Selections from a Q&A focused on Strategic Planning In A Rapidly Evolving Digital Environment.
Al Dominick, CEO of Bank Director, recently put some questions to our CEO, Shayne Skaff.
Al: What have you noticed post-PPP about the banks’ interest in bringing in new technology ideas – what have you learned over the last few months having heard from your clients about what they went through but also what they’re aspiring to become?
Shayne: Obviously, origination stopped in March, so it was really about asking how is their current loan portfolio being impacted in the space. As a technology company, we’re helping them understand with their existing portfolio, what does this new market look like for them, how are these assets that they’re managing being impacted by this new environment, and then our system is analyzing assets every day and our banking customers can see how the environment is actually impacting the current loans that they’re holding on the books. So, as the people were pushed to handle the PPP loans, the technology kind of took over, and it was still showing exactly what status their current business was in during this difficult time.
Al: As we think about planning for the future and the need to be agile, how are you starting to see banks frame that concept to solve specific business issues?
Shayne: So much of agility comes from the ability for humans to make quick business decisions. Data isn’t static. It’s constantly changing, and it’s important that we as humans are seeing the results that are taken into account with this dynamic state of our business. A good decision today can turn into a bad one tomorrow unless you are actually managing to that dynamic data on a real time basis. What we’re helping our customers do is really present the results of what real time data means for their business, so that when they see those results, they can make decisions on the spot.
Al: When you think about individual expectations and how they’re shifting, help us to contextualize AI as it is now being used to address some of those customer confusions, or those things that are happening where you really want the machines to be crunching the data to get a better picture of the world in which you live.
Shayne: When most people think about AI in the workplace, they don’t initially think about the customer experience, they think about replacing jobs within companies, which is an easy place to go to. The way we think about AI is as a way to actually improve the employees’ work experience. We ask how do we move the employee to the art of their job and use the machine to do much of the science, really the work that the humans don’t like to do. If we can come in and use the machines to do a lot of the tedious work and number crunching and move the human to the relationship and the art of their work, that’s really where we’re focused. The way we look at AI is from the perspective of how to improve the workplace, and that generally translates into speed for the customer.
Al: When you’re helping banks think about what is possible, how much of a goal could you realistically put in front of them for the next 12 months or the next year and a half?
Shayne: When you have a heavily regulated industry like commercial banking, the first question is can I do that safely and will I be breaking any regulation. From a technologist’s perspective, you have to be patient in taking the bank through the process and help educate where we’re at with the technology, what it means from a security perspective and that everything is safe. All you need to do is look at other industries to see where banking needs to go because there are others that are so much further along. We’re going there, it’s just a matter of time and willingness to take those steps. Not coming out of traditional banking, I was told going in when we launched Blooma in 2018 that it was a very difficult space to sell technology into, but I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised with the reception that the banks have given us, not just community and regional, but some of the largest national banks in the country. I think there’s less fear now, and with every month there is less and less fear as people start to really understand that they need to produce speed, their customers are going to expect speed.
Al: Should early stage fintechs be judged by a different measuring stick as compared to established or traditional longer term vendors when it comes to vendor management?
Shayne: It’s super easy to implement a cloud solution now. It’s not like you have to pay a million dollars to implement and a huge on prem licensing fee. With a lot of providers you can try before you buy – they can launch their platform and allow the bank to get comfortable with it for 30 or maybe more days and then go into a commercial agreement. The flexibility with how technology is being consumed and purchased is like never before, it’s a whole different game today. As an early stage tech company, we’ve been super flexible with our clients in terms of how we engage with them commercially, the reality is that we’ve taken really all risk off the table. We know we don’t have a decade of customer references behind us that they can pull from, so just as a vendor make it super easy, take as much of the risk off of our clients hands as possible, allow them to do things like pilot and just not make it such a stressful decision for them.
Al: What helps them to say I’m doing something I’m comfortable with, but now I know I need to shift gears to something I’m not as familiar with but I think is the right thing. Is there a trigger that you’re seeing that others might appreciate?
Shayne: For us, we really try and come at a new client with how we’re going to use technology to improve their employees’ lives, which ultimately will resonate in better service for their customers. The workforce is changing, the people that have been doing the underwriting and all of the analysis for the last couple of decades are now moving out, and there’s a new workforce moving in that wants something different and so we generally talk about that first, that human element, and that seems to work well.
Al: How are you envisioning the first 6 months of 2021 shaping up?
Shayne: I’m generally an optimist, I won’t try to do this from a banking perspective but will do it from a technology perspective. I think the market itself has some big opportunities in my world on the CRE side and some extreme difficulties, and it will take more than a year to see where everybody lands. From a technology perspective, we’re seeing the end of monolithic technology. There’s so much modularity that exists out there with cloud platforms and the ability to plug in to various systems and integrate with various systems, and being able to utilize all of the data that exists out there to provide very quick decision making for business is going to be super important. Where AI and ML and some of these technologies are going to take us is really to a place where we’re going to have answers before we’ve even asked the question. There’s an answer for me in my computer right now to a question I have not asked yet, and that’s where were going and we need to embrace that because that’s here in 2021.