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Key trends and critical insights from Jeffry Pilcher

 

Jeffry Pilcher, the CEO/President and founder of The Financial Brand, was the first speaker at the Strum Executive Innovation Summit and he delivered his ideas and insights on a wide range of issues reshaping banking today.

His mantra of “automate, accelerate and anticipate” not only prepared the group of credit union executives for what he was going to address, but it also was a construct of what the group was going to hear from all the presenters ahead at the summit.

His advice, perspective and knowledge shaped a wide range of strategic issues from data analytics and the emergence of machine learning, to artificial intelligence and predicative analytics, to the ongoing relevancy of brick & mortar networks.

He wanted to immediately put one old advertising idiom to rest that has belied marketers for decades… and that is the famous John Wannamaker quote that you learn in college — Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half. Pilcher is having none of that any more as he talked about innovation and relevancy fueled by financial institutions’ availability of data from their members financial picture.

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His primary point was this… your ability to perform data analytics that leads to insights that allows you to segment out your best and ideal members, which in turn leads to the personalization of actionable and meaningful dialogue is the holy grail of the next generation of marketing. Increasing your organization’s ability to be relevant on a 1:1 level is the goal. But he cautioned that the data itself has no value. It’s the ability to access it, to interpret it, to strategize to it and to implement it, is where the value is achieved. He described data as the fuel for future growth, and every FI has it, but right now there’s too many hurdles in the way to building out an easy way to leverage it all.

He lambasted FI’s continued dialogue around the need to market to millennials. He said that’s been mostly talk and little targeting. Now, instead, the focus needs to turn to Gen Z, but he warned to not fall into what he described as the “generational gap” as all generations want the same ideals of simplification and less friction, but the difference is the way you craft the dialogue and conversations that has to be tailored and timed to match the generation.

Another strong theme from Pilcher was around the relevancy of branches. He said that every study, every bit of research points to branches being important to all generations. But they certainly need to evolve to match the needs of consumers. Traffic and transaction counts are down, but they no longer are the metrics in which to judge a branch’s performance.

As long as there is psychological security (that’s where my money is), a well-tuned service component (account openings and conflict resolution), and physical instruments (cash, checks, cards), branches will continue to earn a top place on consumers’ channel preference hierarchy. However, he said that if you aren’t shrinking your footprint, migrating transactions to self-serve, and bolstering your sales and support, then you are in danger of turning your brick & mortar into ghost towns.

Pilcher also wanted to address innovation in banking. He cautioned about going down the wrong path and chasing every initiative. “Not everything is of value” he warned, and “you really need outside partners to help you sort things out strategically, and emphasized that 3rd parties are where innovation comes from, so make sure you connect with the right ones”.

He closed by addressing the banking community’s obsession with the digital component that gets miss-interpreted at so many levels. The focus, he emphasized should not be on digital transformation, but on transformation for a digital world. It’s still critical to be relevant with a brand-first strategy so that you can get on a person’s consideration set. Then, when established, leverage your brand strengths into a digital world. Member experience and expectation should drive digital transformation, not the desire to have the latest and greatest shiny toy because that is a zero-sum game.

Next in our series of posts from the Strum Executive Innovation Summit, we’ll capture cultural perspectives on brand from Dawn Hagen, Senior Leader, Brand and Storytelling, Microsoft.

— John Mathes, Director of Brand Strategy, Strum