Shane Closser on the truth about digital technology in financial services – MAF194

This week I chat to Shane Closser, and expert in strategy and digital technology in financial services.

Shane shares some home truths about how we use digital technology to engage with our customers and why we might need to go back to basics.

Welcome to episode 194 of the Marketing and Finance Podcast


What you’ll hear about in this episode

  • Why not having a strategy can be a problem
  • Why marketers should go back to basics
  • The impact technology will have on financial services
  • Why marketers should understand the online customer journey
  • The changing face of local financial services branches
  • Why organisations need to change their marketing focus

Who is Shane Closser?

Shane has worked as either a CTO (Chief Technology Officer) or CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) throughout his career in IT and software. He worked at Ascenture and many other large companies. He now works as General Manager for Yext, focusing on product and strategy for financial services.Yext is a digital knowledge management platform, which looks at the questions people have around a business brand. This includes where the company is located, information about the products and services advisers provide, and monitoring search results for individual businesses

They manage the overall online presence of a company, including via apps, and recently added voice search support.

Summary of our chat

Shane says that marketers haven’t adapted their processes to the changes taking place with customers’ demographics and how they do business. They think in terms of campaigns which focus on only one channel and don’t create engagement. Marketing budgets are wasted by not communicating effectively and efficiently.

Marketers need to get the basics right and using technology doesn’t solve the problem. Shane says instead they need to understand their customer and identifying their traits. Looking at customer data and knowing who spends the most money with the business is a great way to understand the customer journey.

Shane says the role of humans in marketing has changed, but financial advisers aren’t going to be replaced by robots. Customers want to talk to real people. However, advisers who use technology will put those who don’t out of business. It’s important to know what role AI and automation plays the industry.

Marketers need to think differently about how they approach things. We have connected cars and homes, and people use voice interface to talk to them. Buyers have less time than ever and millennials particularly have more of their customer journey online. We have to leverage technology to improve processes and the customer experience.

While many local outlets have closed, there has been an increase in micro-branches providing fewer, more specific services and using digital technology. There are also lifestyle branches offering refreshments as well as financial support. Local, physical venues are a differentiator for large organisations trying to take a share of the market.

The biggest challenge to change in the industry comes from compliance concerns within organisations. Marketing departments don’t think about the customer experience enough and need to communicate better with other teams. They should also focus on improving internal processes to help the customer more and make them the priority.

One big take away

Shane would recommend marketers go back to basics and think in terms of ‘crawl, walk, run.’ Marketers need to start to map out what they can do to drive a higher bottom line and increase revenue.

Come up with a long list of potential projects and assess which ones are doable and will give quick wins. Tasks that will take longer can be done in smaller sprints. Give consideration to new technologies too, such as using voice search.

When you’re making big investments, think about where the market will be in a few years’ time, rather than where it is now. Otherwise, you won’t get the ROI you hoped for. Break big projects into smaller pieces and leverage your digital knowledge.

A marketing campaign or product which grabbed Shane’s attention

Progressive Insurance created a parody advert, making fun of the challenges of raising a child in the digital age. However, it also highlights all the places financial services could be, such as virtual reality and games. It uses humour and empathises around quite a sensitive topic.

Recommended business book

Shane says he’s reading a lot around technology, and would recommend Unscaled by Hemant Taneja and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

He says if you’re not thinking about AI these days, you should be. In the US, and especially in Silicon Valley, it’s one of the fastest-growing industries with a lot of job opportunities. Reading The Master Algorithm by Pedro Domingos will help.

Links and contact details

If you enjoyed – Shane Closser on the truth about digital technology in financial services – please leave a comment or a review on iTunes.

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Dan Abrahams on building FinTech company CurrencyTransfer in Israel start-up hub – MAF164

My guest this week is Dan Abrahams, co-founder of CurrencyTransfer.

We talk about how he decided to move to Israel to take advantage of Tel Aviv’s  start-up culture, how he built CurrencyTransfer, and the marketing lessons he learned along the way.

Welcome to episode 164 of the Marketing and Finance Podcast.

Dan Abrahams on building FinTech company CurrencyTransfer in Israel start up hub - MAF164

What you’ll hear about in this episode

  • Why Dan’s business operates from Tel Aviv
  • Why being in Israel has helped rapid growth for CurrencyTransfer
  • Where the idea for CurrencyTransfer came from
  • How Dan’s found his target market
  • Developing the business – mistakes made and lessons learned
  • How Dan brought CurrencyTransfer to market

Who is Dan Abrahams?

Dan is the CEO of Brought up in London, he studied for a degree in International Business, which included a year in Australia. He met his business co-founder just after graduating.

They realised that foreign exchange is one of the last financial services sectors where the end customer doesn’t know the rules (for example all the fees and commissions),  and decided to do something about that.

The business now has offices in London and Tel Aviv, and Dan moved to Israel a few years ago to take full advantage of the start-up environment out there.

Summary of our chat

Dan and his founders started looking at distributed teams and working in another country when they were trying to grow their company. They decided to spend three months in Tel Aviv. Israel has a high number of start-ups and a supportive ecosystem for new businesses, with angel investment and local talent available.

In Israel, there’s an emphasis on speed, momentum and rapid iteration when building a tech product. There’s a focus on constantly making the business better. Dan felt these were good values for building a global company, and not something he experienced in London.

The biggest inspiration for CurrencyTransfer were the shared problems Dan and his co-founder had, such as charges incurred when paying tuition fees in Australian dollars. The inefficiencies and lack of transparency with currency exchanges were obvious. A global payments marketplace didn’t exist.  So they wanted to build a solution.

CurrencyTransfer focus on global payments and supporting SMEs (which they call ‘mini-multinationals) such as import/export, tour and travel companies and e-tailers. These businesses get a raw deal from the bank around prices and hedging. So CurrencyTransfer helps them to boost their bottom line. They also help with high-value personal transfers such as purchasing overseas property.

Dan wanted to launch the business in 2011, but the market wasn’t ready for it. The technology it uses requires integrations with multiple currency companies worldwide, and the APIs to build CurrencyTransfer weren’t developed enough in 2011. Instead, he launched a digital marketing business for the industry, which evolved into today’s company.

They soft launched CurrencyTransfer with beta testers in 2014. For FinTech companies, bug fixes and preventing problems are most important, and growth needs to be controlled. There was a lot of interest in how the platform worked. One mistake they made at first was trying to accommodate everyone. Now their focus is now on their ideal clients.

A marketing campaign or product Dan loves

Dan says the single biggest evolution that’s bringing value to companies, regardless of size, is voice. Using podcasts, voice-activated assistants and vlogs helps businesses grow significantly, as consumers demand more and varied content. Podcasts sit with other free marketing tools to create engagement and increase revenue over time.

Books Dan recommends

Tim Ferris’ The Tribe of Mentors is a great book. Dan generally consumes audio books, but this one has encouraged him to go back to physical books. The people interviewed are from so many different areas, but all have inspiring stories, and there a business and life lessons within it.

Links and contact details

If you enjoyed – Dan Abrahams on building FinTech company CurrencyTransfer in Israel start-up hub – please leave a comment or a review on iTunes.

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Chris Skinner on FinTech, cryptocurrency and corporate change – MAF155

On the show this week, I talk to leading commentator and strategist on financial markets, Chris Skinner.

We chat about FinTech, blockchain, cryptocurrency and why corporate change is difficult in established financial businesses.

Welcome to episode 155 of the Marketing and Finance Podcast.

Chris Skinner on FinTech, cryptocurrency and corporate change - MAF155

What you’ll hear about in this episode

  • What Chris believes is holding financial organisations back
  • How some companies are embracing change
  • Why financial services companies need a technologist on the leadership team
  • How consumers respond to new technologies
  • How small businesses can apply new technologies
  • What blockchain and cryptocurrencies mean for the future

Who is Chris Skinner?

A worldwide, leading commentator and strategist on financial markets, Chris is the Chief Executive of “The Finanser” and the Chairman of The Financial Services Club, with a focus on commentating on FinTech.

He has a background in insurance and a career working with technology companies, starting out selling office automation systems to insurance companies.

Made redundant in 2002 after running strategy for big organisations, Chris went searching for a job. He socialised with loads people in financial services and wrote articles about his conversations. This led him to where he is today. Attending international conferences and producing a daily blog about FinTech.

Summary of our chat

We see issues in leadership in financial services because the leaders are swamped with regulation compliance and risk. They resist change. Digital technology is transforming every aspect of insurance and banking. But boardrooms are full of similar people. There’s not enough diversity and this hinders change.

AXA Insurance has partnered with a start-up called Trov in the “InsureTech” space. You can insure items for a few hours when you take them out of the house. You don’t need an annual insurance policy anymore. Just take it when you need cover.

With a focus on digital banking,  digital insurance and FinTech,  if financial services companies don’t have a technologist on the leadership team, they’ll find change difficult. But the real issue is about culture, which can also change. The leadership needs to embrace change and allow the culture to adapt accordingly.

Most consumers don’t know what the possibilities of these new technologies are. But they quickly embrace things that they recognise can improve their lives. For example, the iPhone is only 10 years old, yet smartphones are pervasive. Consumers will adopt anything they can use simply to make life easier.

For small businesses to adopt new technologies, they need to imagine they’re starting up today.  Focus on how customers do things, and how to help them live better through technology. They need to compare the current company with an idea of the future of the business and work towards that.

Blockchain technology is transformational and will change the way we look at business and finance. Look at Ethereum, the second-biggest cryptocurrency, which the financial firms are investing in,  or Hyperledger, the technology IBM is embracing. Don’t put money you can’t afford to lose into cryptocurrencies.


Campaign or product

The iPhone X is something everyone is looking at with interest, because of the facial recognition aspect. Any new product that can change authentication or make it easier for people to come onboard is something Chris is automatically excited about.

Recommended Books

Chris’s next book, out in March, is The Digital Human and looks at the fourth revolution in humanity. The first revolution was becoming human, or homo sapiens.

Chris says his favourite book is Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, which is the history of humanity and how we got to where we are today. There were six other forms of humans on earth and we’re the only ones to survive, and the book explains how this happened.

His other favourite book is Trekonomics by Manu Saadia, about the economics of Star Trek. He says, “I’m looking forward to the future and the potential for space travel, and Star Trek is about optimism and a utopian vision for our future”.

If you enjoyed – Chris Skinner on FinTech, cryptocurrency and corporate change – please leave a comment or a review on iTunes.

And if you know anyone who would enjoy the show – please share it with them. You can use the buttons below to share on social media.

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