In A Year Combining 1918, 1929, 1968, Financial Services Leaders Talk Strategy

This year to me has been like 1918, 1929 and 1968 all wrapped into one. As financial services is central to our economy — and society — I held a September 10, 2020 conversation with four industry leaders to discuss their strategy; the Zoom audience was about 500. Here are some key lessons from these leaders on topics like the customer experience, diversity & inclusion, technology and the opportunity for transformation.

Chetan Kandhari, SVP, Chief Innovation Officer and Digital Officer, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company talked about the concept of true dialogue, “We have to stop viewing things as a transaction but really as a constant engagement dialogue. Go away from episodic behavior to make sure we know the journeys we all want to be on, and the transaction is only part of that. This requires advanced analytics, it requires an emotional connection, and it requires the contextual information to make it personalized. I think that’s where you have to start heading if you really want to put the customer in the center which respects that today’s customer is very digitally savvy.”

Mary McDuffie, President and Chief Executive Officer of Navy Federal Credit Union, discussed their approach towards customer centricity, “Radical simplicity is how we’re approaching change to the member experience. How do you leverage the opportunity for emotional connection through the digital interaction? Now more than ever, we have to think, ‘what does the consumer want?’ Because nobody wants something more complicated. We take a lot of time training people on empathy because at the end of the day, if the member can’t make something work, they’re going to want to talk to someone. So, I think it’s a mistake to focus solely on digital. We’re all in a business that helps people and a big part of that is our people.”

As McDuffie continued talking about the customer experience in financial services and the role data will play, she added “There’s one thing that hasn’t changed over the years and  that is people are emotional about their money. The greatest opportunity for financial institutions in the coming years will be leveraging data. How can you create a better experience, a more emotional experience? Data is the answer. If you don’t include that in your plans, you’ll be missing out.”

Trish Mosconi, EVP, Chief Strategy Officer & Corporate Development, Synchrony, shared how Synchrony has elevated their strategic planning to place diversity and inclusion at the center of everything they do. “It is important to maintain a long-term strategy as you lead through a crisis. We’re continuing our digitization journey, looking at the entire customer experience. Synchrony continues to work to mirror a workforce that represents the diverse customers we serve. Today, we are working differently and have begun holding ourselves accountable as leaders and as a company to address systemic racism in our country.

We’re approaching diversity and inclusion as a business imperative. By treating diversity and inclusion as a long-term business strategy, a company can apply the same type of metrics one would to any business imperative, creating a way to monitor success through goals, actions, and accountability, and then to modify tactics and make corrections. For example, our Synchrony Ventures group, which invests in promising startups, is focused on working with companies that have diverse founders. We’re also developing programs to help reach out to diverse consumer groups, with financial education and services geared toward those communities.”

Dino Trevisani, General Manager, Financial Services Market, IBM North America summed it up with how the pandemic has created the ideal environment to transform organizations, “The window has created opportunity for renovation, just as we’ve seen businesses use this time to renovate, whether it be a restaurant, retailer, etc., banking and insurance are renovating their own businesses because clients are demanding more smooth, unencumbered engagement with the financial institutions to see everything in a one-stop shop, seamless manner.”

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