Past the room with the ping pong table and the abstract structure of stacked white Lego-like blocks, yellow and peach colored Post-It notes dot the length of a two-dozen-foot-wide wall like a heat map.
On the third floor of this Cary, N.C., industrial park building (above ailing smartphone maker BlackBerry's offices) is Deutsche Bank's software production studio.
"This is a Silicon Valley type operation," says Kristopher Tyra, who heads customer-facing apps for the innovation lab. "This is where you can write on the walls."
The space is Deutsche Bank's stab at bringing more software development in-house.
Executives created the division after being inspired several years ago by software companies innovating in the Valley.
The place is definitely a startup, Tyra says, while excitedly pointing out bearded and tattooed employees in short sleeves and shorts. However, it's one inside of an established bank well-known for its bureaucracy. It's an effort that's less about big successes and more focused on fast failures.
The types of employees you find here are not the same as the ones you would meet in Deutsche Bank's traditional offices, Tyra jokes. He points to a sombrero that sits on top of a life-size Justin Bieber cut-out that developers award to the programmer who screwed up the code that day.
The office space, roughly half a football field in size, is a critical piece of the bank's four-year-old DB Global Technology division, which works mainly on the software surrounding the bank's global transaction business.
And the tiny patches of paper that line the wall map out the global universal bank's latest iteration of its Financial Supply Chain Manager app. The software one of as many half a dozen updates made a year sits inside Deutsche Bank's Autobahn App Market.
Impressive, especially when considering the scope of the regulatory rigors any one application has to go through. Deutsche Bank operates in 70 different countries, abiding by both European and American banking laws, among others.
But just two and a half years ago, DB Global Technology wasn't a full-fledged innovation lab. A five-semester partnership with nearby North Carolina State University, which matches its engineering students with bank employees on design projects, elevated the division to that status.
You see, in 2008, Deutsche Bank's chief technology officer and global COO came to the idea after visiting Silicon Valley vendors and tech giants such as Google and Salesforce.
"Software companies do what we do they build software at a large enterprise scale and they deploy it," says John Eagleson, COO for DB Global Technology Inc. in Cary. "And that started the process."
A year later, in August 2009, a floor at 3000 Centre GreenWay, right outside of Raleigh, was being rented out.
Deutsche Bank was looking for a place that had what Eagleson calls stickiness. "Somewhere people wanted to live," he says. "It has a very high quality of life and a competitive cost of living."
More importantly, Cary is close to North Carolina State.
"The thought is if we start to create a curriculum, we can create a technology center where investment banking would thrive," says Tyra, a serial entrepreneur in his own right and the son of a Midwestern composer, who is dedicated to turning this part of North Carolina into a fintech hub complementary to the banking capital in Charlotte.
"We are trying to build a new generation of banks."
He talks about fintech in the same way you might think about good music people just get it without instruction.
"I don't believe in user manuals," Tyra says. "Our applications should be self-learning."
No doubt, others in the region are thinking the same way. Both Credit Suisse and Fidelity have established operations close by, says Tyra.
And, so far, Deutsche Bank has had success with its collegiate alliance, luring roughly 15 developers right out of the university and away from sexier startups, he says.
In fact, in the two and half years the bank has been actively working with the university, five classes of seniors and graduate students have worked to come up with new ideas for Deutsche Bank.
One of those projects a social networking system that lets salesmen create dossiers on bank customers is currently working its way through the bank's London office.
Part of the allure of working with college students is the low cost of research at a public university.
Deutsche Bank only shells out about $20,000 to the university, which then pools that cash with similar amounts from other private companies that work with students to buy supplies.
The fruits of those investments are evident. NC State's library is wild.
Inside, there is an immersion room so-called because computer monitors and equipment can mimic the real-life atmosphere of, for instance, a battleship at sea and a conference room that projects the equivalent of thousands of sheets of paper in 3-D along the walls. The place even holds a modest 15,000 square-foot data center that cuts down on latency and data transmission speed issues.
The innovation lab is a sign that the commercial bank is one of the few that are investing less in vendors and more on home-grown technology.
The bank hopes to grow the number of programmers here to a group of roughly 800. Today there are already 300 a third more than last year.
The 40,000-square-foot office will soon expand to 105,000 square feet (read: the inside of an average Home Depot). The aim is create a culture where design and production are merged together, and progressive software design thrives.
Deutsche Bank is spending the necessary dollars (Tyra blushes when asked how many) trying to make that happen.