James Robert Lay is one of the world’s leading digital marketing authors, speakers, and advisors for financial brands. As the founder and CEO of the Digital Growth Institute, he has guided more than 525 financial brands on a mission to educate, empower, and elevate their marketing team with strategies, systems, technologies, and habits.

Lay is also the author of the bestselling book Banking on Digital Growth: A Strategic Marketing Manifesto to Save Financial Brands. He has also been named one of the Financial Brand's "Top Global Financial Services Influencers to Follow," a CUNA "Credit Union Rock Star," and a CU Times "Under 40 Trailblazer." Docurated named James Robert one of the "Top Marketing Automation Resources.” And Kapost has recognized him as one of "32 Texas Marketers You Should Follow" on Twitter. 

Lay’s presentation at the Money Experience Summit was titled “Banking on Digital Growth: The Strategic Marketing Manifesto to Transform Financial Brands,” and detailed ways that financial services companies can successfully transition. You can watch the whole conversation by registering for the Money Experience Summit.

Lay says that each individual at a financial services company must start with looking inward. “Transformation has to begin with the self,” he says. “Transformation begins with where you're at versus where you want to be. And a lot of that's going to require what I call the adaptability quotient (AQ), which is far more important than EQ or IQ. And COVID is giving us a preview of all of the transformations that are going to have to happen within the weeks and months to come. The good news is that AQ is like a muscle. It can be taught, it can be trained, and it can be strengthened. And one of the best ways to apply that thinking is to get comfortable being uncomfortable. You can start this today. When you take a shower, don't turn the water to warm. Keep it cold. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” 

After you’ve started making inroads to self-transformation, Lay recommends flipping the business model from physical first to digital first. 

Screen Shot 2020 10 20 At 1.45.06 Pm

“What we have seen in this industry is a model built around the physical world, the brick and mortar — and digital has been a bolt on to that,” Lay says. “But now COVID is accelerating the conversation around what it means to be digital and what it means to be mobile first. And it's not just online banking or mobile banking. It's looking at how we're acquiring, how we're nurturing, and how we're converting, and then retaining loans and deposits digitally. And that requires the entire model to be flipped upside down to where we're digital first in acquisition and retention. And then the branch, the physical world, supports the digital components.”

Of course, this doesn’t happen without turmoil. “You're literally flipping people's worlds upside down, and that is going to put people in a reactive stance,” Lay says. “It's going to put people in a defensive stance. Think about fight or flight for a moment because it's natural to want to resist change. And that's why we see so many financial brands struggling during this time to transform the legacy model to change from a growth standpoint, from a marketing standpoint, and from an operational standpoint.” By anticipating this resistance, financial institutions will be far better prepared to flip the business model and instate a successful digital transformation.

Lay talks about a range of other essential steps that financial services companies must take to successfully make a digital transformation. He concludes by saying, “Digital growth is a journey, a marathon. It's a journey from good to great. It's a journey of transformation.” He adds, “Transformation begins in the mind. It must be measured by progress, not perfection. And remember, most importantly, why you are doing this in the first place. It's not about you. It's not about your financial brand. It's about the people in the communities that you're serving to get them beyond the stress that's taking a toll on their health, their relationships, their overall wellbeing. You're committed to get them to a bigger, better brighter future.”

Watch the whole conversation by registering for the Money Experience Summit.