CEO Forum 2022 – Key Takeaways

Thursday, August 4 , 2022  |  Marcus Rothaar, Data Analytics Development Manager

For our first in-person event in over two years, Raddon recently brought together many of the industry’s top leaders and visionaries for our invitation-only CEO Forum. More than 70 executives collaborated in Laguna Beach, California, for two days of engaging and interactive discussions about the opportunities and challenges facing the financial services industry. As Theo Curey, president of Credit Union Solutions at Fiserv, commented in his opening remarks, it was an impressive group of leaders representing a sizeable portion of the industry. Altogether, Raddon partners with credit unions representing more than 53 million consumers and 43 percent of the industry’s total assets. Join us as we reflect back on some of the key takeaways from the 2022 Raddon CEO Forum.
 

Economic and Industry Overview

Raddon’s General Manager and Chief Economist Bill Handel kicked things off by reviewing the economic uncertainty caused by inflation and the international climate, and the impact this has on financial institutions faced with managing earnings in an increasingly volatile environment. Bill highlighted the potential for any yield benefits of rising rates to be offset by risk factors such as generational wealth transfers, an evolving payments landscape and other economic and market disruptions, and he outlined a number of considerations for financial institutions to achieve sustainable growth.

Key takeaway: Focusing on strategic imperatives such us creating a culture of innovation, managing with a focus on the organization’s business model and core competencies and identifying and reacting swiftly to emerging risks can help financial institutions weather volatility and maintain relevance.
 

Regulatory Panel

In a wide-ranging discussion, former NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar and Kim Ford, SVP of Government Relations at Fiserv, covered some of the regulatory and legislative challenges that financial institutions are facing. The pair touched on the complexities involved in creating a regulatory framework for cryptocurrency, which has gained more attention from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and legislators as it becomes more mainstream with U.S. consumers. Kim also highlighted the increased attention that cybersecurity is getting from the federal government in the wake of the SolarWinds breach in early 2020. While cybersecurity risk has always been a top concern for the financial services sector, the SolarWinds breach was a milestone moment for the government and may lead to more cyber-related policies coming out of Washington, D.C. Dennis and Kim also discussed open banking and how the U.S. government’s approach to open banking has been more cautious than its counterparts in the European Union, where regulators essentially forced financial institutions to partner with fintech as part of the open banking movement.

Key takeaway: Regulatory and legislative changes will always be part of the equation for financial institutions. Whether it’s cryptocurrency, cybersecurity, open banking, faster payments, cannabis banking, vendor authority or any other topics that the industry’s governing bodies influence, financial institution leaders need to continually stay informed of policy changes that may disrupt or alter their business model or growth strategies.
 

Non-Interest Income Panel

A group of leaders from three large credit unions joined us for a discussion on non-interest income challenges, particularly for institutions approaching the $10 billion asset threshold and the resulting impact on debit card interchange income. Mountain America Credit Union COO Nathan Anderson, Logix CEO Ana Fonseca and Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union COO Sonya McDonald discussed some of the ways their organizations are addressing these non-interest income challenges. With two of the panelists from institutions north of the $10 billion asset threshold and one approaching that mark, each had different perspectives on how to combat this inevitability. Combined with ongoing stresses to NSF and overdraft-fee income and a slow-down in origination income from mortgage refinancing, the impact to earnings can be significant. The panelists cited diversifying and exploring other opportunities for non-interest income, such as wealth management services, as a strategy.

Key takeaway: A common theme emerged from all three panelists – focusing on continued growth can serve as the great equalizer when faced with threats to non-interest income. Garnering stronger market share and deepening accountholder relationships can help preserver earnings regardless of an organization’s business model.
 

Branch Smarter 

Gina Bleedorn, chief experience officer for Adrenaline, joined me on stage to discuss branch transformation strategies with an eye toward leveraging the branch network for growth. Gina made the case for right-sizing and recalibrating the branch network to meet evolving consumer needs and expectations. As we’ve surpassed the 50/50 tipping point of bank transactions moving from physical to digital, consumers are inherently using branches differently today, and more branch interactions focus on advice and service rather than transactions. These shifts, combined with the competitive landscape, are creating an urgency for branch transformation because the vast majority of branches were not built for this new purpose. After all, you can’t push building updates like app updates. A successful branch transformation strategy should incorporate data-based insights that may point to a range of potential actions, including closures, relocations, refreshes, renovations and expansions.

Key takeaway: Studies have shown that both large banks and smaller, community-based institutions that already transformed their branch networks have not only seen a positive ROI, but also other benefits such as faster account onboarding, reduced wait times, revenue gains, more efficient processes, improved customer/member satisfaction, and improved employee satisfaction. The journey is a never-ending cycle of physical channel transformation, making your retail distribution smarter with every step. As shown in the chart below, digital banking has not killed the need for brick-and-mortar branches, but their purpose is changing.


Consumer Channel Usage

Source: Raddon Research Insights, 2022 

 

Fintech Panel

For a highly anticipated session on fintechs and rethinking digital strategies, we welcomed Tanya Van Court, founder and CEO of Goalsetter; Laurel Taylor, founder and CEO of Candidly; and Patrick Sells, the chief innovation officer for NYDIG. Each of these fintechs address a different consumer need: Goalsetter focuses on financial literacy tools for kids, Candidly offers student debt solutions that build financial wellness, and NYDIG’s goal is to make Bitcoin accessible to all. Yet, all three highlighted the opportunities for financial institutions to partner with fintech providers to meet the demands of the next generation and enable journeys that prioritize the member experience instead of the banking or payment transaction.

Key takeaway: Experience replaces products. One lesson learned from these fintech leaders is to meet the member where they are. Gen Z, in particular, has already turned to fintechs to round out their experiences and build personalized ecosystems of financial services. Case in point – baby boomers use an average of 2.6 financial apps while Gen Z consumers average 4.6 financial apps. These include digital banking, lending, payments, investments, budgeting, crypto services and financial management. Most financial institutions are unlikely to build homegrown solutions for each of these areas, making strategic partnerships with the right fintech partner an important component of capturing the next generation. Offering services and products that strengthen the individual’s financial health and education is a win/win for both the institution and the consumer.
 

Performance Analytics Roundtable: Evolution and Growth

During the Performance Analytics Roundtable session, participants compared notes on strategic initiatives and using benchmarking data to tailor strategies that will drive growth to their business. When polled during the session, the top three challenges that participants cited were as follows:


Top Three Challenges

Source: 2022 Raddon CEO Forum Attendee Poll

Key takeaway: A recurring theme among top performers was the consistent and measured use of data to better understand their performance and identify specific areas of opportunity. Strong leadership that embraces continuous feedback and measurement leads to organizational growth and improvement.
 

Digital Payment Trends

While reviewing some of the current payments trends, Jamie DelMedico, VP and general manager of Aggregation and Information Solutions at Fiserv, outlined the urgency of making payments a strategic imperative. To acquire and retain customers, financial institutions need to have a strategy around payments that encompasses:

  • Real-time non-card payments
  • Data-driven advisory services
  • Alternative payments
  • Open banking and embedded finance

Digital disruptors, including fintechs, big tech and mega-banks, already leverage payments to compete for elusive mindshare and wallet share. Jamie cited fintechs like PayPal and Venmo that have built a model with person-to-person payments at the center, and then layering on cryptocurrency, bill-pay and point-of-sale capabilities. Big tech such as Apple offer seamless digital and mobile payments combined with data-rich analytics and personalized offers and advice. And mega-banks such as JPMorgan Chase embed fintechs into their experience to expand offerings and keep clients engaged.

To round out the discussion on payments, Greg Ulankiewicz, Performance Analytics product manager at Raddon, shared recent Raddon Research Insights data on consumers’ use of Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) and what financial institutions should do in response. Greg highlighted the main consumer appeal of BNPL is the ease of borrowing, which can also come with obvious pitfalls. The response considerations revolve around educating consumers on the dangers of BNPL, attempting to compete at the point of sale, and/or finding ways to compete after the sale.

Key takeaway: As evidenced by the image below, the disruption occurring in payments is, in fact, massive, and can also be overwhelming. Whether it’s cryptocurrency, open banking, real-time networks, or BNPL, the disruption can pose threats to traditional incumbent financial institutions. At the same time, there are opportunities for institutions to grow market share if they’re able to partner or build solutions that differentiate themselves from competitors.

 

Digital Strategies

Continuing with the digital strategies theme, Chad Davison, director of Fintech Client Solutions Consulting at Fiserv, highlighted recent research that shows the financial services industry reached an important tipping point in 2021: U.S. consumers had more than half of their financial relationships with nonbanks. This tectonic shift underscores the erosion of primary-bank relationships; why leading financial institutions must prioritize mobile engagement over transactional competence; and why financial fitness will be essential to developing ongoing, advice-driven relationships.

To dig deeper into this, Becky Summers, Raddon Thought Leadership and Strategic Guidance, moderated a panel discussion with Bill Handel, James White and Jamie DelMedico about how financial institutions should respond to the digital imperative.

Key takeaway: Being a consumer-centric organization should be a guiding force behind any digital strategies. Understanding the customer or member base and their activity and reducing user friction wherever possible will position your institution for success.
 

Managing in the Twilight Zone: Attracting and Keeping Employees, 2022 Style

Addressing one of the biggest challenges facing financial institutions today (or as evidenced by the aforementioned poll, THE biggest issue facing institutions today), Shari Harley energized the group on strategies to hire and retain talent in a hyper-competitive marketplace. Shari offered tips for organizations that offer hybrid and remote employment options and a good refresher for leaders on effective communication by providing direct and regular feedback.

Key takeaway: “Going bowling won’t help people work better together,” Shari said. Strengthening culture is much deeper than pizza lunches and involves understanding what motivates each employee. As detailed in this Raddon Report article, actively managing and cultivating your culture starts at the top, with leaders delivering on promises and setting examples of the expected values.
 

Characteristics of High Performance and Crystal Performance Awards

During the final session of the CEO Forum, Bill Handel dissected the profile of high-performing institutions, using Performance Analytics data to show correlations and commonalities among institutions that achieve stronger earnings, growth and depth of relationships.

We also took this time to present this year’s Crystal Performance Awards, celebrating the successes of some of the top-performing financial institutions in the country. The award winners are determined by the Raddon Performance Index™, which is compiled from an in-depth analysis of each organization’s financials, sales, products and member household relationships, and represents a balanced scorecard of growth, income, efficiency and margin management.

Key takeaway: There is no single path to strong performance, but a common thread among these award-winning institutions is the ability to consistently execute on their strategy.

 

Conclusions

As you can tell, we packed a lot into two days! That’s not even mentioning all the meals, the beach party and decorating more than 100 Kids Snack Sacks to donate to the Laguna Food Pantry. Perhaps the biggest takeaway of all was the joy in simply being able to reconnect with so many familiar faces after a two-year hiatus from in-person events.

This sentiment is best summarized by these comments that a CEO attendee shared with us following the event: “I would (and have) highly recommend the CEO Forum. It is a wonderful opportunity to connect with peers and high-performing institutions to share insights and ideas. To me, in this time-starved world we operate in, this is a great investment of my time. I always come away with relevant, actionable ideas, reconnect with and meet peers, as well as continue to foster a great relationship with critically important partners.”

We couldn’t agree more – and we are thankful for all who attended. We look forward to seeing more of our clients at future events.

On that note, be sure to register for our next in-person event, the inaugural Raddon Roundtable, taking place August 30 at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront. This is another great opportunity to network and participate in strategic conversations about current challenges facing the industry. We hope to see you there!

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