After 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.
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.
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?
Marley 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.