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Q&A with Meridith Elliott Powell

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Meridith Elliott Powell, Business Growth Expert & Keynote Speaker.



How could you describe your career path in a few words?

 

I can describe my career path in one word – uncertain 😊. I started my career, just out of college working in travel and tourism, then moved on to healthcare, and finally landing a great opportunity in finance before striking out on my own. My career path was never planned out, I would just take the next opportunity that presented itself. I never thought it made my sense until about two years ago I was doing a podcast, and I was asked a question similar to this and my answer brought clarity to my career path. Every industry I entered was going through major disruption at the time I started - I got into travel and tourism right after a hurricane wiped out the region; I went into healthcare when managed care and insurance regulation were changing the industry; and moved to finance when community banks and heavy regulation were transforming the banking world. I discovered at that time that the industry I was in, was one I created, I had become passionate about being a master of helping others turn uncertainty to competitive advantage.



What are the highlights of banking transformations in 2022?  Can you give us some major examples?


Wow so many to choose from, here are a few of my thoughts.

 

  1. The Mobile App – the depth of what customers want to do, and banks need to provide from a mobile app has exploded. Customers want transparency, they want information and they want it all at their fingertips when they want it.

  2. Omni Channel Growth – continuing to seamlessly blend online banking and in person needs. Again, giving customers options to access information themselves in multiple ways, while simultaneously giving them access to interact with experts to complex problems and questions.

  3. Real-Time Payments – or instant payments have taken away the customary two to three day waiting periods. This will continue to drive customer needs for instant gratification and banking on their terms.

  4. Digital Only Banks - no branches, no people, no waiting – opening accounts, applying for loans, digital only banks are impacting every area of banking from operational costs, to customer service, skill sets needed in the banking industry.

  5. ESG – environmentally socially responsible investment – customers are demanding it for their own investments and their banks to operate this way too.

  6. Crypto/Blockchain – cannot think of a bigger disruption then giving customers an alternative to how do deliver financial transactions and conduct business. In this past year, it has started to go even more main stream, and even though it hit a rough patch the level of trust and confidence consumers have in it is increasing.

  7. Open Banking - allowing customers to share their data across networks has been a radical disruption in the industry. While this allows traditional bank to learn more about their customers, develop and offer new products and services, and more deeply personalize service, it also opens the door to allow fintech and other competitors into their backyard.



In your opinion, what are the transformation axes that are becoming more important for banks in the context of 2023?

 

There are so many but if I had to narrow it down, I would advise that banks focus their energy in four areas. These are not in any particular order.

 

The first area is Open Banking. This is the time when collaboration needs to replace competition. Consumers want to take advantage of every financial company that can make their lives easier, make them money, save them money and give them peace of mind. They will continue to share their data, and open the door for fintechs to offer them products and services. Banks needs to embrace this reality, make is easier for their customers to share data, and work with the fintech community to find new opportunities.

 

The second is Talent Redesign. Customers are not coming to the branch as much anymore, so why do employees need to be there? Banking needs to take the old, stuffy and traditional out of the job descriptions if they are going to attract the talent they need. The skills needed for  the future of this industry are different than the ones needed in the past, it is time to rethink how you attract, retain, develop and skill up the talent needed to transform this  industry.


The third is Customer Experience. Talk about transformation, the customer experience needs a serious upgrade. The bank (or fintech) company that gets out in front here will dominate the industry and win the customers. Open banking, Artificial Intelligence, Mobile Banking, Customer Service, Omni Channel and the list goes on – banks need to serve customers not only where and how they want to be served, but get one step ahead of them in terms of what they imagine service levels can be.

 

The final one is Data Driven Decision Making. Last but not least use the data, embrace it. Banks need to listen to what customers are telling them and use the data to drive sales, strategy, marketing and overall growth. Banking’s due for a revamp, and these axes are where the rubber meets the road.


I don’t think it will be an either or but rather a strong blend of traditional and fintech world. For the traditional banks, service will become a premium and what customers value and are willing to pay extra for. I see a concierge service much like we do with medicine today. Our traditional banks will transform to meet the needs of the wealthy and the complex.

 

Banking at this level will be far more personalized, again like concierge medicine, and bankers will be highly technically skilled and exceptional at service.

 

But do not think that the disruptors are going anywhere, because we have just scratched the surface with speed, convenience, transparency and self-service with what the fintechs will be able to provide and do. These disruptors will continue to challenge the status quo.

 

So be looking for the fintechs to continue to lead the way in transforming the future of banking, and look to the traditional banks to continue to redefine who we create value and deliver customer care.



Based on your recent experiences, and if you have one piece of advice to give for the success of transformation projects, what would it be?

 

To remember that as this industry transforms and changes, never forget it is a people business, a relationship business. At the end of the day, it is the – connections, personalization, interpersonal skills – those are what are going to give you the competitive advantage.

 

You can have all the amazing tech in the world, but if when a customer has a problem, question or a complex transaction, no one on your team will or can help them, customers will move on.

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