In this installment of Geezeo One-To-One, Amy Hibbard spoke with Jim Marous, internationally recognized financial industry strategist, speaker, author and the publisher of both the Retail Banking Strategies section of The Financial Brand and the Digital Banking Report. They discuss his career highlights, thoughts on the industry, and what he believes the trends will be for financial services in the coming years.
Geezeo: How did you get into the financial services industry and how did that translate into you moving into the fintech industry?
Jim: My entire career has been in retail banking, from management trainee right out of college at National City Bank (now PNC), to becoming the marketing director of two banks in Ohio, and then having a long career as a marketing consultant for several agencies in North America. My most recent transformations occurred 4 years ago when I become the co-publisher of The Financial Brand and owner and publisher of the Digital Banking Report.
Geezeo: What is your greatest concern regarding the future of retail banking?
Jim: Without hesitation, my biggest concerns about retail banking have to do with the legacy cultures in the industry which inhibit growth, innovation, digital transformation and the enhancement of the consumer experience. This complacency is disguised by an assortment of catchphrases and initiatives that are not aggressive or proactive enough to make a difference.
Looking back over my 40-year career, I see many of the same challenges, such as a lack of a single consumer view, the presence of silos, the acceptance of status quo and the focus on cost as opposed to experience. The difference is that the consumer is now demanding a better experience and the technological advancements are moving forward at a pace never before seen. Just as concerning is the lack of ongoing investment in infrastructure and digital technologies, which has made it virtually impossible for small organizations to catch up. We are moving from a time when the discussion was around “too big to fail,” to a period of potentially “too small to succeed.”
Geezeo: In your opinion, what will the biggest trends be over the next 5 years?
Jim: Based on research at the Digital Banking Report, all the major trends over the next 1-5 years have a foundation of using data and advanced analytics to acquire, engage, onboard, cross-sell and increase the stability of relationships. For instance, the top 5 trends identified by banking executives worldwide at the beginning of 2018 were:
- Remove friction from the customer experience
- Use of data, AI, and advanced analytics
- Improving integrated multichannel delivery
- The expansion of open banking and open APIs
- Banking + fintech partnerships
These trends will only come to fruition when organizations start to move from building great reports, to creating great experiences with data and consumer insights. The difficulty we face, however, is in the talent shortage in building better data and insight foundations.
Geezeo: Since technology is always changing, what should FIs do to keep up with innovation?
Jim: For most organizations, it is not so much the need to keep up with innovation as it is with doing the most important things first. The only organizations that should be discussing blockchain, AR, VR and other new technologies should be the largest firms. Until the rest of the banks and credit unions do the ‘basics’ right, ‘keeping up’ is not a reality. The majority of organizations need to build an end-to-end digital account opening capability (no branch visit needed), an onboarding process for all new customers, an improved (and vastly simplified) mobile banking application and proactive financial alerts that show consumers that you ‘know them’, ‘look out for them’ and reward them’. For most organizations, keeping up with innovation is a luxury and a distraction. Getting the basics right is a necessity.
Geezeo: What does being a fintech influencer mean to you and how do you keep ahead of the trends?
Jim: The validity of the term ‘fintech influencer’ can be debated, when you compare what I do, to people who ‘build stuff’ or lead vast organizations. That said, I believe my ability to be mentioned as a ‘fintech influencer’ comes with a significant responsibility. People who know me best know that I live, breathe and love the financial services industry. My influence comes from what I write for The Financial Brand, what I research and publish in the Digital Banking Report and what I speak about to thousands of industry executives worldwide each year. My goal is to disrupt complacency in our industry and to encourage people to embrace change, take risks and disrupt themselves. This applies to both a person’s business life and personal life. With change happening so quickly, the requirement to be a lifetime learner has never been greater. More importantly, to make adjustments in what you do and what you’re good at needs to change as well.
With regard to ‘keeping up with trends,’ I practice what I preach. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to engage with some of the brightest in the industry with a phone call or quick text or Twitter DM. I also receive some of the best research in the industry to cover for The Financial Brand. As a result, I am continually draining my brain in my writing and presenting, so I have room to fill my brain with newer and better insights. I hope people see The Financial Brand and Digital Banking Report as a gateway to insights that can help them succeed. If they do, then I have lived up to some of the responsibility of being an influencer.
My transformation would not have been possible without the ongoing support of my wife, 20-year old son, extended family and the many people in the industry who encourage (and put up with) me every day. I am continually trying to ‘pay it backward’, to family, friends, and organizations who have given me so much.
Jim Marous is one of the most influential people in banking, and a top 5 Fintech influencer. He is the co-publisher of The Financial Brand, and owner and publisher of the Digital Banking Report. Marous speaks on innovation, customer experience, marketing strategies, channel distribution, payments and digital transformation. Jim has been featured by CNBC, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Financial Times, The Economist, The American Banker, Accenture and Forbes and has spoken to audiences worldwide. Marous has also advised the White House on banking policy and is a regular contributor and guest host for the Breaking Banks radio show.