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Published: 14 June 2016

Surrey students win at Santander ‘Big Ideas’ competition

An idea to improve customer service in the finance industry has netted two MEng Electronic Engineering and Space Systems students £5,000 from the Santander Big Ideas competition.

Abdullah Al-Shakarchi and James Telfer put forward their project, called Encord, to develop a smart system capable of capturing conversations between customers and advisors to enable automatic data entry during the interview process to save time completing applications.

The competition aims to identify transformational ideas to overcome some of the key technological issues and bring digital innovation to the financial industry.

As well as walking away with a cheque for £5,000, Abdullah and James gained advice from top industry experts and the opportunity to work closely with Santander’s Innovation team to develop prototype solutions.

James said: “We initially discovered the competition through the University’s Student Enterprise Newsletter. As we progressed to the final, we were paired with two professors in the Business and Electronic Engineering departments to assist us with commercial and technical aspects of our pitch. The competition was a superb exercise to develop our ability to generate ideas through short to long-term market vision and sell them to relevant stakeholders.”

Abdullah added: “The most thrilling aspect was the challenging executive committee presentation to a board which included Santander’s COO. This was an exceptionally unique and exceedingly valuable opportunity to have at university level.”

Matt Hutnell, Divisional Retail Director at Santander Universities, said: “The worlds of technology and banking continue to evolve at pace, and it is vital that we engage the brightest young minds to help shape this. Nurturing young talent and ensuring the right support and opportunities are in place are essential to successfully foster digital innovation that will ultimately add value by creating more choice and convenience for our customers.”

Surrey Business School’s enterprise strategy runs through its teaching and learning activities, developing graduates with enterprise skills and supporting future entrepreneurs. It is supported through student societies Student Enterprise and Surrey Entrepreneurs and there are a number of funding streams available, including Santander’s Big Ideas and the Wates Family Enterprise Trust which aims to foster social entrepreneurship amongst University of Surrey researchers.