In Customer Experience, Origination, Trends

We just got back from one of the main retail banking conferences of the year, CBA Live 2018. Hosted in Orlando, CBA Live gave bank executives, technology partners and solution providers the opportunity to share ideas, network, and enjoy three days in the Sunshine State.

Zoot was there as an exhibitor and a speaker, and we spent time talking with the best and brightest in the industry. Here are the five main takeaways we got from our time in the sessions and breakouts, as well as our off-the-cuff conversations.

Takeaway #1: Innovating new products and solutions is the top challenge for banks

During one of the general sessions, the entire audience was asked, “What will be the top issue facing our industry over the next three years?” There were several options, but respondents chose “innovating and creating new products and solutions” as the top challenge.

This marks a shift in focus – while navigating regulatory issues was the top concern for CBA attendees each of the first five years of the event, last year “Navigating through a new regulatory environment” was knocked from the top. This year, only 4% of attendees felt that regulatory issues were their top concern.

Richard Hunt, CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association, even went so far as to remark, “The sun is shining on our industry.” The crowd certainly appreciated and echoed Hunt’s observation that 2018 promises to be a “very good year” for banking.

Takeaway #2: Reinventing the bank is a top priority

It’s no coincidence that the theme of CBA Live 2018 was “Beyond the Bank.” Themes of innovation and change ran throughout the conference, and seemed to be top of mind for all attendees.

Keynote speaker Scott Klososky urged audience members to think about the way technology is impacting every sector of modern life – noting as an example that children born today are unlikely to ever learn how to drive a car, due to the rise of autonomous vehicles.

The connection was implicit – how can banks reinvent themselves and keep up with the exponential pace of change driven by technology? Bank of the West CEO Nandita Bakhshi offered her take, saying “We need to focus on how our customers want to be served…consumers should be able to access their accounts how they want to be serviced.”

For FIs, that can mean investing in mobile and online banking technology, removing friction with new authentication and fraud prevention measures, changing the communication channels or a combination of those (and other) initiatives.

It could also mean fewer branches, a trend that the CBA attendees have been observing for some time, or perhaps “less teller space and more space to meet with clients on a one-to-one basis” as suggested by Bruce Van Saun of Citizen’s Bank.

Takeaway #3: Women in banking matter

The CBA Live conference showcased a majority of male speakers this year, but noticeably featured prominent female banking executives as well. It seemed like the CBA was shining the spotlight on more women than in years past, which is a great direction for the industry.

Bank of the West CEO Nandita Bakhshi got a rousing response from the audience when she stated that her “passion is to help women professionally or otherwise do better in their lives.” It was refreshing to hear from female bank executives and we’re hopeful that the trend towards parity with male speakers continues in the coming years.

Takeaway #4: Amazon eclipses blockchain as a potential disruptor

With the revelation that Amazon is considering a foray into checking accounts coming out just ahead of CBA Live, it was no surprise that it was a hot topic in almost every session. Many speakers cited Amazon’s “One Click” experience as a key driver of consumer expectation.

The customer-centric, always-on business model remains core to Amazon’s success – and is a model that financial institutions will need to embrace to retain their customers. There was buzz around the competitive implications of Amazon as well, with speakers arguing that the news should spur change and adaptation for legacy FIs.

One topic notably absent in panel and keynote discussion: blockchain. While there were hallway conversations that addressed the growth of cryptocurrency and the fraud mitigation potential for blockchain technology, it wasn’t a center stage topic.

While this may have been primarily due to the timing of Amazon’s announcement, FIs would be wise to continue investigating blockchain for fraud prevention and potential asset management, as more Americans are losing trust in institutions and placing it instead in technology.

Takeaway #5: Fraud is here to stay

Fraud, as a topic for keynotes and breakouts, was omnipresent at CBA Live 2018. Many speakers addressed the impact of fraud on the customer experience, while others spoke at length on the evolution of fraud and new trends they were seeing.

One of the highlights of the conference was hearing from General Michael Hayden, former NSA and CIA director and current Principal at the Certoff Group, as he counseled that “cyber is the new domain of warfare, alongside traditional domains air, sea, land and space” to a spellbound audience.

FIs are no stranger to the growth of fraud, and most are actively seeking ways to mitigate fraud losses and instances without impacting their customer experiences. Those who strike the right balance will be well-positioned to capture and retain good customer growth in the coming years.


The theme of “Beyond the Bank” was spot on for this year’s CBA Live, and we were excited to participate. Discussions about bank innovation, fraud management and the shift in the competitive landscape were prevalent through the conference center. Old friends reconnected, new friends were made, and ideas flooded the sessions.

We wouldn’t have missed it for anything, and we’ll be back next year in DC. Hope to see you there!

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