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6 min read

Financial Brand Forum 2018: 7 Takeaways in 7 Minutes

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More than 1,700 industry execs descending on the Vegas Cosmopolitan getting mobile alerts like “Open Bar in the Exhibit Hall.” What could possibly go wrong?

Open Bar

As it turns out, a LOT can go right. Financial Brand Forum, an exponentially growing event now in its fifth year – targeted at the morphing worlds of financial marketing, sales and service – is a well-oiled machine with several coats of highly buffed wax. While I was there as a contributor, I took in some other sessions and hallway chats. In the spirit of FBForum’s coffee-fueled 7X7 sessions, my delivery to you, GonzoBankers, are seven takeaways in an article you can read in less than seven minutes.

  1. Everybody’s in The Game. The event included a mix of CLOs, COOs, CEOs and board members, not mainly CMOs anymore. At least one mid-size bank showed up with its entire exec leadership team AND board of directors. It turns out that a conference about storytelling, design, customer experiences, applied data and delivery is a nice team fit. One bonus for the board: Most sessions I attended didn’t require a real-time industry acronym translator kit. (Buzzword converter/muffler devices are nice-to-haves, though.)
  2. Digital First Now! Whether it was Citizens Bank of Edmond’s social savvy CEO, Jill Castilla, Horicon Bank CIO Mark Nelson’s vision for new apps extending the brands of business clients, Jim Marous’ robot pal, Consumers Credit Union’s CMO Lynne Jarman-Johnson, or the sidebar chats with execs from the likes of Alkami, Kony and Malauzai, it was about engaging digital-first or digital-only in ways that add real value, improve lives and revenues – not just transfer funds and pay bills. Even industry print veteran Harland Clarke was largely talking about supporting digital with direct marketing, fulfillment and call center support. Lots of conversations around re-orgs and re-architecting the digital storefront with providers like Extractable and others in the expo hall. Front and center was Evolution Group’s SilverTech slowly building up regional networks of locally deployed implementers of horizontal web and process tools. Its recent acquisitions of Pannos and Bitwise are probably a sign of what’s coming for the industry.
  3. ConTENT with CONtent? Former Apple exec and keynote speaker Guy Kawasaki pointed to rarely visiting branches anymore and only for a safe deposit box or cash for tips. “Even safe deposit boxes might go away with digital documents,” he said. Banks should engage customers digitally and write about “helping customers with their taxes or something [valuable]… earning the right to promote.” Wall Street vet Sallie Krawcheck implored a male-centric industry to say something in the language that won’t make customers feel like outsiders or dumb. And that diversity works economically even if doing the right thing somehow isn’t enough.

While some of the general session presenters felt higher on themes and energy than specifics (anyone remember Chris Farley’s Matt Foley, Motivational-Speaker?), there were some great nuggets in there. The most constructive general session I attended was by Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi who laid out a useful “how to” including how to “content tilt” to get messages to stand out for real.

  1. Customer Relationship Management redux: Salesforce, which dominated the recent BAI Beacon conference and came to last year’s Forum with only its Marketing Cloud, was focused this year on its front-end CRM and talking up client case studies. 360View CRM was also back with a massive booth and entourage talking up its new product. Newcomer CRMNEXT had a small but busy booth with an interesting new offering.
  2. Got Data? Thankfully, most chats moved beyond the nebulous. MX was talking up very specific data cleansing capabilities and its focus through partnerships like First Data, FIS, NCR and Q2. The Intuvo booth was slammed like last year. Marketing automation provider Marquis and its clients were talking up execution capabilities from its recent DocuMatix. Finastra was talking MCIF but also its Malauzai partnership and the intended openness of data from its Fusion Fabric from a core system perspective. While the big payments providers weren’t in the house, industry vet Mickey Goldwasser of startup Payrailz was talking about leveraging data in the payments business.
  3. Pass by the Old School to Get to the New School. Loved the session by Mechanics Bank’s Rauly Butler on using straight-outta-1992 direct mail to get the last of remaining holdouts to use digital. It works. Butler gets Gonzo bonus points for being specific and not taking himself too seriously, as do Horicon’s Nelson and Consumers Credit Union’s Jarman-Johnson (who also gets points for her killer Twitter handle: @MoJoCMO).
  4. Expo Hall Surprises. There were lots of the niche design, branding and build-to-suit execution providers you’d expect to see like Adrenaline, DBSI, Level 5 and Weber Marketing; product marketing shops like Kasasa and StrategyCorps; and compliance support providers like Kadince and Social Assurance. But I left scratching my head that with all the digital sales talk, where were the origination system vendors? Over a dozen (and growing) in that space and they leave the hall to Finastra? And with all the talk about digital marketing and content, where were the marketing platform and content management system vendors like Adobe, Hubspot, Marketo and Sitecore? Leaving the hall to Salesforce? And where in the heck was Microsoft? Its Dynamics partner Fiserv was a sponsor, but I didn’t see any of the Enact or Raddon folks in the hall. Same thing with FIS and Segmint or Jack Henry and Synapsys, or industry big Deluxe with its marketing and digital services.

So my seven minutes are up. In closing, Gonzo chutzpah points to Jeffry Pilcher for taking an Android phone audience selfie on stage with Apple-veteran-enthusiast Guy Kawasaki. I almost took an Apple phone selfie with all of that happening in the background. Instead, I just put my phone down. For at least 30 seconds.


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