The influencer interview: Jim Marous, publisher of the Digital Banking Report and co-publisher of The Financial Brand

By Alara Basul | 20 February 2017

Jim Marous is a regular keynote speaker with a wealth of experience in banking, financial services innovation and consumer trends. When he's not speaking at conferences, he regularly writes for the The Financial Brand, a media outlet and website for financial marketers and executives. He is also the owner and publisher of the Digital Banking report.

With over 30 years of experience, it's easy to see why Jim Marous is ranked as a top 5 fintech influencer. bobsguide spoke to the presenter on his thoughts on the industry, career highlights and what he predicts for 2017. 

How did you get started in the fintech industry?

I began my career out of university as a retail banker. My management training program started at the most basic level in a bank branch system, progressing to being a manager of a branch office. I moved from the front lines to be the head of marketing at various financial institutions, and then on to being a strategist and business developer for several prominent direct and digital marketing agencies that specialized in the banking sector.

I began writing articles on retail financial services more than 10 years ago, joining The Financial Brand in 2014 and purchasing and publishing the Digital Banking Report shortly thereafter. Today, The Financial Brand reaches several hundred thousand financial services executives and is the second most read financial services publication worldwide. The Digital Banking Report is the most read subscription-based report in the retail banking industry.

What's your role in the industry today?

I am the co-publisher of The Financial Brand and the owner and publisher of the Digital Banking Report. The goal of both publications is to provide a gateway to deeper knowledge that will help the typical retail banker succeed. We cover subjects from innovation and transformation in banking to bank marketing, technology, delivery networks, customer experience and payments. In addition to my extensive writing, I also am a keynote speaker globally, covering the trends, strategies and future of banking.

What’s been your career highlight to date?

I am lucky (and old enough) to have many highlights in my career, including the movement from being a bank marketer to being the business development leader at several marketing agencies. I also built a marketing agency office in Canada and have partnered with some of the best minds in the financial services industry. Finally, my personal transformation from being on the front lines in retail banking to being recognized as a Top 5 Financial Services Influencer by several organizations is a highlight that is very humbling as well.

In your opinion, what retail banking trends will we see this year?

It is hard to predict the future in such a turbulent environment, but almost all retail banking trends will have a foundation in the enhanced collection and application of consumer insights to deliver a better experience. The consumer expects their financial services partner to know then, look out for them and reward them in a personalized manner. Successful organizations in the future will use the data they have been collecting over the years to provide a contextual, real-time experience that may go beyond traditional financial services to include many daily needs.

The most important trends in the next several years will be the partnership between non-bank solutions and legacy banking organizations, the continuing change in regulations, and the transformation of delivery from consumer requested solutions to predictive delivery by providers.

You’re often talked of as being a fintech “influencer”. What does that term mean to you and is being “influential” important to you? 

Because I am writing about the retail banking sector on a 24/7/365 basis as part of my role with The Financial Brand and the Digital Banking Report, I have access to some of the most exciting research and innovative minds in the banking business. I also conduct primary research for each issue of the Digital Banking Report. By sharing this research with the entire banking industry daily, and promoting these articles and reports heavily in social media, much of the industry has come to rely on me as a source of insight. With this viewership and sharing within the industry, I benefit from social scoring that is used to rank ‘financial services influencers.’ So, my label as an ‘influencer’ reflects the great people I have come to know and the research that other organizations share. The label is an honor, but I am the first to admit that it is because of my career choice (and possibly duration in the industry) more than my importance.

New technologies and innovation are constantly impacting the banking ecosystem- what should companies to do to keep up with innovation?

Every new innovation, technology and trend in the banking industry will require advanced analytics and the application of AI, machine learning and cognitive insight for the benefit of the customer. It is not that the industry doesn’t have data or doesn’t already do amazing analytics in many cases.

The challenge is the application of this insight for the direct benefit of the consumer. Banking needs to move from great reports to great experiences for their customers. This level of personalization will be the core of future fintech partnerships, customer experiences, IoT capabilities, and the future integration of voice and new devices. Without a complete, real-time, contextual understanding of the consumer, the ability to work proactively on their behalf will be impossible.

And what do you think 2017 will be remembered for?

2017 will be most remembered, as we look back, as the year that separated the winners from the losers in financial services. We are already seeing the impact of not keeping pace with digital expectations of the consumer. These expectations will lead to the shift in relationships from legacy organizations that are internally, cost and efficiency focused to digital organizations that have the ability to move forward in a customer-centric predictive and advisory manner.