#BISeattle16 Day 2

Dwolla CEOAfter Day 1 of Banking Innovation packed full of speakers from FinTechs and startups alike I was curious to find out what new information or bombshell quotes would come out of Day 2. The Banking Innovation Conference in Seattle was packed with speakers and Day 2 did not disappoint when it came to mic drop moments.

Ben Milne of Dwolla said in his session, “people who are out there to kill banks, pick a different fight”.  If that doesn’t get your attention from a startup about what this day contained, well than you don’t need to continue reading.

One of the ideas I really liked in the morning session came from Jill Castilla, President and CEO, Citizens Bank of Edmond in OKC.  As President and CEO she has seen troubled times for the community bank but pulled through utilizing innovation and social media.  Reaching out to customers in different methods and showing you care in a unique way has helped their bank excel.  They have since moved to unique micro-branches that are mostly unmanned whether it was through robo-tellers, digital ATMs and only have one location.  But it was important to note that, she helped to put her customer’s minds at ease through personal interactions online, talk about an innovative change management strategy.

Digital Panel
In the same session, Miranda Hill, VP & Manager from Wells Fargo Digital Labs describe something she was really excited about surrounding a live “test” branch that was now focusing on digital express tables.  Everything the customers can play with in the pilot and give real-time feedback.  This is a new approach vs. doing the traditional focus groups or surveys.  Now customers are playing with digital technologies in the setting where they could be using them in a less controlled environment.  To me this is so important because we can’t continue to only use traditional means to gain customer insights especially as “traditional” channels for banks are evolving.

The majority of the middle session was focused around the FinTech competition and the teams making their final pitches.  At the end of the 2 sessions with 11 team presentations – 8 minute pitches – the attendees voted and then it was up to the panel of judges to ask additional questions in a Shark Tank format to decide on the winner of Banking Innovation 2016.  The winner: SayPay which is a voice authentication platform that can be utilized to verify transfers.  As the team continues to work through all the use cases, they now have another award to add to their growing collection. Congratulations to SayPay. SayPay

During the conference, I had the pleasure of getting to talk to Steve Hoffman, the Founder and CEO of SayPay and he is such an impressive guy with a passion for his company which is so important to see from any startup that wants to succeed.  It was great to hear him describe his team and talk about their future goals. One tip I would give to anyone who is attending a conference where startups are pitching – pay attention to the team’s that are pitching, it may seem like the best time to catch up on emails but to that startup this is hundreds of thousands of hours of work wrapped into eight minutes.  To me, the best gift you can give to them is your attention because an attentive group only helps the passion shine through in their pitch and you can see a startups confidence grow with each word.  Steve reminded me of that as we spoke, and I definitely thought about some of the groups that I didn’t give as much attention too and for that I am sorry.  I am going to make it a point as I attend more pitches to give my full attention to the best of my ability.  There is a reverse side to that and it falls on the responsibility of the startups to have a pitch that is attention grabbing, easy to understand, and thought provoking.

The afternoon sessions were filled with quotes that I just loved because they all can be applied to so many things that are top of mind for many. Steve Streit, CEO of the Green Dot Corporation said something I loved, “If the product is not straight forward and self-explanatory we haven’t designed it right.” This is so true and the concept was seconded by a few other presenters. Ben Milne, CEO and Founder of Dwolla – noted the concept of consolidated control needs to become redistributed control within companies which to me is similar to the top-down, bottom-up, middle-out mindset.

Presenter after presented noted the concept of Innovation not being a job but a mindset.  If Innovation is going to work it can’t be a part time job, someone said and I think that is so true.  Innovation has to be engrained in you, it is not a function but a passion.  Innovation can be and should be in everything.  As we think about our customer’s behaviors, what do they want.  What methodology do we follow, the idea that Apple had of give the customer what they want before they know they want it or do we wait for our customer’s to tell us?

IMG_4946Marley Gray, Director of Technology Strategy, BlockChain & Financial Services at Microsoft said, “We always overestimate what you can do in one year and underestimate what you can do in 10.” Why are we in this mindset where in the near term we believe we are going to accomplish so much but when we plan ahead we are afraid to commit.  My thought is, are we afraid to commit to a 10-year plan when everything is changing so fast or do we not want to plan and have to be agile and adjust the plan to meet the times? Abhijit Bose, Head of Digital Intelligence at JP Morgan, summed it up though this is taken out of context, “Banks need to be more real-time then you can think about personalization.”  As we solve the problems of today we can’t all afford to act on the next generation of problems.

Nikhil Lele, Strategic Insights Leader at EY said something I thought really summed up the conference, “Innovation is the responsibility of everyone at the corporation, it can’t be top down or just a bottom up exercise.”  Now that I am back in Buffalo, it is time to start putting together a strategic plan for how to really get the message about Innovation and innovative thinking.  It can’t just come from me but I think I have a really good team in place that has the desire and passion to be innovative and think less like bankers and more like technologists who are ultimately trying to help our customers.quotes

#BISeattle16 Day 1

As we think about the next generation of banking, we have to think about it in a variety of aspects and Day 1 of the Banking Innovation Conference held in Seattle had a lot of thoughts to add to the conversation.

Several trends appeared to emerge from the day and a few really stuck with me.  The concept of Innovation Theatre evolved from Dan Kimerling, R&D Lead from SVB (Silicon Valley Bank) presentation.  This is particularly relevant as our model of what Innovation is at M&T is evolving.  The model is evolving to avoid doing exactly what Dan was discussing and that is putting on the show for the press regarding Innovation and having someone or a team of people that claim to be the only one’s innovating.  Now that may not have been the case for our team; however, it is the case with several other institutions and in some aspects everyone needs to take a look at what they are doing.  Is it truly innovation or is it all for show? Dan made note, having an open floor plan office is not innovation, which made me laugh because people have asked about our team’s space and what is innovative about what we do in the center. Scarlett Sieber, SVP from BBVA, noted that at BBVA, the management team had realized innovation could be utilized as an empowerment tool and have “vertical leads” in place who specialize in one area that FiDanKimerlingnTechs are focusing on which may be Bitcoin, P2P, Lending, etc. Your employees can be your biggest asset if you use them correctly. This concept is one of my biggest takeaways so far from the conference and I will be talking to the team when I return to the East Coast about how we can go about empowering this type of model and making this specialty for individuals a reality.

To go alone with the concept of R&D there is a challenge with what R&D means to banks?  We aren’t Apple or Google but we can do R&D. To Dan, R&D = Perspective + Processes + People, I liked this analogy and he had another great one when he said just like sports, you have to practice R&D.  Excellence is the goal, not perfection.  I think from a banking perspective we have to remember there are very few things we can do perfectly, we hope from the Feds and audit perspective we can perfect our BSA/AML or KYC practices but in the technology space perfection is hard – excellence can be achieved.

Another topic that was discussed by the CEO and founder of Ripple, Chris Larsen, was thinking about “disruption”.  He felt that disruption in FinTech focuses to much on the Fin and less on the Tech for FinTech teams.  He also commented on the transition of the millennial generation and how we are all moving that way.  This concept was seconded by Jonathan Rosen from PRN. We don’t just have to look at the true Millennial generation but also how the adopted millennial has moved digital, some would call this the difference because digital natives and digital immigrants.  My question is why are banks so focused on the millennial generation vs. looking at it broken down in this granular way – those born digital and those who have learned digital technologies as they have come out?

Chris LarsenStaying on the topic of millennial we have to think about what they like and don’t like, millennials have a distaste for hidden fees though they have a lower bar for trust in giving over information making them high targets for startups.  Matt Oppenheimer, stated that when building a startup in the FinTech space, you have to find a business that is scalable but you can’t scale without a strong network of Trust – millennials can help you.  Scarlett referenced that millennials make great customers when they love your product; however, they are quick to turn on you when they don’t and also jump ship if they like something else better.

Branch of the future has been a hot topic as of late and Jonathan Rosen had several things to say. We have to look at Branch of the Future as more tech, fewer people, and more devices. As we move to the “bank of the future” – Dan had an interesting perspective to say that based on behavior targeting, we should be showing our customers different versions of our online and especially the mobile platforms.  This is contextual banking but how many banks are truly ready for it?

POC PanelWe couldn’t talk about the conference without talking about the FinTech company founders that opened the show.  Joseph Pratner from dyme.co wants people to think about his company like Fitbit – taking small steps towards changing people’s behavior.  I loved this analogy and feel that a lot of people can understand it and draw a connection to it.  To me as someone who had never heard of dyme.co that statement made me want to look further into them.  So if you are someone who has trouble with saving, wants a savings “coach” or “buddy” dyme.co may be for you and it is your choice of how much reminding they are going to give you.

Biometrics has been a hot area for patents as of late with the bigger banks so I was surprised that the topic really only came up once in the first day. As far as passwords are concerned, the conversation shifted towards biometrics.  Liran Amrany said he sees the evolution of payments on your phone at the point of sale as much of a hassle as pulling out your credit card, the innovation will be when one can utilize their fingerprint and then say, a phone number or zip code. Joseph Pratner stated, the string of passcodes that we deal with now will be the evil joke that we look back on in 5-10 years which is funny to think because, what is the evil joke we look back on from 5-10 years ago in today’s world?  To me the joke is remembering people’s phone numbers because I know there are very few numbers I still remember. Will passwords be like that?

To conclude, Matt Oppenheimer asked the audience how many people in the room felt they worked for a technology company, about 5-10 people raised their hands of a full room (my guess 100-150 people). He then stated in his talk, “Banks that do view themselves as technology companies, will be the banks that thrive and succeed”.  But as one person on Twitter pointed out, you can’t forget about the customer’s needs while you create this technology.