Many companies spend a lot of time thinking and talking about the future. Leap is all about getting them there quickly by building on the parent company’s strengths.”

Leap teams feature a diverse mix of business-building experts, including specialists in analytics, design, and tech. Most of these colleagues have launched their own successful businesses before joining McKinsey, which means they understand the capabilities a business needs to survive and thrive. “From day one, we build for our departure,” explains Ari. “The goal is to train the muscle for our clients to then sustain and grow long after we are gone.”

To date, Leap teams have led over 200 business builds, many in less than 12 months. Ralf Dreischmeier, a Senior Partner and global leader for Leap, explains that Leap’s way of working is a big contributing factor. “We co-locate with our clients and use an agile model to move quickly. We bring the benefits of a start-up to a corporate environment, and lower risk at the same time.”

Read on for some examples of Leap’s impact.

Streaming sports in Australia

“Think video on demand for sports but cooler,” says Clayton O’Toole, a Partner in our Strategy & Corporate Finance practice. That’s how he describes the over the top (OTT) service he and his team built with a multinational media conglomerate that launched earlier this year.

Only about 25 percent of Australians have traditionally paid for sports content, but over 50 percent consider themselves passionate sports fans. Leap worked with our client to seize that opportunity, building an entirely separate streaming business that leverages all of the parent company’s sports rights.

The Leap team worked closely with the media company across content selection, pricing and packaging, tech-vendor selection, legal requirements, and talent sourcing. Extensive user research through deep structured interviews meant the prototypes and wireframes reflected what customers really wanted.

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“The way you engage with sports should be very different from how you watch movies and TV,” explains Eleni Watts, an Associate who spent 15 months as chief of staff to the company’s CEO. “With sports, you have the ability to deliver unique and interactive features with a greater degree of personalization.” Testing and iterating with customers helped the team finetune service features like in-game catch-up highlights and a ‘no spoilers’ mode.

So far, this approach is working well. The streaming service is on an impressive growth trajectory, having reached 15 percent of the client’s subscriber base in just six months.

Digital banking in the Caribbean

For a 175-year-old Caribbean financial institution, becoming the first agile and design-led bank in the region meant creating entirely new customer experiences. Call center frustration was replaced with easy-to-use online banking; 10-day lending approvals were cut to three minutes; and opening an account became a 30-minute appointment, instead of a three-to-five-day slog.

“Design thinking and agile practices had yet to be used in any industry in this market,” says Design AP Neal Larkin. “So embedding this way of working was an exciting challenge.”

Over the course of 12 weeks, the Leap team partnered with McKinsey’s Digital Academy to build and pilot a capability learning program that would turn 20 employees into design thinkers. By 24 weeks, the team had shadowed and coached over 200 employees and established 13 agile teams. They’d also worked closely with HR to create and source talent for new roles like user experience designers, engineers, and data scientists.

“We were focused on making design part of the culture,” says Neal. “This means putting the customer at the center of the problem you’re trying to solve, understanding how to do customer research and map out user journeys, and having the technology in place to build minimum viable products (MVPs).”

The digital transformation helped the bank surpass $10 billion in profit and beat the local stock market record of $26 million, and helped create a group of employees with valuable new skills.

Digital lending in the Netherlands

For years, the lending market was the main source of revenue for a Dutch bank. But recently, that space has become increasingly competitive. So the bank turned to Leap for help.

Leap built what Senior Partner Mieke Van Oostende calls a “speed boat”: a digital-lending business for small and medium-sized enterprises. “We had a ton of freedom to move really quickly and test and play in this project,” she says.

Ideation sessions helped shape the product, a clickable prototype brought it to life, and customer tests guided development. “We defined a cadence of work built on agile,” explains Fernando Figueiredo, an Associate Partner. “This allowed us to move fast and keep improving the product.”

The team worked as one unit in one location over two-week sprints. Daily check-ins ensured close collaboration between disciplines, particularly tech and design. “We weren’t working as traditional consultants,” says Mohcine Ouass, another Associate Partner. “Our roles were more like founders and entrepreneurs bringing varied skillsets together.”

After six months, the digital lending business was live with customers, and had 40 full-time employees. It boasted impressive features, including 15-minute loan decisions and cash delivered in less than a day, earning the highest net promoter score in the market after just a year and a half.

Learn more about Leap by McKinsey

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