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Five Key Takeaways from Curinos’ CMO Summit

Curinos was pleased to welcome marketing executives from more than 20 financial institutions to its CMO Summit for 2023 in New York, May 10 and 11. Guests were treated to insights from a diverse set of experts within financial services, marketing, and academia. From the presentations and discussions, there were five timely themes that resonated throughout the event that we present here.    

Financial Institutions in attendance: Bank OZK, BECU, BMO, Hudson Valley Credit Union, Huntington Bank, M&T Bank, Northwest Bank, PSCU, Regions, Synchrony, TD Bank, TIAA, Truist, United Community Bank, Webster Bank, Wells Fargo, WSFS.

  1. Use data to move from transactions to engagement and empathy.

    Banking needs to join the trend, already well-established in digital commerce, from transactions to engagement. The digital leaders are succeeding by offering their customers speed and simplicity, but they also know that’s not enough. Today, convenience and ease need to be accompanied by empathy, which manifests to customers in showing up at the right time with just the right experience (or sequence of experiences) in the most relevant channels for the customer. From awareness and consideration to conversion and nurturing, knowledge needs to be gained from the last thing you did for a customer, or the last series of touches, to anticipate what they will want next.

    The rich trove of data you have on your customers needs to be interpreted and applied continually to create ongoing, accumulating value. Because of the behaviors of digital leaders in all industries, that is now what customers expect. If opening an account, for example, which is measured by some providers in a few minutes, takes too long or is friction-filled, customers will abandon you. In this respect, your book of business risks silent attrition. Companies that know their customers intimately are making offers to your customers, and that can erode the franchise you’ve built. 

    There are huge opportunities in each leg of the customer journey for FIs to design relationship-building marketing interactions. In onboarding especially, these early interactions are critical. In a digital-first world, where consumers are in the driver’s seat, being able to respond to the tens of thousands of different paths early in relationships is becoming more and more important.
  1. Increasingly, trust in your institution means digital trust.

    As with so many attributes in the digital age, the level of trust in financial institutions hinges on digital trust. Digital trust emanates from the overall digital experience that the institution offers, including ease of use, intuitive navigation, transparency and, importantly, safeguarding security and privacy. Security means guaranteeing reimbursements for fraudulent transactions, real-time alerts for questionable transactions and monitoring for breeches of privacy. The balance between privacy and personalization is a fine one. Fully 74% of consumers are willing to provide personally identifiable information (PII) to companies in return for personalized value, but the slightest perception of compromised data can quickly and irreversibly diminish any trust that’s been earned.

    Digital trust has been shown to correlate highly with important behavioral categories such as opening secondary accounts. It also has a halo effect with a bank’s overall standing. To promote digital trust, banks would be well-advised to:

    • Focus on features that safeguard security and privacy, identify vulnerabilities and address them quickly.
    • Keep up with competitors’ digital tools, or risk being perceived as an also-ran.
    • Be nimble, but don’t move so fast that you compromise reliability. If you’re perceived to be unreliable, any trust you’ve built could vanish.
    • Find a way to observe individuals using your services without their knowing it. There is no more effective substitute for truly understanding your customers’ behaviors and where their frustrations may lie.  
  1. Don’t overlook the impact, and opportunity, of deposit expense.

    Before the pandemic, deposits weren’t much in the spotlight. Then came inflation and rapidly rising rates. Suddenly, a staid, low-interest rate environment gave way to aggressive repricing, deposit churn and outflows. Since the pandemic-induced savings surge, banks have lost two to six percent of their deposits, with the bottom 25% of banks losing as much as 15%. Managing deposit expense has become crucial to managing bank profitability. On a $100 billion book, a savings in interest expense of 17 bp translates to $170 million.

    Not all customers have the same retention risk profile in a rising rate environment; some will crave top-of-market rate, others not as much. Managing them closely will have a meaningful impact on margin. The key to executing the tightwire act of growing new deposits without repricing the entire book is personalized, proactive customer retention and deepening treatments.

    Find the right people who may be motivated to shop or switch, and invest only where you have to, with an optimal pricing strategy. Just make sure your branch personnel understand the strategy so they don’t end up being too generous to the wrong people.
  1. To the CFO, sell your marketing initiatives as start-ups.

    When it comes to paring operating expenses, marketing and advertising are convenient targets. They generally don’t involve reducing headcount, and while their outlays are certain, their outcomes aren’t. Vendor arrangements and evergreen programs are also easy targets. Why can’t we manage with our internal staff, one might ask, and when was the last time we looked at the return of these ongoing projects?

    These are reasonable observations, and they are often raised by CFOs. The key for CMOs is to anticipate them and be ready with equally reasonable responses. One way is to frame new marketing initiatives as start-ups. Present your case as if you’re talking to investors. Here are several considerations:
    • Market size: Outline the scope of the opportunity, and make sure it’s of sufficient scale.
    • Business model: Forecast how much revenue you anticipate and over what timeframe it will cover the investment.
    • Competition: Be realistic, not overly optimistic about competitive headwinds. Be specific, name names.
    • Marketing plan: Outline the strategy, tactics and channels for new-customer acquisition. Assign costs to acquisition and the estimated lifetime value of a new customer.
    • Tracking: Establish milestones and dates for iterative success, and make sure they’re specific and reportable.
    • Money: Allot expenditures to specific endeavors and present them in tranches. Be clear how much time each one has before it is altered or abandoned.
  1. The CMO is now the Chief Alignment Officer.

    Traditionally in financial institutions, when it came to the four Ps of marketing – Product, Price, Place and Promotion – Marketing generally got involved only with the last of them. That’s mostly changed, and where is hasn’t, it needs to. To achieve what’s expected of it, Marketing needs to have a seat at the table when the other Ps are being discussed and decided on. Then it needs to be the air traffic controller to be sure the marketing initiatives, from the first P to the last, are coordinated across all departments and channels. The CMO has become the CAO.

    In their role, CMOs also need to be the company’s Chief Advocate for the customer – from whom all inspiration needs to emanate and to whom all activity needs to be directed. It’s a simple and powerful concept but staggering in the scope and complexity it takes to deliver on it. Today, the CMO can choose from an almost limitless marketing stack, which has gotten so extensive and multifaceted that it’s become known as the “marketing industrial complex.” Yes, the idea is to learn about the customer from every touch so that the next one resonates perfectly, but how? What tools and techniques can be used to extract the data that’s needed to apply to the right interaction at the right time? And where’s the efficient frontier of marketing spend?

    Finally, whether they are CMOs, CAOs or Chief Customer Advocates, marketing executives can’t do it themselves – they need the right talent in a data-driven age. Today’s marketing department needs to be built around strategy and insights, creation and content, segmentation and customer analytics, customer experience, personalization and measurement. That’s a tall order. But it’s also only half the job. All of it will be worthless if it’s not managed and nurtured in the right culture, one that promotes personal growth, mutual respect, work/life balance and, well, fun.


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