I recently attended the American Banker Digital Banking conference in Boca Raton Florida as a sponsor / exhibitor. But the conference was poorly attended by banks and credit unions. It really felt like the conference had run-its-course.
So I was thinking - 'Why?' Isn't Digital Banking still relevant? Was the venue not appealing? But it occurred to me, perhaps we've moved on from needing to talk about Digital Banking. With 78% of US adults saying they prefer to bank via a mobile app or website - it's kind of ubiquitous now. So I think we should stop talking about Digital Banking and just focus on making 'banking' better.
eCOMMERCE IS DEAD
When I was very young and inexperienced, I travelled from Sydney to New York to attend the Microsoft TechEd conference at the Marriott Marquis hotel. It was my very first trip to the US and it was New York, New York. 🤯
The hotel was massive. At the time it boasted the largest atrium in the world. There are over 1,100 rooms - but still not enough rooms to host the conference attendees. I was there for 3 days and 2 things stood out.
Alan Cooper - he had just launched a book entitled The Inmates are Running The Asylum. He delivered a presentation on user interaction design and the overlap between computer user interface design and psychology. It changed my career. I'll write a post about that another time.
A Panel Discussion - Now I typically believe panel discussions at conferences to be a waste of time - rarely does anyone say anything insightful. Panels are about maximizing stage time for sponsors. Think about it. If I'm running a conference and I have 50 sessions. And I want to use 20 of them for product content...then I have 30 for sponsors. But I want more than 30 sponsors. How do I give them more time on stage? A PANEL! I can put 3 sponsors + 1 customer on stage. Boom 💥 HOWEVER, this panel at TechEd someone did say something insightful. I can't remember who it was, but I remember exactly what was said. In answer to a question "What's the future of eCommerce" the panelist said "I think we'll lose the 'e' and it'll just be 'commerce'"
"What's the future of eCommerce?" "I think we'll lost the 'e' and it'll just be 'commerce'
Roll forward 20 years and Amazon is compared to Target, Walmart, Macys etc. Its all just retail. We don't think about eCommerce companies going head to head...we think about all retailers competing for market share.
The online aspect of shopping is now ubiquitous. And the lines have blurred. I recently ordered some fishing gear for my son from Dick's Sporting Goods and then drove 12 minutes to the store to pick it up immediately - because we wanted to go fishing that evening. 'Click and Collect' is awesome. We have evolved our service offerings to match the demands of consumers.
I've often said 'If it's good for the consumer, it will happen'. And that's been proven time and time again.
DIGITAL BANKING IS DEAD, ITS JUST BANKING
So what's this got to do with banking and fintech?
I recently attended the American Banker Digital Banking conference at the beautiful Boca Raton resort in Florida with Woodridge Software. Woodridge were an exhibitor and sponsor of the event - looking to raise awareness of what we do with banks and credit unions that might be relevant to the financial institutions attending the conference.
The problem was, there weren't that many banks and credit unions in attendance. They were certainly out numbered by services companies like Woodridge and fintech software vendors.
So it got me thinking - why aren't the banks attending a conference focused on Digital Banking like they used to? There are a few reasons
Cost: Is the event too expensive? I don't think so. Digital is an important channel for any financial institution and worth the few thousand dollars to travel and attend.
Location: Florida was certainly hot in June, but it wasn't brutal. And the Boca Raton resort is beautiful.
Timing: Summer vacation season had started for some states like Colorado at the time the conference occurred. And that can make it more difficult to travel if people had school-aged kids.
Content: Hmmmm...perhaps attendees had already attended the event for a few years and felt like 'they'd heard it all before'. Or, perhaps the content just wasn't relevant any more.
This last point got me thinking and reminded me of that 'eCommerce' comment I heard at a tech conference back in the late 90's (yes, I'm old 😂). Has the same happened to banking? Do we have 'banking' and 'digital banking' still?
The answer is 'yes' - we still talk about 'digital banking' and most organizations are still on a 'digital transformation' of some sort. But the idea of a 'digital transformation' is somewhat misleading. It assumes there's an 'end' to the transformation. 'When I get to point X I'll be done' kind of thinking. And that's not true. That's like saying I'm on a Marketing Transformation that's going to last 3 years and when I'm done, I don't need to do anymore marketing.
Digital investment in banking will be the same as staff investment, product investment, marketing investment - it will be with us for as long as the brand exists. Sure, there's a block of work to deliver online banking, mobile banking, online account opening, online lending - maybe they're new things for your bank. But once they're deployed, we're not done. We have to sustain them.
Digital banking is pretty much ubiquitous. Its how most people bank now. People will refuse to bank with an institution if they can't do it digitally. And that includes opening a new account. And that includes business accounts as well as personal.
"According to Statista's Consumer Insights, the share of bank account holders who processed banking matters on their smartphone or tablet was 63 percent in the first quarter of 2023"
So I believe we're at a point where a conference on digital banking just isn't as relevant anymore. Most institutions have made investments in new technology (some significant, some less so) and they're interested in how to extract the most value from those investments. And at the same time, they want to talk about big topics like Fraud in Digital Banking, Artificial Intelligence, and Real Time Payments.
I think conference organizers and sponsors need to rethink their message to their target audience. No one needs to be convinced that the future of banking is digital - they want to know 'what now, what's next'? Lets give them events and content that aligns to this message.