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Highlights of 2014 American Banker Marketing and Innovation

American Banker Marketing & Innovation Conference Highlights

I attended the American Banker – Financial Services Marketing & Innovation Symposium in New York in September and wanted to share some of my personal highlights from the event. Some of the talks were important enough that I have written separate posts about them, linked to below).

Banks Refresh Perspectives on the Young and the Underbanked

Digital Banking at JP Morgan Chase

There was a wide variety of themes and speakers ranging from the largest financial institutions in the world to some of the smallest. But with that said, I’ll try to group my take-aways for easy digestion under three customer categories…after all, it’s the “age of the customer”.


The unbanked & underbanked

Factors such as “a lack of trust post the financial crisis of 2008” combined with groups like millennials simply rejecting the banking sector have resulted in the unbanked / underbanked proportion of US households rising to 32%...that’s one serious market segment. And it’s not going unnoticed by the banks. These customers have previously been the target of select financial organizations, but now they are the target of global powerhouses like American Express with their AMEX Serve and BlueBird products. Amex are trying to help consumers avoid an estimated $40,000 of unnecessary banking fees in their lifetime by providing the un-banked and under-banked with the Convenience and Liquidity that they need day to day.

The FDCI pointed out that 33% of unbanked and 65% of underbanked households have smartphones, making mobile banking an essential part of reaching and servicing this enormous customer segment. In fact, 32% of underbanked customers use mobile as their primary banking channel as opposed to 22% of fully banked customers. (FDIC report here on Mobile Financial Services and Economic Inclusion

There will be an increased focus from the broader banking sector, following the lead of organizations like AMEX, to deliver products and services for the unbanked and underbanked consumer. And if we can learn from the AMEX experience, addressing the unbanked/underbanked comes down to “show me you know me, reflect who I am and respect me” – surely relevant messages for every customer segment?



So what of those millennials – it would be fair to say that most in the banking sector view this consumer segment with confusion. But they need to be taken seriously. Covering those born 1981 to 2000, they are the largest generation in American history making up 39% of today’s workforce and 40% larger than GEN X.

An enlightening presentation by Anne Hubert of Scratch (part of Viacom) helped me (and many others I spoke to at the conference) understand the millennials a little better. In the context of the banking system, I’ll highlight the following key points:

  1. Millennials are disrupting industries and according to a Scratch survey of 10,000 individuals, banking is next on the agenda because;
  2. 53% say “my bank doesn’t offer anything difference that the other major banks” and as a result;
  3. 1/3 of them are open to switching banks in the next 90 days (that’s 33% of 84 million!);
  4. 3/4 of them don’t believe financial innovation will come from banks with;
  5. 50% of them rooting for tech-startups to totally overhaul the way banks work.

Anne encouraged the banks to view millennials, not as “entitled”, but as having enormous “potential” – a confidence that has been fostered by the way their parents have raised them. She encouraged the banking audience to “understand them like our future depends on it”.


The rest and bank service in general

And what about the rest of us fully-banked non-millennials – well the good news is that the banks are listening. As both Gavin Michaels from Chase and Brian Pearce from Wells Fargo explained separately…their banks are focused on understanding customer problems and solving for them (as Andy Lark ex-CMO of Commonwealth Bank of Australia put it – Moments of Dissatisfaction, Doubt and Desire). The banks are putting the customer at the heart of their innovation efforts to solve for real world problems.

And with interest rates at the lows they’re at, and fee-free checking accounts readily available…the prospect of your bank differentiating on the basis of service looks like it may be coming to fruition. It’s been talked about for a long time – but competition, consumer behavior and the prioritization of investment in digital services are making it a reality.

And to do this, the level of investment in marketing is accelerating and the skill sets are broadening. Tech / Digital skills are now critical to the marketing mix.

Companies like BBVA Compass in the US now have 2 years of experience and a team of 300 making data driven marketing investment decisions.

A number of speakers talked about the importance of combining right brain (creative and intuitive) and left brain (logical and analytical) talent in the marketing team – however, the broad recognition of this fact has created what some referred to as a “war for talent” particularly in the realm of Digital Marketing.

But it was refreshing to hear the importance of Test & Learn approaches in marketing. So senior executives are recognizing that their team’s best ideas and extensive market research could still be trumped by actual customer behavior – so being able to take an idea that you believe will succeed and put it in the market to “text & learn” is critical to hitting the mark with customers.

And on the subject of hitting the mark – PNC talked about the importance of “demonstrating” digital capability or functionality to customers. Short videos that tell them how to drive that new app they’ve downloaded and help the customer get to a point where using the app is “habitual”.


The entire service proposition was nicely summed-up by PNC saying “when a customer comes to us (online, on mobile or in branch) we want them to get what they came for in such a way that they want to come back.”


So – with all this focus on mobile and digital, why is it that an audit of a national bank in the US shows that for the 60 different products offered to the Consumer and Small Business segments (cards, checking accounts, loans, etc.)

  • 48% of those products to be opened/applied-for online
  • 5% have mobile friendly experiences for new customers

As I’ve written in a previous post – I’m aware of one lender that receives 51% of personal loan applications from smartphones.

There is an enormous opportunity to improve the multi-channel digital sales experience in banking. 



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