Did you see the two nerdy MarCom guys flooding the #BAIBeacon hashtag in Orlando? That was us. And we just want to be clear that we’re not ashamed.
Because we’re constant students and two of us have a history in banking and financial technology, True Digital Communications was proud to sponsor and attend #BAIBeacon 2018, the Bank Administration Institute's forward-thinking industry conference. It enabled Sean and Chris to reconnect with their banking and bank technology roots while learning more about how the industry has changed over the last half-decade and how True can help.
To that end, we noticed a few things and wanted to through them out there for consideration based on our formerly-insiders-now-outsiders perspective:
Overall, companies in the financial services industry have a great opportunity to push ahead and banking services better match consumer and employee expectations. Here’s how:
1) Many large financial service organizations are still siloed when it comes to communications, marketing and operations functions.
As strategic communications nerds with creds from PRSA to IABC, we knew communication silos would be an issue. But in a landscape that is shifting rapidly from brick-and-mortar to digital and from checking/savings to more robust financial services, managing change needs cross-functional teamwork -- which means cross-siloed communication.
The type of change happening in banking necessitates that management and communication leaders at all levels are aligned. This means leveraging two-way communication across marketing and employee engagement. From customer service up through executive planning. It means extending beyond email and meeting face-to-face to foster truly integrated communications across silos with the 3 Cs.
Changing a large organization is never easy, but constant change makes communication critical--internally and with partners. Have a plan and operation that facilitates this.
2) The impetus for change exists in financial services and people are highly motivated to make necessary changes -- both to secure operations and meet a shifting landscape.
Meeting people at a conference like BAI Beacon makes it easy to get excited. Highly motivated, award-winning top performers all meeting and “nerding out” in one place? We felt right at home.
That said, change doesn’t come easy. And even when a dynamic leader -- like keynote speaker Kat Cole of Focus Brands -- helps to push an organization in the right direction, getting all employees to follow suit can be an operational exhaustion. Translate this to getting customers and business partners to change with you, and the effort needed becomes herculean without the right approach.
Knowing what needs to be done and doing it are two different things. Communications tools -- for talking to your organization, customers and prospects -- are essential to realizing change management. HINT: you need a mix of digital and face-to-face.
3) Some large banks are doing stellar, unsung work in terms of communications operations and general process improvements.
True’s main reason for being at BAI Beacon was to sponsor the Executive Roundtable for strategic communication. And we were impressed with what we heard. Despite point #1 above and the general lay of the land in professional services when it comes to communication, we heard from some of the world’s largest financial services organizations who sent their top brass to learn more and share their activities.
Sean has been in these roles before so was able to join the convo in-step, sharing ideas and process from his time in banking and other industries. A theme of the afternoon discussion was efficient communication process driven by principals like Lean, Six Sigma and Agile -- all manufacturing-based process that can help professional services and MarCom functions achieve better results based on a defined set of resources.
Communications operations are key to success in large organizations -- even better when those operations extend beyond just MarCom functions. Success from other industries should be learned and shared.
4) Security is STILL an underserved and growing concern across major banks and FIs -- despite major failures like Target and Home Depot.
The vulnerabilities of banks due to legacy systems that are less sophisticated than many of today’s hackers left many attendees at BAI Beacon scratching our heads at what it will take to move the industry ahead even further (read: to the point where it should be).
Some FinTech security companies are doing really cool things in the space that should be expanded -- but their booths with surefire solutions were not the most popular. Especially where online transactions are concerned, risk abounds and financial institution investment in data security lags. Furthermore, secure tech still leaves open the most common vulnerability: humans. To protect your financial institution (FI) and consumer data from security breaches, FIs must also engage their employees in the fight.
It may take another Equifax breach -- and exploitation by media and consumers -- for banks to shift their operation and properly invest in securing consumer data.
5) Financial Technology companies are still talking about the same things they were talking about five years ago -- but they’re taking action too.
“I heard a lot of familiar messaging, ideas and themes at Beacon that I knew from my time in the space circa 2012,” said Sledzik. “But it was good to see some tangible examples of things like ‘frictionless technology’ and ‘online-to-offline’ banking.”
While many of the examples are happening overseas as opposed to in North American banking, as a whole it appears that both FinTech companies and large financial institutions have answered the consumer call to make banks easier to use. That said...
There is still room to improve both customer acquisition and consumer satisfaction when it comes to banking technology -- technology must meet today’s consumer expectations (e.g. mobile, chat, anytime), and opportunity abounds for mid-sized banks to catch up.
Our end takeaway: We went to Orlando to learn -- and we did.
The primary goal of our trip was one thing: LEARN. Our founder Chris Baldwin also had a requisite number of business cards we were supposed to give/receive , but overall we saw this conference as what it is billed for: a great opportunity to meet, learn and connect.
The smattering of observations above doesn’t necessarily add up to an “ah-ha” moment, but they do show some promising opportunities for both banks and their FinTech partners to connect with each other, their employees and customers in a meaningful way. Ultimately, this spirit of connection is what Beacon is all about: sharing innovative ideas and having rich discussions that lead to a better future. We hope this blog post does the same.
And, ultimately we were reminded of something...
Banking isn’t boring, and the space is moving far more than it has in decades past. Technology disruptions and online alternatives are real, even if many issues and questions are the same as 30 years ago. Recruiting and retention. Compliance and security. Differentiation and customer acquisition.
Being close to the action is fun -- and True plans to stay there for a while.
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True has come a long way since February 1, 2011. What started as a one-man, two-pug team quickly evolved into something much greater.
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