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The gloomy overcast ride from O’Hare followed the crushing Bears loss to the Packers, so BAI had to distract us with something provoking. And, man, did it ever … with the Aliens-esque signs of bankers getting their brains sucked out (or was it minds being blown by presenters, not sure?).

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With a focus on digital banking and branch transformation, it was interesting to see the attendee list with lots of sexy new customer experience and analytics titles.


General Sessions

After Retail Delivery had some mushy general sessions a few years ago, this is the second year in a row we have seen some provocative stuff on the main stage.

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk implored the crowd to get beyond the marketing talk and stop marketing in the past. Vaynerchuk pointed to overpaying for slowly dying traditional media while consumers are actually looking at their phones and engaged in social all the time. His point that Uber sells time (nobody wants to keep submitting payment) as much as transport was spot on, and he encouraged us to test our marketing campaigns and double down on what works. Vaynerchuk delivered our second favorite Gonzo quote of the event (keep reading for the first favorite), “The adage ‘We’re regulated’ is a scapegoat from doing cool shit.”

John Mackey of Whole Foods encouraged the crowd to look outside their own business model for innovations as WF looks at the restaurant and tech sectors for many of its ideas, not just competitors. He appealed to bankers to talk about their value creation and higher purpose instead of just making money. “Banking is so vital and important but bankers have done the worst job of anyone at justifying their existence.”

Mark King of TaylorMade encouraged rapid prototyping and the institutionalization of free thinking by bringing outside perspectives. He also made 3,000 people think about golf and maybe buying more of his stuff for a half hour.

And, Sally Krawcheck’s interview with crowdfunder Danae Ringlemann of IndieGogo was compelling. Ringlemann said IndieGogo will be a banker’s friend because IndieGogo will take the risks banks will not and incubate the companies to get to loan-ready. Reminded us of how Lee Scott said Walmart would be the banker’s friend last year. GonzoBankers need to understand crowdfunding and learn how to mine more data to underwrite more and earlier.


Innovation Showcase & Global Innovation Awards

In BAI’s “demo” sessions, we liked that vendors Malauzai and D3 were out there showing some fresh user interfaces. We also liked that Fiserv Mobiliti brought out the R&D folks to show gadgets they were experimenting with across channels. Deluxe won the crowd’s award for demoing a Web-based alternative to its original SwitchAgent concierge offering from two years ago. Deluxe had halted marketing the prior offering due to challenges. From what we can tell, the big behind-the-scenes integration “gotcha” issues have not gone away, but Deluxe has people working on it. Keep your eyes on the early deployments we heard about at Suntrust and Numerica Credit Union. Our favorite demo was from Kiran Analytics, whose solution provides forecasting and collaboration among financial, staffing and customer experience decisions on branch and contact center staffing. Many of the sessions lacked demos and trafficked in platitudes. Worst practice of the sessions: “It’s an interesting time to be a bank and digital banking is part of an entire ecosystem.” Well, lah-dee-frickin’-dah! C’mon Avanade!

During the Global Innovation awards, an exec from Poland’s mBank pointed out that it’s the “blue screen of death” for a bank if its teams have to scheme the CEO for innovation resources. mBank claims 93% of its transactions and (get this) 82% of its purchases now come from digital, and it is seeing 20%-30% growth in new sales. We also liked Turkey’s Denizbank’s project that marries collections, lifetime value and CRM.


The Breakout Sessions

We certainly couldn’t attend them all, but we especially liked the rant Linda Verba gave on high performance culture at TD Bank. The self-proclaimed “Queen of Wow” identified TD’s top cultural irritants (systems, org structure) and discussed how it prioritizes, knocks out the list and keeps its heart in it. Favorite Gonzo quote of the event: “For 16 years, we’ve said our technology sucks … because it’s never good enough.” Verba encouraged small decisive working groups, dialog over PowerPoints and just a few measures of success. Pointing to creating sales opportunities with branch traffic declines, Verba talked about the power of instant issue/replacement debit cards and 1 million gift cards issued a year.

On a Fintech CEO panel dealing largely with vision, we liked Argo CEO Max Martin’s understated practicalities about eliminating paper in process and partnering with local universities for talent, a couple consistent themes we have also heard in recent GonzoBanker roundtables.

Fintech by the numbers: 5 CEOs, 10 stage lights, 2 flat panels, and 6 amps (with Hendrix-esque feedback)

Fintech by the numbers: 5 CEOs, 10 stage lights, 2 flat panels, and 6 amps (with Hendrix-esque feedback)

The “Transforming Customer Experience When Fraud Attacks” session was timely with Mike Young of EverBank getting specific about how the bank debriefs and learns from its voice of the customer calls. Tom McGill of First Financial Bank led a session with our own Jim Burson where McGill pointed to the risks of single-service customers, the importance of customers advocating for your brand, and getting bank reporting accountability simplified across channels.

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First Financial Bank’s GonzoBanker Tom McGill leads some coffee talk with Jim Burson.

GonzoBanker Vernon Williams from Bethpage talking benchmarks with Sam.

GonzoBanker Vernon Williams from Bethpage FCU talking benchmarks with Sam Kilmer.

Execs from Broadway Bank and U.S. Bank discussed universal bankers in one solid session with gritty details of higher satisfaction and retention rates of universals and the emphasis on knowledge (training and ongoing mentoring). Broadway Bank’s Jimmy Allen told a fun story about how Broadway’s universal bankers communicated across the branch with hand signals that would make any third base coach proud.

Barclaycard discussed its social media and crowdsourcing, including a site where customers share travel stories and openly discuss product options. U.S. Bank’s Dominic Venturo’s session on innovation rocked. Venturo implored the crowd to build teams that include experts, collaborators, inquisitive and tenacious life learners and troublemakers and discussed the bank’s 30-120 day pilot-to-production cycle and 40% success rate (“too high because we need to push harder and fail more to create more”). A great example included a tablet credit card origination app with instant approval, virtual card assistance, and (now in pilot) drivers-license optical character recognition to streamline input with initial results of 50% improvement in app/close rate.

We also heard good things about a “Collaboration and Cross Sell” session that BMO Harris’ Kyle Barnett led and a “Digital Consumer” session Jim Marous led that rolled up the sleeves with acquisition versus retention success measures.


The Expo

With the “Omni” proliferating the show’s talk, there were several vendors showing off their latest efforts at cross-channel integration of systems. DI/NCR had the prime spot at the Expo entry with lots of watchers joining their demonstrations and uGenius demos along with DI’s new head of sales, David Wetzel, who just came over from Diebold.

The big theme was branch of the future. As many as 20-30 vendors were displaying interactive video, next-gen cash dispensers with sportscar names like TellerInfinity and 9900, branch design/configuration solutions and services, and all things branch re-invention.

GonzoBankers Cynthia McAree and Jennifer Peart Hurst from Apple FCU check out the Expo.

GonzoBankers Cynthia McAree and Jennifer Peart Hurst from Apple FCU check out the Expo.

Maybe this was as it should have been. Branches are the biggest delivery expense by a bunch, and pretty much every executive we talked to is now staring at the reality of fewer and/or smaller branches in the short term. So, we get it. But here’s the question: will the transformation really be led by hardware and branch design vendors?

Meanwhile, the rest of omni was pretty much absent. With all the focus on digital engagement in the sessions, we were struck by the fact that the only consumer loan software vendors there with any presence were CRIF and D+H. Visa had a quiet presence that was a large part of focus on anything related to credit cards. Andera and MeridianLink were nowhere to be seen, and both D+H and Fiserv have origination but you wouldn’t know it because they were mostly talking about other things in their booths. Where are the new capabilities? Where are the signings? Where is the digital engagement energy?

And, there was not a single vendor of any sort showing even the beginnings of an approach/solution for social media. So, isn’t retail delivery about consumer lending? Online delivery? Social? What’s very puzzling is the lack of solutions being shown for the channels where consumers are heading. BAI did a good job setting the table for this topic, but it doesn’t control the solutions.

$6B Rockland Trust’s Pat Myron talks analytics with Sam Kilmer.

Rockland Trust’s Patrick Myron talks analytics with Sam Kilmer.

The mobile/Internet transactional point solution vendors were out in force – ACI, Alkami, D3, Malauzai and Q2, to name a few – and they were showing fresh versions of their solutions and had the look and talk of people who are winning deals. ACI was talking up wins at SpaceCoast Credit Union, Langley Credit Union and some community banks; Alkami at EverBank and Spokane Teachers Credit Union; Maluazai some new core partnerships; Q2 at a Top 100 CU; InfoSys at Eastern Bank; and startup D3 talked about its signings of Arvest and another soon-TBA $25B bank deal. And, MX (the artist-formerly-known-as-Money Desktop) seemed to have decent booth traffic as did Bancography, where we were never able to spend quality time with Steve Reider and Laura Levie because of their traffic.

Sam still isn’t sure what it all meant, but with all the talk of “360 degree customer views,” the UI at the NG Data booth caught his attention.

Sam still isn’t sure what it all meant, but with all the talk of “360 degree customer views,” the UI at the NG Data booth caught his attention.

D3 wins the Fire Marshall Bill award for most-booth-prospects-per-square-inch. CRIF not far behind.

If D3 would have just moved out the potted plants, it could have increased its demo audience capacity by 25%.

If D3 would have just moved out the potted plants, it could have increased its demo audience capacity by 25%.

The CRM vendors have been on display in the past but this year seemed to be matched by interested buyers. Salesforce and 360 View were prominent, and Onovative, a five-month start-up, was showing some interesting MCIF-meets-onboarding software that could bear watching. 360 View even had a second booth focused on its SmartPops app, going to market separately. Microsoft was also there with a small presence, focused entirely on its CRM solution. With 10 people in attendance, a significant sponsorship and a couple of sessions, Salesforce really stood out, and it used the opportunity to talk up its deployments at Huntington Bank and Travis Credit Union.

Some of the other vendors covered their related capabilities, like FIS with Pinpoint and Fiserv with EnAct CRM (talking up an EagleBank signing). Argo was showing a pretty cool tablet-based in-branch prototype. Core system signings were also getting hyped, like FIS at Umpqua Bank and a soon-TBA $5B Midwestern bank, Jack Henry at Hudson Valley FCU, Fiserv at Bank of the Ozarks and Peoples Bank & Trust, D+H’s signing of a couple under-$50M CUs, and VSoft’s second U.S. signing of a soon-TBA $500M Texas bank following its original partner at Carter Bank.

The age-old battle between big-picture, multi-channel delivery solutions that are still in development and point solutions that do one or two things but work now rages on.

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With the omni-channel booths competing against this “true omnichannel” booth, we kept wondering where the “really true omni-omnichannel” booth was. Where’s the creativity and product leadership, folks?

We always love to find a few new entrants with a cool new offering aimed at solving one need. Two jumped out. SurePayroll, a division of Paychex, had a nice payroll solution that cash management groups can private-label and provide to business customers. Shaker had an online testing tool called Virtual Job Tryout that lets you test applicants remotely. It’s really only focused on teller and call center positions now, so it’s not the bank-wide testing and predictive analytics tool of the future. But maybe it’s a glimpse.

Terence getting briefings from SurePayroll and Virtual Job Tryout in the Expo

Terence getting briefings from SurePayroll and Virtual Job Tryout in the Expo

And, Yseop (quick to point to the “Easy Op” pronunciation) had an interesting multi-lingual app that analyzes inbound chat streams and automatically simulates a human response with cross-selling. Kinda cool but also a little bit Super-Creepy-Rob-Lowe. We’ll see.141118k

Yseop made us ask if the need to tell prospects how to pronounce your name is perhaps a branding challenge.

Yseop made us ask if the need to tell prospects how to pronounce your name is perhaps a branding challenge.


Giveaways

Pathetic. After pens, there was a dearth. What happened to the t-shirts that we need for the gym next year? The things with flashy lights that we don’t know the purpose of but make us look cool to our kids and grandkids? The notebook we were going to give the mailman for Christmas? Now we have to go shop for them? Man, we need some vision and leadership here. This year, the winner was payments provider RDM’s smart-phone-holder-cleaner-but-not-terribly-effective-hacky-sack thingie.141118m

While not a giveaway (and best we can tell, also not driven by a multi-language-multi-currency core system), InfoSys seemed to make a couple fans with a Formula 1 race simulator.

While not a giveaway (and best we can tell, also not driven by a multi-language-multi-currency core system), InfoSys seemed to make a couple fans with a Formula 1 race simulator.


Gonzo Shout Outs

To GonzoBanker Joe Radovanic from Webster Five who literally wore holes in his vintage Gonzo t-shirt. New one is in the mail, Joe!141118o

To Chicago’s Ristorante Volare, which greeted a few thirsty GonzoBanker readers with a champagne bucket full of Bud. Harry Caray himself would have been proud.

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A final Gonzo shout out to Sir Bob Geldof, the best BAI speaker ever (at Retail Delivery 2007), who just launched Band Aid 30 to raise money for the fight against Ebola. A classic example of a troublemaker with a higher purpose. Well done, again, Sir Bob!

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Here’s to the Troublemakers!
-SK

Big thanks to Terence Roche and Jim Burson for their contributions to this article.

 

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