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Using Data and Insights to Drive Growth in Banking PODCAST

May 20, 2021 by Jim Marous (The Financial Brand and Banking Transformed Podcast). Marla Pieton (Segmint) and Marco Bernasconi (North Brookfield Savings Bank)

To listen to the full podcast, click here.

Originally posted on The Financial Brand's website here.
You can also listen to the full podcast episode on our YouTube channel here.

Jim Marous: Hello and welcome to banking transform solutions, a new podcast that provides financial institutions insight into marketplace solutions that can help organizations for the digital banking transformation. I'm your host Jim Marous founder and CEO of the digital bank report and co-publisher of the financial brand.

What is the foundation used to drive growth in a financial institution? If it's not data - it should be.  Banks and credit unions have a wealth of insights within their account holder data but managing all this data and the accelerated speed at which it flows into the ecosystem can cripple an organization. Now more than ever institutions must focus on leveraging both internal and external data to drive strategic decisions that can drive acquisition, share a wallet, loyalty and growth. 

Our guests are Marco Bernasconi President of North Brookfield Savings Bank and Marla Pieton Vice President of Marketing for Segmint. We discuss how using data at the foundation level can drive growth in banking.

Welcome to the show today Marla and Marco. First of all, I want to welcome you both to banking transform solutions podcast. It's a new element of the banking transform podcast that really gives finance institutions an idea of some of the solutions that are out there today. We discuss the foundation of digital banking transformation, the use of data and applied analytics to improve efficiency, decision making, the customer experience and the competitive positioning of financial institutions.


Question 1 – Jim Marous: Marla to begin with could you provide us a quick overview of Segmint and how you help financial institutions become better digital organizations? 

Marla Pieton: Thank you so much Jim for having me and I appreciate it. Yes, Segmint works with financial institutions to pull multiple data sources together. We cleanse, we contextualize that data and really connect the dots further by providing best-in-class tools to directly market cross-channel both with active account holders and prospective clients.

Our competitive intelligence is really a differentiator in the market. We use that transaction data from the customer data and use that to really focus on the insights and build those relationships. Simply put it's taking the data that FI's already have available, making it clean and usable, and helping them push those personalized messages that customers are really demanding today.

Question 2– Jim Marous: Yeah you're not a newcomer to the field either. Are you? You've been around for quite some time…

Marla Pieton: Yeah we've been around a little more than 13 years and you know we've really engrossed ourselves in the financial services industry that's why we're the experts in what we do. We've been around a long time, we focus on the relationships with our clients and we really know that financial services industry. 

Question 3 – Jim Marous: So Marco, can you provide a bit of a background about North Brookfield Savings Bank and your relationship with Segmint? 

Marco Bernasconi: Yeah absolutely. Thanks Jim I appreciate the opportunity to be on the show. Good morning Marla. Yes, North Brookfield Savings Bank…we're in the northwest central corner of Massachusetts. We're a 350-million-dollar mutual savings bank and we are chartered, we have a long-standing tradition of serving customers in our community. 

My relationship with Segmint really goes back beyond my five weeks here at North Brookfield Savings Bank as President. Prior to this, I was a senior executive at a Core Processing Technology Regional provider here in the northeast and leverage the technologies and capabilities with all the core services. Along with Segmint I really learned how to drive the data elements and those capabilities for financial institutions throughout the northeast. I'm intimately aware of Segmint, the power of its ability to leverage data and apply that at a financial institution specifically community banks.

Question 4  – Jim Marous: I'm going to dig into the root benefit of data and applied analytics Marla how does data drive strategic business decisions?

Marla Pieton: Data really needs to be foundational. That's number one. It can be leveraged in all aspects of an FI, but it really starts with putting the most important data at the fingertips of our strategic thinkers, the decision makers, and the frontline staff. All of those multiple layers of the organization that really make that ecosystem tick. I see the strategic use of data helping in so many different ways. We have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips that originate from transaction data and our customers. It helps us understand who our true competitors are by following the flow of that data, coming in and out of the institution. 

It helps us quantify market opportunity that we have right here within the customer base. It's easier to help our customers by offering products that they need, and it comes from us - the institution - a trusted partner. Building that relationship with that customer really provides the most impact. Oftentimes their decisions are not made with the right data, it's too hard to get to the right source in a timely manner. So banks are relying on old data, bad data, and therefore not using it right or they're making wrong decisions based on wrong data. 

As we have gotten into this pandemic over the last year and have seen the way that customers have shifted the data that we knew…everything we knew is now is old. That data is kind of dead so to speak. We really need to focus on having the right data, utilizing that transaction data that's coming from our customers. 

Another example post pandemic, how do you know where to put new branches or which ones to close you can't rely on those pre-pandemic models, as I mentioned you can't rely on data from a few months ago when everything was shut down. You need to use the real-time data as our economy is opening up and people are going back to work. Making the best decisions in the moment strategically with that data that's flowing in right now. 


Question 5 – Jim Marous: Marco playing off that, how do you see because, you're obviously very new at your position in the organization, how are you hoping that data will empower your organization to make better decisions?

Marco Bernasconi: Great question Jim. You know, as we model forward we're all about certainty, we need to grow the organization provide efficiencies, focus on the digital capabilities. Hey listen we're closest to our customers at a community financial institution, we're going to leverage the power of that data. That's the new voice of our customer, right? Transactions are going away, we're leveraging digital capabilities, we're leveraging the power of the data and as the transactions go away this is the new voice of our customers. So we're learning and leveraging that as we model forward. 

The transition in the movement is to do higher level things in the branches whether we're generating loans or whether we're solving problems. Whether we're selling products at a higher level but leveraging this data is the new voice and so organizational wide we need to harness the power of that. As we're engaging with our customers through the digital channels communicating out leveraging the power of tools that Segmint brings to bear, we need to understand that in advance. Data 30 days ago is stale data and in fact data that's a day or two old may be stale. We have got to continue to leverage that and not only leverage it but be proactive with that. So we onboard customers or we solve needs with customers with the power of that data that should be relevant at our fingertips enterprise-wide.


Question 6 – Jim Marous: Marco let’s stay with you…We know you left a core processor to go to an FI’s president. What difference do you see in the marketplace between how a fintech may use data and how when you arrived at North Brookfield savings bank how they use data? Or how financial institutions traditional finance decisions led at a legacy basis use data…what's the difference from your perspective?

Marco Bernasconi: You know there's harmony in the middle I think there is a difference there yeah there certainly is…you know in my experience I’ve worked with hundreds of financial institutions for the past 26 years. Working with them to leverage their strategy and harness the power of data. With data analytics and all the technologies out there, I think at the end of the day Jim it boils down to execution. And I think institutions really need to focus on how to do that. I know there's the myth about cores out there and getting data and are they working with fintechs and at the end of the day everyone's partnering these days. Whether it be fintech and core providers, there's opportunity to leverage the data leverage the tools. I think it boils down to, particularly for community banks, how to leverage and how to execute you know and there's many different thoughts on that. I think there's harmony in bringing together financial institutions to leverage some talent, we all got budgets and we all got those protocols to work with. But there's opportunity to leverage talent in a cooperative type of environment and bring in these capabilities and exploit them out because at the end of the day forget about mergers and acquisitions - we're all here to serve our customers.  If you beat me on execution then you then okay, so be it. 

Jim Marous: What's interesting is you know from my perspective also we need to move from using data to create really good internal reports and as you mentioned move that to actually the applied analytics and applied data to be able to show if the customer or the member doesn't know that that you know them it doesn't make any difference. You know the fact that my major bank is top free bank in the world I guess in the country at least um knows me really well if I ask them questions about me but they don't show that they know me then it's a lost opportunity. 


Question 7 – Jim Marous: Marla how does Segmint leverage a data focused strategy to help finance institutions grow bank assets? And to add on that a little bit at a significant time of deposit growth how can data help the balance sheet by generating more lending opportunities?

Marla Pieton: Yeah you know Jim absolutely going back to what Marco just said about execution and what you just said about your institution knowing's using customer insights and especially the way that Segmint uses transaction data…You have to operate with intent. I go back to my past, as a you know, working in marketing in a bank…In an institution you have to execute with intent so having that data focused strategy allows you to understand your customer.  Which then you can create opportunities for creative thinking to drive revenue.

You're empowering your institution to go after these customers intentionally, not kind of this mass marketing that so many people are used to. It's really focusing on that customer, what their needs are, what they're after, and this demand that that they're telling us they want from their fis in this this day and age as we're shifting to so many digital platforms.

Segmint empowers FIs by identifying indicators, we've talked a little bit about customer insights by identifying these indicators called key lifestyle indicators (KLIs for short) and we use that to drive personalized and meaningful marketing communication messaging. It allows us to focus in on that customer or that account holder, to trigger product offers to really help stem attrition. That’s another hot topic in the industry right now, you know how to limit churn. Understanding those insights can really help you start to focus on those customers that might be leaving your institution.In my previous life as I mentioned I saw direct results from implementing customer data strategies and aligning the FI’s overall priorities. Being able to use data to lead to growth and driving new money and cross-sell, you know you mentioned Jim about the deposits and being able to again going back to understanding that customer - their financial journey, their behaviors, their spending patterns. Operating with intent, knowing what they're going to do next, that's a key point on how you go after them for lending opportunities, so you're able to kind of drill down into that specific target audience that may have a need for a lending product.

You're going to know that if you understand what the customer insights are telling you. It's interesting from your perspective also that what we see is that this goes from a sales process to a recommendation process and as a result when you're looking at that and you're looking at the ability to move from a sales mentality to a recommendation mentality, the consumer's going to feel like they're actually being looked after as opposed to sought as a as an object.

I think that's an important distinction that we have the ability now to really look at consumers in a brand new way, that's really from their perspective that really feels customer-centric as opposed to um you know - oh it’s fall let's talk about autos or spring let's talk about home equity loans so big distinction.

Question 8 – Jim Marous: Marco from your perspective what data or insight do you think is most important to know about your customers? And why all the deed is important and specifically down to the individual level if you will as you mentioned

Marco Bernasconi: Jim everyone is different and so our model is to really hone and understand that those data elements and understand the personal…if it's someone just searching on our website just looking for directions we can understand that and we push out a specific message to them. If they're on board and have activities with us, we message specifically for that. We mass message here holistically it's not just the digital channel but it's the organization wide right through our CRM tool. So that wherever this individual and or business goes in their journey with us we have the same message throughout organization whether it's for the opportunity, for cross sale, or it's an opportunity to solve a problem.

We have a holistic view so it's all the data Jim, but it's refined down and doesn't just take haphazard stabs at it. We understand it and proactively either measure accordingly or message accordingly, or work to solve in an effective manner. To really know your customer in the needs that they have. And with that obviously there's opportunities to cross-sell in your existing customer base, to target out to the non-customers as you're just starting to embark on a journey a potential relationship with us. 

And as Marla said really appreciating the data and that attrition is really key you know it's one thing to read the reports look at the data after the fact but it's another thing to really leverage the data and proactively perhaps stop a behavior that could occur which is potentially leave the organization. Whether it be because of a problem, because of different experiences that they've had, and the holistic approach with data that Segmint and other fintech providers have you can mine that data and really take advantage of it and drive your strategies moving forward.

Jim Marous: You know that's great insight Marco because I think you said it really well in that number one you’ve got to go after the low hanging fruit - this is really the ability to scale the solution. You don't have to go in there and say, “I have to have the best debt, I have to have in the best format I have to be able to do everything at once”. The reality is most organizations, I’m sure Marla would agree, scale their solution at a pace where they're saying okay we're gonna hit some easy easy wins first, and build from that. But that also is seen from the consumer.

So Marco you mentioned that the ability to proactively determine what we should be offering consumers well the other side of that coin is - consumers are getting things proactively as well and I relate this to “the GPS of financial services” helping me navigate to where I’m trying to get make it so I can avoid the pitfalls and take advantage of the shortcuts that may get me there.

Question 9 – Jim Marous: Marla from your perspective what data insider or data set about current customers or members it's the most underutilized from your perspective? What do some organizations miss because they just don't realize how important it is?

Marla Pieton: Jim absolutely without a doubt it's competitive intelligence. Having a grasp on your account holders, who they're engaging with from a competitive standpoint, brings tremendous value to an FI. To understand that they may be engaging with competitors for a specific product or a specific service, this brings value back to the FI because it gives you that intelligence to be able to innovate from a product standpoint, to be able to cross-sell, to be able to understand what money is leaving your institution. I would say competition undoubtedly is the most underutilized insight that really can give an FI especially that marketing team, a handle on where their account holders are going and who they're engaging with.

Question 10 – Jim Marous: Marla I’m gonna stick with you for a second: Most of every organization that's listening to this podcast says “yeah but my data is crappy, it's in silos, it's a mess”…Doesn't Segmint help organizations make that data usable, that it's those kind of data situations that you guys thrive on, that you there's probably not a challenge you haven't seen before, and that organization probably shouldn't hesitate to go forward simply because their data is messy – correct?

Marla Pieton: Yes, absolutely. Every marketer could probably appreciate this having multiple silos of data coming in, oftentimes it could be from mergers and acquisitions too where you have another data set coming in and you're trying to figure out how to integrate that into your current data set. Segmint absolutely we’re industry leaders in doing this and bringing all of those silos together, giving an institution that one customer set to be able to dig into those customer insights and understand how those customers are behaving. Which ultimately gives you the best knowledge to be able to engage with them to deliver those personalized messages at the right time.

Jim Marous: I would imagine also your organization, because it doesn't do any good if the data's not considered trustworthy from inside an organization, so you also make the data more powerful by making it more uniform and making it so it's correct.

Marla Pieton: Absolutely, you know cleaning it, making sure that you're enhancing that customer experience and you know overall giving the FI what they need, as far as insights go, to deliver those personalized messages.

Question 11 – Jim Marous: Marco, from within an organization such as yours what's the biggest challenge or barrier you see as you work with data and build a data strategy?

Marco Bernasconi: The biggest barrier I see is truly is in executing. We're in a birds eye seat, we're in a fortunate position that the solutions that we use has one central repository, if you will it's one system. Whether it's our loans, our deposit, our digital channel so our data is cleansed and we have the ability to leverage that. Moving forward it's about execution, and how do we deploy it out and leverage it through the tools that Segmint and other providers have is really the opportunity that's in front of us. Effectively model that forward, it's throughput and ensuring that we can pivot as needed, but address those opportunities that are right in front of us and leverage the data that we have at hand. It really boils down to execution and enabling ourselves to meet our goals.

Question 12 – Jim Marous: Marco, let’s stick with you. It's clear that the pandemic drove the desire for increased personalization from consumers in every engagement. From the delivery of groceries, to the viewing of entertainment, how is your organization hoping to improve the personalization of communications and maybe even personalized products and services?

Marco Bernasconi: Great question and you hit it on point. Through the pandemic there was a real shot in the arm to focus on digital. It gave us that that impetus to really focus we industry wide and move the catalyst move the bar and so we're really looking to leverage that data again. It's the voice of our customer and so we've really put a lot of energy into really understanding that, breaking it down to different segments, identifying different product opportunities that we're going to move forward with. In digital but also able to support that certainly in the branching network. Again, branches aren't going away. There's going to be a higher-level purpose for those as we model forward and strategically placed as needed but it'll give us this data. There's more of it than ever before and more of it from various segments that perhaps haven't used it historically in the past or as pronounced in the past. We're starting to really mine that data and understand what that voice is saying to us and so we can leverage it moving forward.

Question 13 – Jim Marous: So Marla, it's clear from what Marco has said that data is only as powerful as the distribution of data across the organization, in other words, you need to make sure that data is at the core of every decision, every engagement, and is really thought to be a great source to move forward…but that is only the beginning of the equation with advanced solutions such as ai cloud technology and 5g playing increasingly important roles, should organizations walk before they run or are these advanced solutions simply table stakes in an increasingly more data-driven world?

Marla Pieton: Yeah you know Jim it's interesting that you asked me the question about ai because Segmint just today, and this is a little bit of an insider scoop, is launching a press release this morning on our deployment of an ai modeling platform and predictive models. So it’s a great segue into that, and we talked about silos and an institution really needs to have that data clean contextualized and usable. That's really step one, and it kind of goes back to the personalization as well, without clean and useful data - personalization can't exist.

Jim Marous: Or it won't do very well, if you don't have clean data, personalization will not be the best way to go.

Marla Pieton: Exactly. And that's what our customers are telling us right now that they want, so if not they're going somewhere else. They're going to the big banks, they're going where they're getting that that one-on-one attention and where they feel that an institution knows them knows them well. So again discussing the ai and the opportunities, where ai can really play a role in transforming an FI's digital strategy and we find practical applications for ai technology again going back to that data cleansing and predictive models. In spanning that multitude of use cases that FIs are really telling us that they need help with, and shortening that time to market. That's one of the biggest things, or the biggest challenges that FIs have, is it takes months to create and deploy these ai models and that's something that Segmint can help with - in really getting an FI off and running.

So using that clean and useful data and transforming it into applications that could drive revenue, drive growth, drive cross-sell - all of those important strategies for an FI to grow bank assets.

Jim Marous: And certainly a company like Segmint that focuses on the financial services industry makes it so that an organization can become a client at a much faster speed of implementation. There's not too much you haven't seen or done, so your ai solutions, your data solution, your data cleansing, the combining of silos, you've seen it all. And you've seen it from the financial institution perspective using multiple core providers so it really puts it the financial institution the advantage to partner with a firm that already has this experience, obviously.

Marla Pieton: Yeah we're engrossed in that industry Jim and it's what we do. We have the best team of experts at Segmint, from top to bottom. It all starts with data and feeds right through into our client success team. Our client success team which are one-on-one with our clients every day.

Question 14 – Jim Marous: Marco I have a two-part question. I know the answer to the first part but I’m going to ask it anyway and I would really like your perspective on the second. So is it still possible for a smaller financial institution like your own to remain competitive the big banks, the big tech, and the fintech firms? And if so what is the key to survive or more importantly success? Because survival is not enough you have to succeed, and obviously you joined your firm with the intention of being around for a while and having the organization be around for a while.

So number one yeah do you think of a smaller organization could compete with the big boys? And number two what's the key to that success?

Marco Bernasconi:  Certainly, I personally think it's the next chapter in banking. An institution of our size, and certainly we need to grow and gain some scale, really is in a position to move forward and move forward quickly. To really leverage what we have and take advantage of all the tradition, all the success we've had for a hundred plus year history. But also pivot and bring in that more entrepreneurial type of style and move quicker than larger financial institutions. 

We're closest to our customers so we can  leverage the data that we've talked about and really harness and listen to the voice of our customers and really be personal with them. Both in a branching system but as well in our digital channels, because I think it's a combination of both as we move forward. It'll allow us to try some different things, be nimble, be quick, focus on different segments, branch out of our market, leverage partners like Segmint and others for success.

I think that brings us a competitive advantage from the bigger players out there who can't spend that time and energy and be focused, with all the different silos, on how to execute and deliver a strategy moving forward. I would argue we're nimbler and we can be more entrepreneurial. Like with our traditional history we can complement the two of those strategies and blend them for a very successful strategy moving forward.

Jim Marous: What I believe I firmly believe that number one smaller organizations and the largest organization are in the best position. Big organizations for the obvious issues such as scale, capital, those items smaller organizations because they're community focused and their as you mentioned their nimbleness. I mean I compared to semi-truck versus a pickup truck. I think the organizations in the middle those mid asset ranges have the biggest challenges because you’re combining legacy leadership and legacy thinking along with maybe not as much funding to do as much as the big guys. So you’ve got to define who you're going to be.

And to wrap this up in a really clean way - data gets you there. I mean the reality is if you can personalize relationships, if you can personalize engagements, if you can make decisions internally based on the best data, you're going to be a survivor. In fact you're going to be a winner because a lot of organizations aren't in a position to use what's right in front of them to make a better organization.


I want to thank both of you for being on the show today. Marla we really appreciate everything that Segmint's doing in the marketplace. For those of you who aren't aware, Segmint is near and dear to my heart in that they're just down the road from where I live. Marco I’m hoping to be able to travel a little more frequently to get to see you guys too. Thank you both for being on the show today.