On October 10th, we hosted the 2nd annual Flybits Airshow. This year’s show took place in New York and attracted an audience of senior level executives and experts in financial services. Whereas the 2018 Airshow, which took place in Toronto, focused on how AI was making headway across a number of sectors like insurance, wealth management and retail banking, this year’s Airshow took a deep dive into digital transformation and offered insight into what financial institutions need to do to prepare for the future.
The event took place at SECOND FLOOR EVENT SPACE in the Chelsea neighborhood. Exposed brick and huge windows set the stage for an event that was sophisticated and thought-provoking.
The afternoon kicked off with a keynote from renowned expert, Tom Goodwin. Tom is the EVP and Head of Innovation at Zenith Media and the author of Digital Darwinism: Survival of the Fittest in the Age of Business Transformation. Tom took the audience on a journey of transformation through the current digital age and brought insight into how what we consider disruptive today is really just incremental change on existing technology, programs, and practices. Tom then spoke provocatively about how banks need to think about preparing themselves for the post-digital age – one where true disruption and change will come from building net new, from the ground up. This means that organizations have to be bolder and braver in starting initiatives with a blank slate. And they must do it quickly and assertively as the pace of transformation is increasing and will, in fact, never be slower than it is right now.
Tom then led a panel discussion featuring an incredible group of speakers, including Francis Hodal, President of Loyalty and Engagement at Mastercard; Alan McIntyre, Senior Managing Director of Global Banking at Accenture; Alex Sion, Co-Head of D10X, Citi Venture’s internal incubator; and Vipul Lalka, VP of Payments Platform & Capabilities for TD.
Francis echoed a sentiment Tom had also spoken about during his keynote which was the notion of human empathy. Tom had alluded to this when he said that executives need to take off their business head and put on their human head. For Francis, the concern relates to customer loyalty, which is often subtle and psychological. People want more than a little reward for doing something – they want an experience that makes a difference in their daily lives. So creating emotionally engaging experiences are what will, ultimately, drive long-term loyalty. Alex highlighted the need to embrace the customer experience as an economic measure, which can be very hard given that it requires viewing the customer as a person rather than an entity – something that requires a change to the fundamental business construct. And no institutions are revolutionizing the business model in this way. They are all racing to the finish line with a new app or piece of technology, but nobody has figured out how to solve a real customer issue by completely changing a business model.
Further to this topic, the panelists spoke about what is needed for fundamental change to occur. Alan acknowledged that it requires change from the inside out or, as he put it, from the center of the onion. And even when certain enterprise leaders or teams try to innovate, efforts usually die or become diluted once they hit the desk of the CFO. This reality, unfortunately, takes the best intentions and slows them down or moderates them. One way to accelerate this change is to partner with fintechs, especially ones that will help banks foster that human connection they used to have when customers had real relationships with their branch associates who helped them buy their homes or save for retirement. Working with fintechs is beneficial for both parties, a point reinforced by Vipul who spoke about how banks can provide fintechs with a larger audience with whom there is already a trusted relationship in place. He referred to this as how banks can be in the front and juxtaposed it with where they can operate more in the back as they help fintechs refine their platform and offering, and he mentioned TD’s work with Flybits as one example.
The final presentation of the day was a keynote from Hossein Rahnama, co-founder and CEO of Flybits.
Hossein spoke about creating a foundation of data to power AI and personalization strategies. He wove a narrative about the current state of data in many organizations and how it needs to be assembled in a manner that allows it to be easily accessed, structured and scaled. He likened microservices, which break down data into smaller, more nimble parts, to containers on a ship that you can move and manage with greater ease. He stated that data is the new oil and corporations shouldn’t give up their data. But they must look at how they can get the most out of it – how to structure and mine it – while protecting consumer privacy. He painted a vision for how financial institutions, as trusted entities, can step into the role of becoming a data vault for consumer data and how other industries can partner together to leverage the collective power of their insights for the benefit of consumers. For example, a telco might know that you always pay your bills late but a bank can add context as to why and make suggestions to help you pay on time. Organizations in this arrangement would not be sharing their data. Rather they would be leveraging the edge of the cloud to surface deeper customer insights while still adhering to strict privacy protection regulations.
As the afternoon made way to the evening, and the presentations left the audience with much to contemplate and discuss, guests enjoyed an elegant dinner and entertainment from an electric violinist. As conversation flowed, people visited our demo booths to see how Flybits could help them achieve their business and customer goals, like cross-selling or upselling products, helping customers with financial literacy, and retaining customers by making sure they have access to the products and services they need in real time.
The Flybits team was honored to host our esteemed guests, and we’re sure the experience of the event and the knowledge shared will continue to spark and drive transformative ideas that will propel the future of banking.