Your background, how did you end up doing what do you now?
I started my career as a branch banker at a top 10 U.S. banking organization, moving into a marketing role and holding various bank marketing positions for close to 15 years. This set the foundation for a move to the ‘other side of the desk’, where I was a direct and digital marketing executive for a number of agencies that focused on the financial services vertical. In addition to building a marketing agency in Canada and advising many top 25 banking organizations in the united states, I started a blog that focused on retail banking strategies. Within 6 years, I had grown page views to more than a million, with the site providing ongoing support for my clients. In 2014, I joined The Financial Brand, allowing me to expand my audience and reach a more diverse readership. In June of 2014, I purchased the Online Banking Report from Finovate founder, Jim Bruene and renamed the publication the Digital Banking Report.
— Jim Marous (@JimMarous) August 24, 2015
Who is the Digital Banking Report aimed at?
The Digital Banking Report builds on a 20-year legacy of being one of the most respected (and affordable) publications geared to the digital transformation in financial services. Geared to executives responsible for delivering a better experience for the digital consumer, each issue focuses on a specific component of becoming a digital bank. Recent reports have provided insights into how to build a digital branch, the components of a mobile account opening process, building a multichannel new customer onboarding program and our annual trends and predictions report that leverages the crowdsourced insights from more than 60 global financial services leaders.
— Jim Marous (@JimMarous) October 14, 2015
Who should read ‘The Financial Brand’ and how have the ideas been received?
The Financial Brand is one of the largest publications focused on retail banking. With daily articles covering the key strategic areas of financial services marketing, branch distribution, online and mobile channels, product development, customer experience, innovation, fintech, payments, branding and strategic planning, The Financial Brand provides a go to resource to any retail banker wanting to get an in-depth view of the transformation of financial services. We find that many bank and credit union executives appreciate how we cover the majority of global retail banking research, providing links to these important reports.
— Jim Marous (@JimMarous) October 14, 2015
As many in the industry are quick to point out, many of the lists that are created are based either on social media scoring or on who people like to ‘follow’ on social media. While I am definitely very honored to be included on so many ‘influencer’ lists over the past year, the real credit goes to those people and institutions who are rolling up their collective sleeves and have the difficult tasks of innovating and selling ideas in the marketplace. My extensive following in the marketplace (as is the case with many of the others on these lists) is because we have the ability to communicate these exciting innovations to the marketplace. Without so much going on in the fintech and finserv space, there would be far fewer who would find what I publish or communicate through social media interesting.
What Fintech trends are you excited by?
I may be more traditional in my perspective, but I am most excited by what is being achieved in conjunction with mobile technology. The ability to research financial services alternatives, open accounts, view financial holdings, transact business, make payments and receive contextual communications with a mobile device is a recent and exciting phenomenon. While only a few organizations can do all of what I mentioned on a mobile device without friction and with excellent design, the potential is limitless. But the mobile capabilities are only the beginning. Soon, the ability to interact and transact with wearables and even artificial intelligence will be upon us, where big data and geolocational insight will allow for even more intelligent contextual engagement. The biggest change will be the transformation from getting to view ‘what you have done’ to getting a perspective on ‘what you should do’ from a financial perspective.
How well are conventional banks responding to the changing Fintech developments? What should they be doing better?
As has been the case since well before I got into banking, the financial services industry has been extremely slow to react. There are definitely exceptions, but there are still financial organizations that don’t even offer the basics expected by the digitally engaged consumer. For the first time in history, the expectations of the consumer are far outpacing the financial services industry’s ability to keep pace. Instead of reaching for the ‘next shiny object’ or buying into the fintech hype, the banking industry needs to quickly provide the basics of what the digital consumer expects, such as the conversion of all paper processes to digital, the reduction in steps to achieve every task, a mobile-first perspective, ‘optichannel’ delivery (where the best channel for any task is provided) and the ability to provide proactive, real-time insights that help the consumer with their finances.
Hello Cleveland (went there for Thanksgiving once), how does the US banking sector look from your perspective?
Having the ability to travel globally and meet with bankers from every continent has opened my eyes to the exciting innovations in banking being done in every country. At the same time, it has made me even more aware of how much of banking in the U.S. is stuck in the 70s. We continue to be a ‘follower’ when it comes to fintech innovations and definitely lag in the payments space, where checks and cash still are used more than any other country. Our branch distribution is significantly over-saturated, with the consumer wanting to have all channels available. Worse yet, the vast majority of core operating systems supporting digital transformation were built before ATMs were introduced.
Blogging, who do you follow / like?
Spending most of my day researching and writing for The Financial Brand and the Digital Banking Report, I have to have a relatively narrow perspective when it comes to social media engagement. I definitely favor the major financial services industry consultancies such as Accenture, Deloitte, KPMG, Bain, Celent, Novantas, Javelin Strategy, McKinsey, CapGemini, CEB TowerGroup, and Cornerstone Advisors (each of which contribute regularly to The Financial Brand). On an individual level, I am fortunate enough to be part of a Twitter DM Group that calls itself the @ and includes about 25 industry leaders including Brett King, Chris Skinner, Ron Shevlin, David Brear, Dave Birch, Cherian Abraham, Bradley Leimer, Duena Blomstrom, David Gerbino, Mike King, Deva Annamalai, Alex Jimenez, JP Nicols, Bryan Clagett, Sam Maule, Lisa Kuhn Phillips, Simon Taylor and Michal Panowicz.
How do you manage life / work, and online / offline balance?
When I figure it out, I’ll let you know. With my travels, a wife who works in two different cities, and a very active 17-year old son who will be going to college in 9 months, family comes first when we are in the same location. I am very fortunate that my work is my passion, and the ability to write and share what I learn with others has always been a strong motivator for me. I believe my passion for education and educating comes through to those who know me, which has made my current career choice the best I could ever hope for. What I do now will be what I do (to some degree) for the rest of my life … or until people stop listening.