Editor’s Note: The following first-person account of the recent Bank Administration Institute Conference in Chicago was first published on Cornerstone Advisors GonzoBanker.com. It is reprinted here with permission.
By Sam Kilmer & Ron Shevlin
A new BAI conference this year and WOW was it different. Dare we say disrupted? Or rightsized?
Anybody remember the BAI days of thousands of teeming suits at putting green booths filled with ATMs fighting over passes to budget-busting booze cruises and concerts? After years of the declines in that kind of BAI event, they ceased the Retail Delivery and Payments Connect conferences entirely in exchange for one, new converged “immersive experience” at Chicago’s McCormick Place.
1. One Big Loud Room
Imagine one big room with four open stage sessions, a couple open group breakouts, a few dozen vendor pods, a registration roundabout, and bankers circling tables full of danish–all at once. Does that sound loud? A little more energetic? Well, yeah. Think prom night in the high school gymnasium with several dueling cover bands. Different.
Actually, right off the bat, kudos to BAI for mixing it up this year. Let’s face it, the prior format grew tired. BAI had to change more radically. We really liked the shorter quick-take sessions and vendors integrated into the scene. Some of the vendors seemed to like that, as well. While many reported light traffic (especially day 2), it had to be difficult for vendors to differentiate when every pod was essentially the same.
Our best vendor chats happened while mixing in the hall well away from their pods. This seemed to work better for the hungrier upstarts than the larger, established vendors accustomed to booths-gone-condo, golf-swing-analyzers, and race-car-simulators.
We also liked that there were no drink tickets. Please, don’t judge.
2. Speaker Josh Linkner… Hey hey, my, my
Innovation speaker Josh Linkner claimed it’s not about best practices, but next practices. We disagree. To quote the upbeat economist Keynes, in the long run, we are all dead. We agree innovation is important (hard to argue with that), but best practices create survival and the resource redirects which often fund those next practices. Now, we really liked the role storming technique, a creative way to generate a good new idea by taking on a fictitious role. Linkner took the audience through an exercise where Sam came up with a (hopefully) good banking industry idea while role playing Neil Young for five minutes. That was immersive and refreshing. Seriously. Keep on rockin’ in the free world!
3. Real surprises on Real Panels Talking Real Business Results
American Banker reporter Robert Barba moderated a fintech forward panel with memorable panelist Joe Reilly, CIO of Zions Bank, in which Barba’s questioning had Reilly sharing solid details about business change deriving from core system switch. Consolidating 13 loan processing centers into two and better integrated treasury is real change. Barba also was clearly asking unexpected questions that challenged his panelists to the point of at least one decline-to-answer. Good stuff. The unexpected! Our team at Gonzo mothership Cornerstone Advisors sees a lot of conferences and — other than audience questions that are loaded sales pitches — nothing worse to witness than scripted milquetoast panels. Well done!
4. More Specific Channel and Data, Less Omni-Blah-Blah
The real action and scuttlebutt we heard in the hall was mobile first and data. Digital-only vendors Q2 & Alkami again with more new employees and talking up more new deals. And feisty startup marketing system provider Onovate now up to 40 clients in just a few years.
5. Fintech Stage
Of all the garage band stages, the Fintech stage was the one getting most of the record deals due to producer Matteo Rizzi. Some really cool, forward-leaning conversations here and light on the noise. JP Nicols talking up acquisitions of companies for talent and Santander innoVenture’s Pascal Bouvier assuring that fintech was hot and not just hot air (right on that it’s sometimes hard to tell). Fintech is currently having a bigger impact on customer expectations and future outlooks than on current industry earnings, but the promise is all there.
6. Compliance vs. Marketing Smackdown.
Steve Ramirez’s session, “What Marketers Need to Know About UDAAP,” convinced us that the marketing/compliance conversation isn’t much of a conversation. Marketers largely don’t know how to negotiate with, and/or push back on, compliance. And, complaint database analysis seems like a good place to start to understand where to focus marketing compliance efforts.
7. Potential for APIs
Well-attended session on “The Potential for APIs in Financial Services” confirmed banking-as-a-platform as a legit topic. (Granted, we may be a bit biased here as we lead a session on the related topic of Platformification). The key idea in the API session was “the account as a marketplace” where the fundamental components (or functions) of a banking service could be delivered by multiple providers. Hard to find budding U.S. examples, but some Euro startups are moving in that direction.
8. Gritty Branch Data
We heard good things about the FMSI session that pointed to, among other things, best and worst practice branch lobby wait times. What do people do when they are waiting 11 minutes in a branch lobby? Look at their phones? Doesn’t mobile deposit capture take like 30 seconds? Seriously, we have to hand it to the FMSI folks for bringing some good data nuggets to the stage (we saw the materials on the mobile app later). Good stuff, even on the topic of cross-sales, not exactly the smash hit topic it was before the Wells account fraud fiasco.
And now we’ll discuss our branch cross-selling in a post-Wells era. Wait, where the heck did everybody go?
We heard attendance was 1200ish, but that might have included a parallel training event. From a rough scan of the mobile app and the hall, we were thinking 400-500 bank and credit union managers were in Chicago for the newly designed festivities. Great to catch up with some of you GonzoBankers out there on the road.
Sam Kilmer is senior director and Ron Shevlin director of research with Cornerstone Advisors.