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Why Risk Management Is a Leadership Issue

From product scandals to data breaches to natural disasters, companies are dealing with constant risk. But how they prepare for those risks can make the difference between riding the roughest wave — or drowning in it. The field of risk management, once an afterthought for many companies, is getting renewed attention with a new book by two Wharton professors who want to help business leaders think more deeply about worst-case scenarios. Michael Useem, management professor and director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management, and Howard Kunreuther, professor of operations, information and decisions as well as co-director of the Risk Management and Decision Processes Center, recently spoke with the Knowledge@Wharton show on SiriusXM channel 111 about their book, Mastering Catastrophic Risk: How Companies Are Coping with Disruption.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

Knowledge@Wharton: How did the two of you come to collaborate on this book?

Useem: If you think about the two terms that Howard has referenced, risk and leadership, they go together in this case. Often, we think of those as something separate. Risk — we’ve got to be analytical and disciplined, and it’s often technical. Leadership — it’s all about having a vision and setting a strategy. But we concluded, after talking with quite a few people and companies’ directors, executives and senior managers that the time has come for the conjoining of these two terms. Many companies now are self-conscious about appraising risk, measuring risk, managing risk and ensuring the company is ready to lead through a tough moment the risk has caused.

Knowledge@Wharton: Is this a recognition that has developed recently, compared with the executive mindset of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s?

Useem: Yes. I think what really got us going on the book in terms of the timing is exactly what you’ve referenced. Ten or 15 years ago, no companies had a chief risk officer. Risk was barely mentioned. The term “enterprise risk management” (ERM) was not even around. But if you look at any trend line out there, what do people worry about when they get together at watering holes for senior management? Risk now is on the agenda just about everywhere, for good reason: Because the risk that companies have faced in recent years has gone up. The catastrophic downside of big risk also has increased. More risk, more downside, more people are paying attention.

Kunreuther: One of the really interesting issues associated with the study and our interviews with senior management is that, before 9/11, there was very little emphasis by the firms on low-probability events — the black swan events. Starting with 9/11 and continuing through to today, these issues now have become more important, and black swans are now much more common than before. As a result, firms are paying attention. When we interviewed people, they were very clear with us that now that the events have occurred, they are putting it high on the agenda. As Mike has indicated, the boards and all of senior management are now paying attention to it, so it’s a big, big change.

Knowledge@Wharton: Certainly, 9/11 was an impactful event on the country, but it was followed a few years later by the Great Recession. How did that change the view of risk?

Useem: We raised the question in these in-depth interviews with people inside the company, whether on the board or in the management suite, and they consistently said that four events became a wake-up call or an alarm bell. First, 9/11 got us thinking about the unthinkable. A couple of hurricanes came through, including Sandy, which was a huge event. The recession or the near-depression back in 2008, 2009. Who thought that the Dow was going to lose 500 points in a day? Who thought Lehman was going to go under? But it all happened. And finally, the events in 2011 in Japan with the enormous tsunami after a 9.0 earthquake that left probably 25,000 people dead and set a fire in a nuclear plant.

Even if you were a company that was not touched, just look at the four points on a graph. The costs are high. Many companies are impacted. Everybody thought, let’s get on with enterprise risk management. Let’s make it an art.

See also: How to Improve ‘Model Risk Management’  

Knowledge@Wharton: How have business leaders changed their thinking about risk management because of those four events?

Kunreuther:  Leaders are now saying, “We have to put risk on the agenda. We have to think about our risk appetite,” which they hadn’t thought about before. “We have to think about our risk tolerance.”

Financial institutions played that role, and they were very clear about that right after the 2008-2009 debacle. They had to ask themselves very explicitly that question. But I think this is now much broader than that. Leaders have recognized that they also have to think longer-term. This is one of the issues. We have a framework that we’ve developed in the book that tries to combine some of the work that has come out of the literature that Daniel Kahneman has pioneered on thinking fast and slow — by indicating that intuitive thinking is the mindset that we often have. Thinking myopically. Thinking optimistically. Not wanting to change from the status quo. Leaders have now recognized that they have got to put on the table more deliberative thinking and think more long-term. That is a change, and they tie that together with risk.

One of our contributions, with respect to the book, is to try to put together a framework that really resonates with the leaders and the key people in the organization so that they can respond in a way that makes sense.

Useem: We asked a lot of people who are in the boardroom, if they go back 15 years, was risk, cyber risk or catastrophic risk in board deliberations? The answer typically was no. Ask the same people about today, and they say, “Of course.” We watched with horror what has happened with some of the cyber disasters at Target and elsewhere, and no board worth its pay is these days unconcerned about risk. Now, you’ve got to be careful. The board works with management, sets the vision, does not micromanage. But what boards are increasingly doing is saying to management, “Let’s see what your risk tolerance is. Let’s see what your risk appetite is. Let’s see what measures you already have in place. Nobody wants to think about the unthinkable, but let’s think about it.”

Knowledge@Wharton: The fake accounts scandal at Wells Fargo and the emissions controversy at Volkswagen are two recent examples of risk that you document in the book. Can you talk about that?

Useem: We don’t mean to pick on any company, and we don’t mean to extol the virtues of any company. But we can learn from all. Howard and I took a look at the events at Wells Fargo, which were extremely instructive. No. 1, the company put in very tough performance measures. They told employees, you’ve got to get results, otherwise you’re not going to be here in 12 months. But there was not a recognition that very tough performance indicators without guardrails against excess of performance was a toxic mix. We’ve seen what happened to Wells Fargo. They’ve paid billions in fines. The Federal Reserve has a stricture right now that Wells Fargo cannot accept one more dollar in assets until it can prove to the Fed that it has good risk measures in place.

We also document in the book the events with Volkswagen, which had the so-called defeat devices intended to report if a VW vehicle was brought in for an inspection, that the emissions were meeting U.S. standards. In fact, the software just simply was fooling the person looking at the dials. That, apparently, went all the way up to the top. We’ll see what’s finally resolved there.

Wells Fargo and Volkswagen took enormous hits in terms of reputation, brand, stock price and beyond. We also document a bit the BP problems in the Gulf…. They’re instructive.

Kunreuther: We didn’t interview anyone with respect to Volkswagen, but we did have public information, and it’s included in the book. The reason that we felt it was so important is that VW felt that this was a low-probability event that they would be detected, and they put it below their threshold level of concern. They emphasized the optimistic part of this, which was to say, “Let’s see what we can do as a way of really improving our bottom line.” What we do in the book is give a checklist to people, to companies and to individuals. We see it as a broad-based set of checklists on how they can do a better job of dealing with that.

What we really say is: Pay attention to these low-probability events. If you think not only in terms of next year but over the next 10 years, what you can see as a very low-probability event would actually be quite high over a period of time. If you begin to think long-term, which is what firms want to do, you pay attention to that.

Knowledge@Wharton: There’s such an economic impact on the company when these issues can’t be resolved quickly. Toyota, for example, has been dealing with its airbag problem for several years.

Kunreuther: You tie the issue of getting companies and directors to pay attention to the low probability, and then you say to them, “Construct a worst-case scenario.” Put on the table what could happen if it turns out you were discovered, or if there is an incident that occurs, or an accident, as Mike was saying on the BP side. What’s going to happen to the company? What will happen to its reputation, its survival, its bottom line? Our feeling is that, if you can begin to get people to think about the appetite and tolerance in the context of these low probabilities that could be quite high, then I think you have an opportunity for companies to pay attention. And they’re doing that, as Mike and I have found out in our interviews.

Knowledge@Wharton: What about when the disaster is a natural phenomenon, such as the volcanoes in Hawaii and Guatemala? Companies have to be prepared, but they can’t control what happens.

Useem: As we’ve watched the events unfold in Hawaii and Guatemala, it’s a great warning to us all that the impact of natural disasters worldwide is on the rise. There’s just no other way to describe it except a graph that’s going up, partly because people are living closer now to some of the places that historically are seismic. Hurricanes are possibly being intensified by global warming. There are more people along the Florida coast. All that being said, natural disasters are obviously in a much bigger class of disasters.

[Since] we wrote this book for people to be able to think through their own catastrophic risk management, we offered [examples] from the experience of other large companies, mainly in the U.S. We have a couple of German companies that we focused on: Deutsche Bank, Lufthansa and so on. We suggest that the vigilant manager, the watchful director, ought to be mindful of 10 separate points. One is, be alert to near-misses. What we mean by that is, “There but for the grace of God go I.” If I’m an energy producer, watch what happened to BP in the Gulf. Let’s learn from what they went through.

The A-case for me is Morgan Stanley, which had been in the South Tower of the World Trade Center when 9/11 hit. Because of the events eight years earlier — in 1993, a bomb had gone off in the basement of the World Trade Center — the risk officer at Morgan Stanley said, “Who knows what else might happen? That was a near-miss.”

Rick Rescorla, [vice president for corporate security,] insisted that Morgan Stanley every year practice a massive drill of evacuating the tower. When 9/11 occurred, the North Tower was hit first. Morgan Stanley is in the South Tower. Rescorla said, “Let’s get out of here,” and he managed to evacuate almost all 4,000 people. He was one individual who did not get out. He went back in to check. He is a hero for Morgan Stanley and many other people, but the bigger point taken from that is: Learn from the world around us, because these developments are intensifying. The threats are bigger. The downside is more costly.

See also: 3 Challenges in Risk Management  

Kunreuther: Near-misses are important in any aspect. But the other point that I think is important for today is another part of the checklist: Appreciate global connectedness and interdependencies. That point really became clear with Fukushima and with the Thailand floods. We asked each company what was the most adverse event that they faced? They had the complete freedom to say anything they wanted. The death of a CEO could have been one. Kidnapping was another. But as Mike indicated earlier, Fukushima was a critical one, and so were the Thailand floods. These were companies in the S&P 500, but they were concerned about how they were getting their parts, so supply chains were very important. They recognized after Fukushima that they were relying on a single supply chain that they couldn’t rely on for a time.

Knowledge@Wharton: How can a company prepare for the unexpected death of a CEO?

Useem: From looking at the companies that are pretty far into it, all we’re calling for is getting those risks figured out, then having in place a set of steps to anticipate. It’s like insurance. The best insurance is the one that never pays off because the disaster has not happened. The best risk management system is the one that’s not invoked.

In the book, we get into the events surrounding a fatal Lufthansa crash. Within minutes, they were in action. Within minutes, they had called the chancellor of Germany. Within minutes, they had people heading to the scene, not because that’s what they do but because they had thought about the unimaginable, and they had in place a system to react quickly. You have to deal with an enormous amount of uncertainty when disaster strikes. Premise No. 1: Be ready to act. Premise No. 2: Be ready to work with enormous uncertainty, but don’t let that pull you back from the task ahead.

First Line of Defense on Cyber Risk

Anonymous theft and abuse of business data is a growing risk for many organizations. Most security initiatives aimed at this problem begin with piecemeal technical controls, such as trying to block and account for things like USB drives or mobile devices with software and policies. However, zeroing in on technical countermeasures first is looking at the problem upside-down. Instead, companies should first and foremost ask whether their corporate cultures are inviting insiders’ malicious and risky behavior — or whether these cultures are functioning to deter it as a first line of defense.

See also: How to Measure ‘Vital Signs’ for Cyber Risk  

The continuing Wells Fargo controversy is a perfect case in point.

Media accounts claim Wells Fargo managers pressured employees to meet aggressive growth quotas by signing up account holders for new accounts and financial services they never requested — reportedly netting the bank significant income in new fees and service charges. In effect, workplace cultures like this create a slippery slope, fostering a wider range of “fallout” insider threat behaviors.

When an organization’s culture creates opportunities for abuse, motivated employees may be more disposed to comb through that organization’s data for a side business, copy records on behalf of a rival or sell files to cyber criminals.

The sheer scale of this contributing risk factor becomes clear when you consider that  high-pressure sales environments exist in many companies — to varying degrees. This is yet another example of why security and data privacy risks always begin and end with business factors and people, not technology.

Employees pressured into abusing data without penalty set an increasingly toxic precedent. Moreover, managers’ use of private, “unofficial” mediums outside of corporate oversight — such as text messages or personal email — to request or facilitate questionable conduct only reminds would-be malicious insiders that they will not arouse suspicion if they, too, use such tools in the workplace. How prevalent is this conduct? The answer matters because these behaviors are risk variables that are as important as patch levels and app permissions.

Recent bank investigations are a reminder for CEOs and chief information security offiers (CISOs) alike that transparency, ethics and cybersecurity go hand in hand. As complex as fighting myriad cyber risks can be across companies’ changing IT assets, too few decision-makers recognize the power of healthy leadership and corporate culture as a scalable, enterprise-wide defense.

See also: Better Way to Assess Cyber Risks?  

Soul-searching in the wake of today’s headlines should include serious thoughts about making an ethical, highly visible business culture the first line of deterrence against ubiquitous insider risks. Accountability and leadership should play a larger role in safeguarding data and keeping business partners in line long before factoring in USB drives and mobile devices.

More stories related to insider threats:
Sophisticated email monitoring can help companies detect insider threats
Inattentive employees pose major insider threat
Insider threats pose major cybersecurity exposure

This post originally appeared on ThirdCertainty. It was written by Dan Velez.

New Risks Coming From Innovation

The triggers that have induced the insurance industry to innovate have dramatically changed in this millennium. Up until the 21st century, little innovation occurred, because insurers were looking to create products for emerging risks or underinsured risks. Innovation occurred most often as a reaction to claims made by policyholders and their lawyers for losses that underwriters never intended to cover. For example, the early cyber policies, which insured against system failure/downtime or loss of data within automated systems, were created when claims were being made against business owners policies (BOPs) and property policies that had never contemplated these perils. Similarly, some exclusions and endorsements were appended to existing policies to delete or add coverage as a result of claims experience. Occasionally, customer demand led to something new. Rarely was innovation sought as a competency.

Fast forward to today, when insurers are aggressively trying to develop innovative products to increase revenue and market share and to stay relevant to customers of all types. Some examples include: supply chain, expanded cyber, transaction and even reputation coverages.

With sluggish economies, new entrants creating heightened competition, emerging socio-economic trends and technological advances, insurers must innovate more rapidly and profoundly than ever. The good news is that there is movement toward that end. Here is a sampling of the likely spheres in which creativity will show itself.

Space

Insurers have already started to respond to the drone phenomenon with endorsements and policies to cover the property and liability issues that arise with their use. But this is only the tip of iceberg in comparison with the response that will be needed as space travel becomes more commonplace. Elon Musk, entrepreneur and founder of SpaceX, has announced his idea for colonization of Mars via his interplanetary transport system (ITS). “If all goes according to plan, the reusable ITS will help humanity establish a permanent, self-sustaining colony on the Red Planet within the next 50 to 100 years” according to an article this September by Mike Wall at Space.com.

See also: Innovation — or Just Innovative Thinking?  

Consider the new types of coverages that may be needed to make interplanetary space travel viable. All sorts of novel property perils and liability issues will need to be addressed.

Weather

Weather-related covers already exist, but with the likelihood of more extreme climate change there will be demand for many more weather-related products. Customers may need to protect against unprecedented levels of heat, drought, rain/flood and cold that affect the basic course of doing business.

The insurance industry has just taken new steps in involving itself in the flood arena, where until now it has only done so in terms of commercial accounts. Several reinsurers — Swiss Re, Transatlantic Re and Munich Re — have provided reinsurance for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), for example. Insurance trade associations are studying and discussing why primary insurers should do more in terms flood insurance as a result of seeing that such small percentages of homeowners have taken advantage of NFIP’s insurance protection.

Sharing Economy

As a single definition for the sharing economy begins to take shape, suffice it to say that it exists when individual people offer each other products and services without the use of a middleman, save the internet. Whether the product being offered is a used handbag, a piece of art or a room in a private house or whether the service is website design, resume writing or a ride to and from someplace, there are a host of risk issues for both the buyer and seller that are not typically contemplated by the individual and not covered in most personal insurance policies. This is fertile ground for inventive insurers. How can they invent a coverage that is part personal and part commercial? Smart ones will figure out how to package certain protections based on the likely losses that individuals in the sharing economy are facing.

Driverless Cars

So much has already been written about the future of driverless cars, but so many of the answers are still outstanding. How will insurance function during the transition; who will be liable when a driverless car has an accident; who will the customer be; what should the industry be doing to set standards and regulations about these cars and driving of them; how will subrogation be handled; how expensive will repairs be; how will rates be set? A full list of unanswered questions would be pages long. The point for this article is – how innovative will insurers be in finding answers that not only respond to these basic questions but also provide value-added service that customers will be willing to pay for?

See also: Insurance Innovation: No Longer Oxymoron  

The value added is where real innovation comes into play. Something along the lines of Metromile’s offerings for today’s cars is needed, such as helping drivers to find parking or locate their parked cars. Such added value is what might stem the tide of the dramatic premium outflows that are being predicted for insurers once driverless cars are fully phased in.

Corporate Culture and Reputation

Recent events indicate that corporations need some risk transfer when it comes to the effects of major corporate scandals that become public knowledge. The impact from the size and scope of situations such as the Wells Fargo, Chrysler, Volkswagen and other such scandals is huge. Some of the cost involves internal process changes, public relations activities, lost management time, loss of revenue, fines and settlements. Reputation insurance is in its infancy and warrants further development. And though insurance typically does not cover loss from deliberate acts, especially those that are illegal, there is enough gray area in many scandals that some type of insurance product may be practical despite the moral hazard and without condoning illegal behavior.

And the Risk

All innovation poses risk. Risk is uncertainty, and innovation leads to uncertain outcomes. Just as insurers must create solutions, they must be willing to acknowledge risk, assess risk, mitigate risk and prepare for some level of risk to materialize. So, as insurers are now actively trying to innovate, they must make sure that their enterprise risk management practices are up to addressing the risks they are taking.

For each new product, some of these risk areas must be explored:

  • Is there a risk that projections for profitability will be wrong?
  • If wrong, by how much, and how will this shortfall affect strategic goals?
  • What is the risk appetite for this product initiative?
  • What is the risk the new product will not attract customers, making all development costs wasted expense?
  • What is the risk that price per exposure will be incorrectly estimated, hurting profitability?
  • What is the risk for catastrophic or shock losses relative to the product?
  • How will aggregation risk be handled?
  • What is the risk that litigation concerning the policy coverages will result in unintended exposures being covered?

Conclusion

Regardless of whether or not they have been dragged into innovation by disruptive forces, insurers are finally ready to do more than tweak products around the edges. The risk of not innovating appears to be greater than the risk associated with innovating.

How to Respond to Wells Fargo Fraud

I hope the Wells Fargo scam is causing boards, executives and practitioners everywhere to pause and reflect: Could something like this happen to us?

If it can happen at a great institution like Wells Fargo, it can probably happen anywhere.

In a couple of posts, I have shared questions that should have been asked and that should drive similar questions at other companies. For instance, why did management set incentive goals that didn’t appear to be aligned with driving revenue or earnings? What led to the failure of the controls that were designed to ensure that customers approved the opening of accounts in their name? Why didn’t customer complaints lead to identification of the problem? Why was the problem allowed to continue for at least five years? Did management have any idea that the culture of the organization would permit such a pervasive scheme? What was the role of internal audit, of the compliance officer, of whistleblower provisions and of risk management?

In a podcast with MIS Training Institute (which I recommend), I made another point. I think this is critical for everybody to understand.

I said that when people feel they are able to get away with a minor fraud, they will do something else. The level of fraud may start small, but it almost always increases.

I asked what else has been happening at Wells Fargo.

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The public reaction by the Wells Fargo CEO, John Stumpf, included an observation that the scam only involved at any time about 1,000 people of the 100,000 in the branch network.

Let’s set aside the fact that 5,300 people were fired over a period of five years and that this number does not count anybody who was less severely disciplined or not caught.

Let’s set aside the fact that 1,000 people fired in each of the last five years reflects a continuing failure and, to me, indicates a breakdown rather than a one-time failure in controls.

The point is that he seems to believe that this is a small level of incidence, almost (in my words) an acceptable level of risk.

See also: Bridezilla and Workers’ Comp Fraud  

I am drawn to agree that this is a low level of failure. I’m not sure it is so low that it would be acceptable.

Let’s talk reality.

While it looks and sounds good to say that an organization has zero tolerance for fraud, corruption and a failure to comply with laws and regulations, that zero level is just about impossible to achieve.

You would need somebody looking over everybody’s shoulder all the time to ensure that no inappropriate activity was happening, and somebody looking over that person’s shoulder to make sure they were watching properly.

All you can do is have what a prudent person would believe is a reasonable level of control, given the risk of fraud.

According to studies by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the typical company loses about 6% of its annual revenue to fraud. That number includes theft of time, personal use of the company’s laptop and so on.

Is that an acceptable level? Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t. You decide for your company — and consider the cost of reducing the fraud risk. Is the cost greater than any reduction in fraud risk?

The same goes for compliance issues or the activity reported at Wells Fargo. Was a reasonable level of control in place? Could controls have been improved to reduce the risk without incurring substantial cost? I suspect the answer is yes, but we don’t know enough of the facts yet.

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Let’s also consider other forms of fraud, abuse and corruption.

Are these acceptable practices, or are they another form of fraud?

  • The CEO of a multibillion-dollar company approves the funding of a charity of which his wife is the chair. There is no clear benefit to the company, no link to its operations.
  • In response to falling revenue and profits, the CEO of another company lays off about 10% of the workforce. The board awards him a $1 million bonus for completing the reduction in force. At the same time, the CEO spends $1 million to renovate the executive suite of offices.
  • A senior manager in IT refuses to provide support for the implementation of a disaster recovery plan because it is not included in his personal objectives.
  • The vice president of procurement for Malaysia refuses to follow instructions from the executive vice president (EVP) of procurement (to whom she does not report) and adhere to global contracts with major vendors negotiated by that EVP. Instead, she negotiates successfully with the local subsidiaries of those vendors. While she obtains better prices for Malaysia (for which she and her boss, the president of that region, are rewarded) she puts the corporate contract in serious jeopardy.
  • A senior executive decides to hire a friend.
  • The chairman puts pressure on the company to select as a director an individual whom he knows will vote his way rather than searching for a director who will add critical expertise.

All of these are situations where, in my view, individuals put their personal interests ahead of those of the enterprise as a whole.

They act in a way that brings them rewards but that hurts the company as a whole.

See also: How Bad Is Insurance Fraud Really?

While technically they have not stolen and have not broken any laws, they have acted inappropriately. I will let you decide what to call their behavior.

But let’s be honest: Self-dealing is ripe around the world. Very few are selfless, putting the interests of others ahead of their own.

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So what does this all mean? Where am I going?

  1. What we have seen at Wells Fargo (based on the few facts we know) is, in some ways, normal human behavior. When people believe that the behavior is encouraged or at least not discouraged and that they will not be caught, they will “game” the system.
  2. While we focus on fraud, we might be better off focusing on behavior and actions. There are many forms of behavior that will harm the organization.
  3. We cannot prevent or even detect all actions that result in a loss to the organization. We need to understand all of its forms, the impact and likelihood of each, and ensure that we have the controls in place that provide a reasonable level of assurance that risk is at acceptable levels.
  4. Management must take ownership of the design and operation of those controls.
  5. Internal audit should provide assurance on the management of the more significant risks.
  6. When the level of risk that the controls are failing rises, the root causes must be investigated.
  7. A low level of fraud, if left alone, will normally grow until it is unacceptable.

I welcome your views.

5 Accelerating Trends in Digital Marketing

I recently attended the Digital Marketing for Financial Services Summit (#DMFSToronto). Digital leaders from Citi, Facebook, Wells Fargo, MetLife, Allstate, Salesforce and more were there talking about what is working, not working and what is coming next within digital marketing for financial services.

Five accelerating trends:

1) It’s all about the data.

It has ALWAYS been about the data in digital marketing, but now with so many advancements in programmatic advertising, real-time media buying, CRM, data lake technology and data visualization services, it’s easier than ever to track results, test, learn and optimize your marketing efforts.

Hari Pillai from Invesco spoke on a panel about a struggle many companies have — being data-rich but knowledge-poor. His keys to success were to create a strong infrastructure for your data and an API to simply and effectively leverage your data, so you know where the customer is in the journey. In his words, “Data is the secret weapon to move the customer down the journey.”

See also: Data Science: Methods Matter (Part 2)

2) Customers matter more than ever.

As we all know, the dynamic has flipped to a customer being in charge more than ever in the buying process. Fifty-seven percent of the purchase journey is done before a customer ever contacts a supplier per the CEB, so you need to listen to the key needs of your customers and figure out how to solve those needs.

Ramy Nassar from Architech had a great presentation about focusing on customer needs instead of financial products. My favorite line from his presentation was, “Think about the need, not the transaction. No one wants to buy a mortgage, they want a house.”

3) Social will soon rule the world.

The typical North American adult checks social media 17 times a day. SEVENTEEN!

Combine that with the fact that cold calling and emailing response rates are hovering around 3-4%, and millennials preference for social as the No. 1 method of contact, and social will soon be taking over as the primary communication vehicle for marketing and sales.

Any financial professional or salesperson who does not have a complete LinkedIn profile that is optimized for search will slowly begin to lose their client base.

I spoke on the value of social selling to financial institutions in this new digital world and how to use the power of social media to generate leads and sales.

See also: How to Capture Data Using Social Media

4) Wearables are not going away.

If you are looking for the next big thing, wearables are it. How long is it until our Fitbit we use on a daily basis to track our steps starts feeding that information to doctors? Insurance companies? Retail stores? It’s a matter of time until everyone knows everything about everyone else. Enjoy your 15 remaining minutes of privacy! And be prepared to have everything measured and managed in real-time.

Rachid Molinary of Banco Popular de Puerto Rico presented an informative use case on how the company quickly integrated mobile banking into wearable technology. Now you can check your BPPR account balance in a matter of seconds on your Apple Watch. What was even more impressive was the processes and systems they have put in place to bring this new tech to market in a short period of time.

See also: The Case for Connected Wearables

5) The pace of change is fast (and will get faster).

Mitch Joel gave a fantastic keynote about how fast the world is changing and how every company thinks they are being innovative. However, to truly create innovation is to “create something that the market did not know that it needed, that then becomes adopted (and paid for) in a way in which we could have never imagined our lives without it.” Not many companies are doing this today.

Erin Elofson from Facebook spoke about their roadmap and how VR is playing a huge role in their future. To get a small glimpse of the company’s VR capabilities, check out the first film shot with the new Facebook Surround 360 camera. This is just the snowflake on the tip of the iceberg.

So, how will you and your company react to this new digital world in financial services? These changes are coming sooner than anyone expected. Those that adapt quickly will thrive, those that don’t will struggle to survive.

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