Vision for 2021 Banking and Beyond: Lessons from a Fintech CTO
Brandon Dewitt, CTO at MX, spoke alongside actor Matthew McConaughey at the MX Visionaries Forum. His speech is worth watching in full (via the link). We’ve featured excerpts below, adapted for the MoneySummit blog.
About five years ago, I was diagnosed with stage four salivary cancer with metastasis to my lungs, my head, and my neck.
With 18 tumors, the doctors only gave me 90 days to live.
What do you do in that situation? Do you spend your time with your family, or do you take that time and fight, looking for every option that's available?
I was extremely fortunate to have an amazing team around me here at MX — a team that’s focused on data. They dug into all the data of every clinical trial that you could imagine. We visited doctor after doctor, and there are amazing things that happened over that 30-day period where we were visiting different hospitals.
I'm alive today, five years later, because we didn't stop. We just started running. And as the tumors melted away from my lungs because of the clinical trials that I was on, I was able to experience life from a completely different perspective than I ever had previously.
I'm lucky enough to be one of the individuals who’s still alive today and able to understand what it's like to have that type of prognosis and yet come out the other side.
There's an immense amount of gratitude. There's also an immense amount of confusion. There's an immense amount of wondering, “Why am I the one who's still here?” But really at the end of the day, there's an immense amount of understanding that life is about the time that we have and the purpose that we choose to focus on.
Choose the Win-win-win Cycle
One of the core things that we at MX bring to our daily execution is the belief that advocacy is the most important thing for our industry to focus on. And one of the questions that I constantly get is, “How do we start? How do we put advocacy at the center of our strategy?”
Everyone in our industry knows that there are two sides of every initiative. One is the strategy behind it. The other is the execution that makes that possible. So it's really important to understand both aspects of that as you think about putting advocacy at the center of your strategy. It's pretty amazing to not only see thousands of organizations transform and impact the world, but also to participate in that transformation of service and support that we like to call our stewardship in this industry.
We fundamentally believe you need to set up a win-win-win at the table. We win at MX because we're able to provide technology and help organizations be true advocates. The organizations we work with win because they better understand their customers through data. And consumers win because they get better products at the right time for the right reason.
If you set things up in such a way that you have that win-win-win cycle, then you're able to have an incredible business and an incredible purpose at the same time.
Use the Shakespeare Test
I was once in New York City, sitting down with a banker. We were looking out at the city when he asked, "If Shakespeare were here today, what would he recognize?" He would not recognize the skyscrapers, the technology, or the signs in Times Square. But what would he recognize? He would recognize sacrifice. He would recognize love. He would recognize fear. He would recognize all these fundamental pieces of the human experience.
And so in our conversation, we began contemplating the fundamental levers that we were trying to push on. We asked whether a certain change would pass the Shakespeare test.
If you're rolling out a new feature, are you doing it just to prove that you're an innovator or are you doing it because it alleviates some fear? Are you doing it because it solves for a sacrifice? At the end of the day, I think one of the most important strategic ideas that you can put into your planning process is understanding how the Shakespeare test influences every single decision that humans end up making in their interactions with your organization.
I would actually say as a person who is a firm believer in data — who believes that data should be proliferated throughout our industry — that data is not the end. It's merely the beginning. So it's really important that we, as leaders in the industry, contemplate where this is heading. It's not just about the data. It's about understanding the fundamental motivators of humanity.
Prioritize Your Initiatives Around Vectors of Delight
One of the other questions that I get asked a lot is, “If you were in charge here at our organization, how would you think about prioritizing initiatives?” In my view, there are some exercises that you should go through internally — some frameworks that give you an understanding of when good is good enough and when you should instead focus on being great.
Let me give you an example. At MX, we've processed the sentiment of app store reviews to align those with feature sets inside of our mobile application. We found that the number one indicator of positive sentiment is a good experience with remote deposit capture. It makes sense because not a lot of people log into a banking experience to have a great time. They’re not playing a game. They’re typically logging in to see their balances — what they can afford. And so almost all the time, people’s banking interactions are going to have a neutral or potentially negative sentiment if they can't afford something they want. But when customers deposit money into their account, their endorphins are highest because it’s a positive experience. They’re most excited that they’re now able to do things. And they can imagine that future with those things. Before we processed thousands of app store reviews, we didn't understand that principle completely.
What I would recommend you do is decide that some features are worth overinvesting in. Good is not good enough. You have to continuously pursue greatness in certain features because those features will determine the outcomes of the sentiment amongst your consumer group. They will determine when people choose to leave or not leave.
At MX, we call these features vectors of delight. These features will determine the highest amount of delight someone will have in an interaction with you. And at that point in time, you are able to ask for something more, whether it’s a product upsell or cross sell, or moving money into a long-term higher interest bearing account. When somebody is the happiest that's when you're able to ask for something that benefits your organization and your customers.
So, look for vectors of delight. Find them through analytics, and you're going to be successful as an organization because you've made your customers successful.
Invest in Computer-to-Computer Interactions
One of the beliefs I have is that if you want to look one year forward, you have to understand the last 10 years really well. And if you want to look five years forward, you have to understand the last 100 years really well because what unfolds over a five-year period is going to be heavily dependent on the things that have unfolded over the last 100 years.
If I start to contemplate and abstract away what has happened in our industry over the last 100 years, there are some big moments when it comes to the digital expansion of organizations. One hundred years ago, I think we would all say that almost all interactions were human to human. A human had to initiate a transfer, had to initiate the movement of money, etc. As we moved into the fifties, sixties, and seventies, we started moving into this idea of human-to-computer interactions, where humans would talk to a teller who would type information into a computer. Then, eventually, we put human-to-computer interaction modalities out to the consumer directly from an ATM.
These human-to-computer interactions still typically operate at the speed of humanity. We still need them, just as we still need human-to-human interactions, but the wave that’s currently crashing is computer-to-computer interaction. All of a sudden, we're able to process at the speed of computers in potentially microseconds or nanoseconds instead of milliseconds.
One thing that every organization can begin to do today to participate in the wave of computer-to-computer interactions is understanding that data is an incredible asset. It needs to be structured in such a way that it becomes meaningful and usable, not only for your institution, but also on behalf of the consumers that you're here to serve. There's an incredible opportunity going forward to leverage data in these computer-to-computer interactions that is simply unthought of today.
At MX, we don't only want to be the platform for today's processing — we want to be the platform that enables experimentation so that things can be done that we never even contemplate. Because it is far better to have millions of people contemplating future ideas than having one organization owning all those ideas. We want to continue to be the platform of innovation that people can construct opportunities on top of. I think there's an amazing opportunity right now to understand that when data and advocacy come together inside of one strategy it can participate in the crashing wave that is computer-to-computer interactions, enabling the APIs of the future, and ultimately leading us to do things that we have yet to contemplate.
Watch the full video at the MX Visionaries Forum.