CBA LIVE Event Overview Part 1: Digital Transformation in the Spotlight


Event Snapshot

The Consumer Bankers Association (CBA) hosted retail banking’s top annual event, bringing together more than 1,250 attendees. One of the first in-person banking conferences held in nearly three years, the event took place over three information-rich days, from March 7-9, in San Antonio, Texas. Two of our top solutions team members participated. After having an opportunity to get important insights from Naehas Senior Director, Brent Plow, and Managing Director, Michael Bedard, I’m pleased to share a summary of major takeaways.

CBA proudly promoted the event’s theme, “Let us show you what we can do,” noting it was retail banking’s declaration, suitably selected by CBA leadership and planners to reflect the industry’s strength and resilience.

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“It was a remarkably well-planned and well-run event,” said Naehas Managing Director, Michael Bedard. Brent Plow noted that with strong attendance at the sessions, and heavy traffic in the Exhibit Hall, there was a palpable, and welcomed, sense of normalcy and enthusiasm. While COVID protocols were in place, he and other participants expressed that it was equal parts “liberating and unnerving” as the mask mandates had been lifted. That said, business as usual helped to usher in a sense that everyone was ready to move forward and get to work.

In that spirit, and pre-event promotion, CBA captured the vibe of most everyone in the industry, offering this summary, which set the table for both a strong turnout and a valuable experience:

“In these unpredictable times, consumers place their trust in what is constant, safe and trustworthy. But ever-increasing customer expectations and a fast-moving digital world present unique challenges for time-tested and secure tools to meet the demand. Retail banking is tasked with the paradox to be strong, but agile, predictable, yet adaptable. With confident optimism and a commitment to serve, we’re rising to the challenge, prepared to tackle whatever lies ahead.”

The program definitely matched the hype, the Naehas team concurred. And the theme proved quite appropriate. Considering the depth and breadth of the event’s programming, and stellar professional planning, our team was deeply impressed with the successful effort which gathered the industry’s top leaders and influencers focused on the retail banking industry’s most pressing issues.

CBA Leadership Calls for a Level Playing Field

No time was wasted in kicking off a top-notch Texas-sized program, starting with Opening Remarks from CBA President CEO, Richard Hunt. On the hot topic of leveling the playing field for fintech and banks, a CBA Media Release reported:

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During his opening address on Monday, CBA’s President & CEO, Richard Hunt, issued a call to action for fintechs to voluntarily follow all consumer protection laws and assume the same federal oversight America’s leading banks have abided by for more than a decade. Recognizing “nothing moves quickly in Washington, D.C., ” Hunt issued a call to action to fintech companies offering banking services and products.

‘We always welcome competition in our industry, but if a fintech is going to offer banking products, they ought to be regulated as a bank,” said Hunt, adding, “They should have the same rules as every other (federally supervised financial institution) in this country. Congress and regulators must move swiftly to make sure there’s a level playing field across the banking landscape. But newsflash, nothing happens quickly in Washington, D.C., whether on the regulatory or legislative side. Therefore, today we’re calling on fintechs to voluntarily accept all consumer protection laws and assume federal oversight from the CFPB and all the other [regulatory] agencies. […] [Fintechs] also have a responsibility to invest in every community across this country and they should adhere to all CRA obligations as well.’

What’s the buzz in banking? Digital Transformation

Speaking about the event with two of our top Naehas executives provided useful perspective into major challenges and opportunities facing bankers today.

From their perspective, Plow and Bedard noted the top obstacles and opportunities for banks. Regardless of the type or size or ranking of the institution, the top focus factor seemed to be the transformation toward digital banking. For his part, working closely with financial services clients who are facing these challenges, Plow was pleased to see CBA leadership shine a bright light on digital transformation.

“It’s all about the drive toward digital, which has become imperative,” said Naehas Senior Director Brent Plow. He commended CBA LIVE 2022 planners for making this a prevalent theme, reflective of the realities in retail banking, especially since the pandemic. “The focus factor is now about turning toward a comprehensive digital process – a complete rework of their entire process,.” said Plow. He added that these efforts toward digital transformation mean more than just transferring material over to a website or online form, but a larger approach. This entails communicating with current and prospective customers, improving their digital experience, as well as managing offers, disclosures, and the complete lifecycle. Plow appreciated the panel of CBA past presidents who spoke to this. They recalled how just a few years ago, the talk was about the death of the retail branch, and now the major concern is determining how to move the operations digitally, not just a website, but
fundamentally from the infrastructure how do you move that digitally.

“This increased emphasis by banks on working in a digital world also requires a scalability of compliance, which is just not there now,” according to Plow.

Money Save Illustration

“Every bank is dealing with digital transformation in one way or another, either in the midst of it or starting it,” according to Michael Bedard, a Managing Director with Naehas, who collaborates with banking and insurance marketing and operations teams seeking technology partners. From the “Meet the Presidents” session, to a handful of sessions specifically addressing the challenges, and solutions, of digital transformation, Bedard said he has been hearing increasing discussion in the past several years about the importance of technology in answering the call for digital transformation, which is now, necessarily, a top priority.

During the well-attended “Meet the Presidents” session, an informal poll was conducted, and revealed interesting outcomes.

Survey Identifies Top Banking Issues

  • Digital Revolution 35.1%
  • Unregulated banks 28.6%
  • Regulatory Environment 14.1%
  • Cybersecurity 9.9%
  • Economy 3.1%
  • Innovating and Creating New Products 2.3%

Additionally, CBA leadership underscored the “Changing Landscape in Banking,” offering these valuable, if not eye-opening, facts and figures:

Banking’s Changing Landscape by the Numbers

of retail banking customers said they are using their primary bank’s mobile app more often
0 %
of customers who felt COVID-19 uncovered shortcomings in their institution’s digital capabilities
0 %
of consumers identify mobile as a top-three factor that determines their choice of financial institution
> 0 %
of consumers said anytime, anywhere accessibility and on-demand banking could motivate them to switch to a new-age financial institution
0 %
of customers feel the financial services industry is customer centric
0 %
of customers value the experience a company provides as much as its product and service offerings
0 %
Equally interesting was input from financial institutions themselves. Financial institutions that let their customer experience decline risk losing up to 12.5% of their share of deposits. Last but not least, a mere 12% of banking organizations considered themselves digital transformation “leaders.”

CBA Leader Retiring

In addition to his opening remarks to kick off CBA LIVE 2022, President & CEO Richard Hunt took the stage again on the second morning for an interview with SmithBucklin’s Chief Strategy Officer, Don Neal. The pair have collaborated on this hallmark industry event, now in its 13th year, and Hunt’s last after 13 years at the helm. They, and colleagues who offered praise in a video tribute, reflected on Hunt’s time as leader. A news release announcing Hunt’s retirement, effective this summer, was issued on November 21, 2021 by the association, which represents the retail banking industry, including the nation’s largest bank holding companies as well as regional and community banks. The release summarized his work, noting:
“Through an overhaul of CBA’s mission and focus, Hunt has doubled annual revenue, increased membership substantially, and realigned CBA’s committee structure to tackle the industry’s most important issues. As the retail banking industry continues to evolve, Hunt has become a leading voice on how traditional banks can meaningfully adapt in new, competitive arenas, as well as how policymakers can continue to strengthen America’s well-regulated and well-supervised banking system to better serve consumers.”
Hunt borrowed inspiration from the Apollo 13 White Team Flight Director, Gene Kranz, known for saying “Failure is not an option.” Hunt said he was inspired by the way Kranz led the mission. “Stop telling me what’s wrong and tell me what’s right,” was a Kranz phrase Hunt relied upon, adding in reference to CBA, “One of the things that went right was strong membership and good members.”

Future forward: The Value of Data

As this CBA LIVE 2022 overview is the first in a series, we’ll be covering the myriad of other important issues retail bankers are facing in the next segment. Of significance is the major emphasis on all things data. During a jam-packed session on “The Value of Data,” Jeff Keltner, Senior Vice President Business Development with Upstart, offered a clarion call about the protection, leverage and use of data that our Naehas team found extremely valuable. “Data is the lifeblood of any digital organization, and being able to leverage it is the key to winning in the new era,” said Keltner There was evidence throughout the conference that leveraging the data, personalizing the customer experience and protecting the data with all the cyber security threats will be a significant part of life going forward.” Our team thoroughly agrees. Next up, our top team members will address the greatest needs of financial institutions, now and in the future across the ever-expanding spectrum of companies – banks, wealth managers, fintech, Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) and, last but surely not least, cryptocurrency.