Santander has announced the winners of its ‘Big Ideas’ competition, set up to identify transformational ideas to overcome some of the key technological issues and bring digital innovation to the financial industry, at an awards ceremony in London.

Three teams have been named as the winners of the competition:

  • Lancaster University for their project Gryphos received £5,000
  • University of Surrey for their project Encord received £5,000
  • Aston University for their project Applying Ontology received £5,000

In addition the University of Strathclyde, with its project - Rhythm Tapping - won the Santander Creative Thinkers award for the most creative idea receiving a prize of £3,500.

Matt Hutnell, Divisional Retail Director at Santander Universities said: “It’s vital that we encourage and reward entrepreneurial students to dare to challenge and innovate. Through Big Ideas, we asked students to create unique, forward thinking solutions with the potential to transform the sector.

The Winning Ideas
Project Gryphos saw Kyaw Tun Sein, Sebastien Combret and Patrizia Carbone from the University of Lancaster develop a combination of fingerprint, voice, heartbeat and SMS recognition for password authentication.

The University of Surrey’s Abdullah Al-Shakarchi and James Telfer developed 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.

PhD Computer Science student Nazmul Hussain from Aston University developed a prototype ontology model to support and improve semantic search enabling customers to find products and services more easily.

PhD Pharmacy student Jo Zhou from the University of Strathclyde, won the creative thinkers award for digital authentication through rhythmic tapping, using a favourite song for example, on a mobile device.

Matt Hutnell added: “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 fostering digital innovation that will ultimately add value by creating more choice and convenience for our customers.”

The competition, which has a £20,000 prize fund, called upon bright, creative student minds to put forward their ideas, and also offered finalists the opportunity to work closely with Santander’s Innovation team to develop prototype solutions whilst retaining ownership of their work.

The Big Ideas Executive Judging Panel included:

  • Juan Olaizola - Chief Operating Officer, Santander UK
  • Sigga Sigurdardottir - Head of Customer and Innovation, Santander UK
  • Edward Metzger - Head of Innovation T&O, Santander UK (Panel host)
  • Sergio Varela - Head of Solution and Innovation at ISBAN UK
  • Michelle Kent - Head of Digital, Santander UK
  • Aurore Hochard - Head of Entrepreneurship Programmes, Cass Business School

For more information on the competition please visit:


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Notes to Editors

The Big Ideas competition has a £20,000 prize fund, split into:

  • Best overall phase 1 submissions: up to 30 prizes of £50
  • 3 winning entries with a prize of £5,000 each
  • Santander creative thinkers award for the most forward-thinking proposal: £3,500

Finalists also have the opportunity to:

  • Develop ideas with engagement from Santander’s Innovation team
  • Present their idea to Santander’s senior and executive teams
  • Gain valuable experience for their CV
  • Apply academic theory to real business challenges
  • Students retain the right of ownership for their ideas and prototypes

Best overall phase 1 submissions were awarded to:

UniNameCourseSummary of idea
Aston UniversityDeji LayadeStrategic Marketing Management (MSc)Using spending patterns for initial risk validation and facial recognition.
University of LancasterSebastien Combret & Patrizica CarboneMSc International Innovation (Design, Design& Engineering)Combination of fingerprint, voice and SMS recognition as a means of validation.
Bournemouth UniversityAdam RutherfordForensic Computing and SecurityAuthentication through an invisible text to phone and an added layer of security that uses shaking/movement of phone for validation.
Bournemouth UniversityFlynn Wallace AcworthCyber Security ManagementBiometric Security to provide two factor authentication, implemented by using current mobile technologies.
University of the West of England, BristolThomas James CottrellMSc FinanceGeneration of on-demand 3D charts and graphs to support customer/advisor meetings.
University of HertfordshireDaniel Barry, Robert Northard, Jack Buggins, Oliver Olding, Kyle HurtchingsComputer Science x5Creation of a multi-pillar trust system for online authentication that relies on human traits.
University of WalesRajeev BeraMBA with specialisation in Banking and FinanceIntegration of a semantic search model for general banking.
University of SurreyAbdullah Al-Shakarchi & James TelferMEng Electronic Engineering and Space Systems x2Smart systems that understands customer/advisor conversations and can support the completion of data entry during the interview process to maximise advisor engagement with customers.
University of StrathclydeJo Zhou
PhD in PharmacyAuthentication using rhythmic tapping on a mobile device.
Aston UniversityNazmul HussainPhD Computer ScienceDevelopment of a prototype ontology model which will support the implementation of semantic search in a banking context.
City UniversityCristian Alexandru Ghita & Swetha Bobba SampathMSc Cyber Security, Electrical & Electronic Engineering PhDUsing a customer’s heart rhythm for authentication.
City UniversityTasnim Ahmed & Akash JoshiMSc Cyber Security x2Use 3D virtual reality technology combined with preselected notes as a form of authentication.
University of EssexEmeka OnwuezobeEconomicsA one stop mobile banking app which features voice driven banking to support basic customer queries.


About Santander Universities
Santander has been collaborating with universities for more than 19 years on a unique global initiative which sets the bank apart from other national and international banks and financial institutions. The bank supports the Higher Education sector in such areas as teaching and research, international cooperation, knowledge and technology transfer, entrepreneurial initiatives, student mobility and innovation. Santander has signed collaboration agreements with over 1,200 academic institutions from America, Asia and Europe. Santander is already collaborating with 81 British Universities with agreements focused in promoting international exchange, entrepreneurial activities, employability and the mobility of students and researchers within the network.

Santander UK is a financial services provider in the UK that offers a wide range of personal and commercial financial products and services. It has brought real competition to the UK, through its 1|2|3 products for retail customers and relationship banking model for UK SMEs. As at 31 December 2015, Santander UK was one of the most switched to banks. The bank serves more than 14 million active customers with c. 20,000 employees and operates through 857 branches and 70 regional Corporate Business Centres. Santander UK is subject to the full supervision of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) in the UK. Santander UK plc customers are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the UK.

About Us
Banco Santander (SAN.MC, STD.N, BNC.LN)
is a leading retail and commercial bank, based in Spain, with a meaningful market share in 10 core countries in Europe and the Americas. Santander is the largest bank in the euro zone by market capitalization and among the top banks on a global basis. Founded in 1857, Santander had EUR 1.51 trillion in managed funds, 13,000 branches and 194,000 employees at the close of 2015. In 2015, Santander made attributable profit of EUR 5,966 million, a 3% increase with respect to the previous year.

For more information contact: Carlos Leira. Marketing and Communications Santander Universities UK. Telephone: 02077564575

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