by Sam Kilmer & Eric Weikart
BAI Retail Delivery was at the Venetian in Vegas this year, sharing conference space with a travel convention called IMEX, which made things interesting in between sessions. We couldn’t quite figure out what the “Hosted Buyer Lounge” was but it sounded a little racy. We stayed with the banking.
1. Main Sessions: Welcome to the SharkTank!
SharkTank’s Barbara Corcoran and Robert Herjavec kicked off with Gonzo punch. Robert told the banking industry to embrace compliance as “the hard thing to figure out” that investors look for in startups. Barbara was even more direct (and, by far, the most impactful speaker of the event). She pointed to some lack of banking industry passion in the form of an expressionless Citi manager on window display in Manhattan … proud plaques on the wall and looking down at computer. “This person needs rescued and whoever designed that expensive use of space?” Both Barbara and Robert encouraged a hyperfocus on the online channel and Barbara declared an end to fancy MBA language and discouraging meetings to bring in a testing and learning culture of fun. “I gave my teams 8% of their budgets to blow [on innovation] and we talked about what we learned every week.”
Cam Marston’s bias session on the “dynamic landscape of generational trends” was classic feel-good infotainment. Marston humorously paraded through a string of demographic stereotypes only to land on the aha disclosure that immigrants, oldest children, military, farming and probably a third of the rest of the freakin’ population don’t really fit the stereotypes. Which begged our question: With all of the individual behavioral information in the banking industry, why do we need to use sweeping generalizations?
Coca Cola’s Joe Tripodi reminded us of our narcissistic drive to have our names on soda cans. This was the clever multi-media marketing of clever multi-media marketing. Tripodi told bankers to look for the functional, emotional and societal benefits of our brands and to tell better stories to broaden appeal. Our first thought was to ask what is the societal benefit of cola, exactly? We took it as an inadvertent Steve Jobs call-to-action: How do bankers more effectively get the word out on our stories? The societal benefit of financing our communities has to beat sugar water, right?
While innovation speaker Andrew Zolli initially made us think of Barbara’s warning about fancy MBA language, Zolli ultimately provided substance in how digital can make analog more valuable if we drive community interest in branch facilities to learn from one another instead of another investments seminar-lecture. Zolli covered the ways companies focus on a blend of the think, look, play and visioning approaches to creating new value.
2. The Breakouts: A Few Nuggets Here and There…
During a Fintech Forward panel, Zenbanx CEO Arkadi Kuhlmann talked about how to lend money to data because we don’t see the people anymore. One of the panelists pointed out that LendingClub (also in the Expo) shouldn’t even exist, but that banks find it difficult to make the right investments and execute like focused players. Yet, another panelist cautioned on the irrational exuberance for fintech companies that are front-ends and brokers but don’t make any money.
Jeff Dennes, SEVP – Business Development and Digital Transformation at BBVA, pointed to banking org charts and veteran EVPs being a detriment to building a great process around something like digital sales. He encouraged reorgs around digital sales process with marketing, software, innovation and products all reporting into a single process function. He also encouraged bankers to know their bank’s higher purpose beyond quarterly earnings and efficiency. Dennes also claimed the biggest challenge was 90% of products are sold in the branch while universities aren’t spawning enough digital sales talent.
PNC’s Banking Innovation Director David Passavant spoke of hiring a behavior psychologist to examine their origination process. Hey, if PNC’s origination process was anything like what we typically see of origination processes in midsize banks, we think PNC may be onto something here!
Trustmark Senior VP and Divisional CFO Jonathan Rogers talked about revenue pressures that favor scale, digging to understand servicing cost trends, crossing human resources and delivery information to understand where people continue to add significant value, and the power of open progress reports.
3. The Expo Down That Hall That Way…
The long, dimly lit Venetian hallway to the Expo may have impacted hall traffic. Or maybe it was Sibos, an upcoming Money2020, or some of the other conferences. Or, maybe it was the lack of some pretty big brands normally seen there.
Remember that BAI Retail Delivery initially started out as an ATM conference. So, it was a real shocker to see no major NCR or Diebold brand presence in the hall. Now, NCR division Digital Insight did have a presence with some traffic, and the Phoenix software division of Diebold (acquired in March) was there as well, but
NCR and Diebold hardware presence was sparse this year other than a single Diebold machine at the Phoenix booth and an NCR machine at a branch design firm (Level 5). The hardware industry has been in a state of flux with declining revenues and rumors of a potential NCR buyout while Diebold was in acquisition talks with Wincor Nixdorf.
While some other branch hardware vendors like Glory and Cummins Allison were present, from what we could see there were fewer branch design/build providers and nearly all of the branch-focused booths had crickets chirping. The one exception was Bancography (and, by the way, it’s as cool as ever to see Steve Reider lining out a regression model on a dry-erase board).
And, with all the big data talk, where the heck were the IBM and Microsoft booths?
Speaking of brands and presence, FIS—the single largest U.S. banking tech provider—had no booth this year. Instead, FIS chose to have a private meeting room for clients.
Omni or Uni?
After last year’s big omni-boast, interesting that the best of what traffic there was this year seemed to be at a few of the centrally located online/mobile vendors.
Digital Insight had decent traffic and Backbase had some visitors, but traffic seemed heaviest at the Alkami and Q2 booths. (Admittedly, Q2’s open bar had to help.) And, MX (the artist formerly known as Money Desktop) was the BAI Innovation Showcase award winner. So if last year was omni-channel, is this year uni-channel? Who knows … and who cares! Beyond the online and mobile vendors, some of the other vendors were talking up some solutions in or around the hall, including a few that come to mind:
FIS was talking up a list of large bank core signings, Umpqua Bank’s planned deployment of IBS Sales Management, and its Pinpoint marketing solution partnership with Segmint.
Fiserv was talking up its Enterprise Solutions Framework, which it claims will allow greater component sharing and interconnectivity among Fiserv solutions and third parties. For example, Aperio could be deployed with Premier or DNA clients as well as Signature. Fiserv was also talking up its Aperio deployment with Signature at Broadway Bank.
Jack Henry had both JKHY and ProfitStars presence and had just announced the signing of FirstBank to Silverlake.
Although this was a retail conference, commercial was a topic of discussion with D+H talking up Fundtech’s commercial capabilities and a recent Fundtech-Ripple payments partnership.
Also on the commercial front, Baker Hill had a big new presence and was talking up its plan to bring together commercial loan process and marketing analytics (from DMA) after private equity firm Riverside’s recent acquisition of Baker Hill from Experian.
InfoSys talked up its growing focus on mobile deployments (like Eastern Bank) but de-emphasized core banking among U.S. midsize banks.
CRM seemed less of a hot topic. Salesforce’s booth seemed heavily staffed but a little slow, while Microsoft Dynamics had no booth presence at all.
Not sure how it’s monetized, but in the Innovation awards, we liked the sizzle factor of the IdeaBank mobile ATM service with the mobile app that shows you the nearest roaming BMW-with-ATM-inside-it. If you are closing a branch in an affluent area, could it be the ultimate banking machine?
4. Best Booth Giveaway (3-Way Tie):
Generations Gold, 360View CRM and Deluxe. Generations Gold was giving away moon pies in a moon-oriented “The Next Big Thing” booth. The kicker was you had no idea what they did and just had to ask, “So, what’s the next big thing?” We don’t really like moon pies but that’s probably a good technique for account value programs. 360View was giving away cash and you pretty much can’t go wrong there, especially when near a casino. Deluxe giving away $100 fitbits. ’Nuff said.
Great to see several clients and other Gonzo bankers in Vegas. Safe travels and see you out there on the road!
-Eric & Sam