Claire Stewart
Claire is the Vice President of Research & Client Service and oversees all of Mintel Comperemedia’s Financial Services content and custom research initiatives.

This month, I had the pleasure of attending and participating in The Financial Brand Forum 2018 in Las Vegas, NV. The conference seeks to connect and educate executives from a variety of US banks and credit unions, and pays particular attention to addressing marketing challenges, innovative strategies, and best practices in customer engagement. Over the three-day show, I was inspired by the key themes most commonly discussed at the keynotes and breakout sessions. Here, I share some of those highlights.

Inspiring Innovation

Guy Kawasaki kicked off the conference with the first keynote address, providing the audience with “The Ten Biggest Lessons on Branding and Innovation I learned from Steve Jobs.” These lessons served as a good preview to many of the topics discussed throughout the rest of the conference, primarily, the encouragement of risk-taking and experimentation. Kawasaki’s key message revolved around “curves of innovation.” He illustrated major leaps in technology over the last 200 years and encouraged the room to think about the next curve, rather than the next point on the same curve. One crucial component of this was that brands need to articulate what they are actually selling. Using Kodak as an example, Kawasaki emphasized that the brand didn’t sell chemicals on paper, it sold memories. This was eventually the downfall of the Kodak brand—it didn’t accurately define its value proposition and then failed to innovate as a result.

Later the same day, Brian Solis, a principal analyst at Altimeter, cautioned the audience that its competitors aren’t just other financial institutions—its competitors are Uber, Amazon, Apple, and Tesla. Innovative brands are raising expectations for consumers. Once they try something new, consumers don’t go backwards.

Diversity Matters

On Day 2, the keynote speaker Sallie Krawcheck, founder of Ellevest, spoke about the need for diversity and different backgrounds in teams and positions of leadership. After having spent several years on Wall Street, she recalled too much homogeneity in the years leading up to, and since, the Great Recession. She mentioned that while she saw no laws broken, she did see many people of the same gender, color, and background all continuously agreeing with one another. As a result, the major financial crisis of our times occurred because no one had a different perspective. In other words, to drive your business forward (or to avert major disaster), managers must diversify their teams. Teams made up of people with different perspectives tend to perform better.

Generational Differences

Jason Dorsey, founder of The Center for Generational Kinetics, spoke about Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z not as rigid boxes, but as segments of the population with predictive characteristics. His talk was framed around behaviors pertaining to financial services in order to give the audience ideas about how to think about their mobile, digital, and customer service strategies. One of Dorsey’s main points was that technology is only ‘new’ if you remember the way it was before. If you’ve grown up with a technology, eg FaceTime, then it is all you have ever known. This thereby increases the expectations of every generation that follows another. Millennials have higher expectations than Gen X, and Gen Z has higher expectations than Millennials. The challenge, of course, is moving the innovation and technology of your financial institution at the same pace as your customers’ expectations. Dorsey’s talk ended with an assertion that Gen Z will truly be the generation to change everything. He cited some interesting statistics, one being that 16% of Gen Z consumers are already saving for retirement. They are also more likely to avoid education loan debt and in turn, will be granted more financial mobility as they age into the workforce.