Sauntering on a Digital Journey Does Not Work

In New Orleans where I grew up, sauntering is a necessity. Laissez-Faire is the lifestyle, and all that good gumbo of creativity flourishes in that slower pace. Also, a slow pace helps deal with the sweltering, sub-tropical environs. In drier and cooler Utah, where TAB Bank is located, I can afford to pick up the pace because, as they say, life is elevated there. The digital journey that TAB has undertaken needs that elevated vibe and a different pace.

Mile Marker 76 of xx?

I am not sure exactly how far along we are on our digital journey because we haven’t yet clearly defined our destination. Google Maps is of limited use if you don’t have a specific endpoint. Our team has described the place, we have drawn process maps and we have declared the customer as the inhabitant of this mythical land. We are excited to have found a passion, but these things alone aren’t getting us there. We are moving forward, but lacking aim. As a result, we are lacking focus, and this leads to a lack of a specificity of purpose. That’s a lot lacking…

We are a couple of years into our journey and have found ourselves pausing to do some discovery. We have ideas and passion but haven’t fully defined our customer personas. We have customers, but we haven’t yet discovered why they are loyal. We haven’t dug deep enough to understand what jobs we solve for them, nor what jobs they may need us to do. We have high Csat and NPS scores but can only speculate as to why.

Paper, Paper Everywhere

We should have done this customer-journey work first, but we were unsure of ourselves. In our particular bank, we had been doing things the same way for almost twenty years. We have always been an internet-based bank without branches, but we weren’t digital. We still had lots of paper and fillable pdf’s. We had people printing documents, marking them up and scanning them back in. It was discouraging.

We also needed confidence that we could change. Our objectives were big, but we weren’t yet polished at change-management. We first needed some wins. We needed to get to the first few mile markers and celebrate. We needed to get to the top of the first ridge so that we could scan the horizon for the next leg of the journey. So, we began.

Data is King – The Influencers Told Me So

We studied, we traveled, we endured countless webex pitches. We are told we needed data-platforms, warehouses, lakes, and data-at-speed. We had found our first mission. After fifteen months of work, we were producing a steady clip of ETL jobs and big beautiful data.

Meanwhile, we are hearing whispers of APIs – oh sweet APIs. Yep, data and APIs. That’s all we need. If you are a fan of Steve Martin and the movie “The Jerk,” you can rightly picture us walking down the street in a pink bathrobe clutching a chair and a lamp mumbling to ourselves about data and APIs. We were drunk with possibilities.

Well, we have our data now, and we have our API stack. And, we have had our share of wins. Our digital loan-approval and onboarding have dropped turn-times from weeks to hours. We have completed numerous projects automating and streamlined many functions. Our assets are growing, our income is soaring, and our expenses are dropping.

And yet, we are still unfocused.

We are winning, but we have only traveled a small way on our journey. A lot of our wins have been incremental. We are improving a lot of our existing processes. Now it is time for some big lift. Now we are aiming our sights on a big sexy future-state. We are erasing all of the whiteboards and clearing out the post-it notes to start from scratch.

It is time to define clearly our purpose and draw that map.

Picking a Canvas

I learned something about creativity recently. If you give a novice a good set of paints and a big raw wall as a canvas, chances are, they are going to paint a large mess of something. It would be hard for them to paint at that type of scale without training and experience. On the other hand, if you give them a 6 inch by 6-inch canvas, in most cases they will compose something recognizable, with style and decent composition. We realized that we first have to narrow our canvas.

Our canvas is going to be our customer “jobs.” We are embracing the JTBD world and are becoming detectives. We need to discover the details and emotional underpinnings of our beloved customer. While we think we understand why our customer chooses us, we are pretty far off-base. We need to bring the canvas down to size by creating human personas instead of customer cohorts. If we aren’t designing our new services to particular customer needs, then we are simply redesigning our current product-focused infrastructure. That won’t do.

The secret to the mystery seems beyond surveys and focus groups. No matter how hard you try, those methods are rife with bias. It can’t be helped. People respond in ways that they think they should. What we need are conversation-detectives. We have hired a partner to head out into the www to listen in to what people are saying about TAB, banking, and their JTBD.

Targeting Delight

We don’t yet know what our customer needs to make their financial life better, but we will do our best to explore this, with their help. There are some things that we already know – TAB has been serving anxious “mobile” customers for all of our 20-year existence. And when I say mobile, I mean it literally.

We have long served truck drivers, hard-working people who have conducted their banking miles away from home. We understand this space. Our customers are not wealthy (at least I don’t consider our competition to be wealth-managers). We have also learned from the influencer tribe that money drives emotion, and those emotions are frequently negative. As an example, our customers often need to get an advance on a delivered load so they can pay for fuel to pick up the next load. We have been doing these advances many times each day for years. We are here to relieve that anxiety.

We are good at what we do, but FinTech will make services like ours more ubiquitous. A driver has many more options to access funding today than when we started twenty years ago, and the future will only expand that. While we provide added value today (it’s in our DNA), our ability to do so will soon become obsolete. Financial services are already as mobile as our customers. So, what do we do next? How do we react?

Service. While we call the things that we deliver products, at their heart, they are services. We have always been in the service business. Our money is just green paper (or coins, or bits). Customers have always looked to us for safety and reliability. “Keep my money safe, lend me money with certainty and be a trusted advisor. “

We need to pivot to value-added service using new sets of tools. We will use data and AI and machine learning to customize our approach. We will nudge and guide our customers to better financial health. We will delight them with this new power. We will harness the power of our new-found FinTech partners and design personalized services that delight.

Focusing Comes from the Map

We will settle on a canvas and we will draw a map to a beautiful destination. I’m not sure if our target destination will be in the mountains or beachside because it’s not TAB’s destination, it’s our customer’s. We need to discover this endpoint in order to firmly set a flag marking the spot. We need that beacon to focus our efforts. We need that beacon to firmly cement our purpose as an organization.

Once we get this purpose-driven roadmap, our passion will go from broad-spectrum to laser-focus. Our engagement will be driven by a common purpose. There are a lot of other players out in the fields and forests, all trying to find a path to the customer. Some intend to delight, others expect to squeeze the customer for profit. We see them, but we won’t follow. Our path will be unique, and with that comes value – for our customer and for us.




I Tripped While Admiring the Horizon

I don’t like stumps, rocks or snakes – I actually hate snakes…

One of the great things for me about living in Utah is exploring the unbelievable amount of trails. The sensory-satisfaction that occurs is amazing. Personally, I like to run on the trails and challenge myself to see how far, fast and high I can go.20180923_100250

One piece of advice given to me recently was to be sure to look up from the trail frequently to take in the view. My problem is actually the opposite. I am always scanning the horizon. I love coming across a view that stops me dead in my tracks.

This also sums me when approaching our FI’s digital transformation. I am obsessed with what we can be, where we can go and how mightily we can delight our customers. Seems like it makes sense since I am paid to lead our FI’s strategy and execution. Oh yeah, execution…

I am a daydreamer. Sometimes when I settle into a great cadence on a trail, I get incredible clarity. I can see that digital omega – the place we are going with vivid detail and imagery. My brain synthesizes all of the learnings from this great tribe of influencers into a symphony of complex clarity.                       Caution Will Robinson.

First come the stumps

It is important to keep your eye on the path. A couple of weeks ago, on a descent, a buddy was gaining on me from behind. In the split second that I glanced behind to see how close, I caught a stump and performed a Pee-Wee Herman dance back to stability, almost careening off the path.20180923_091344

It happened so fast. These things do.

We recently launched a new security upgrade to enhance our screening for fraud. Before midnight, our system began duplicating ACH files, then summarily rejecting them all as duplicates. I detest security upgrades. They aren’t sexy. They don’t delight customers. BUT, they do keep us away from stumps. You actually do not make it very far on your journey if you aren’t watching for stumps. You never get to that perfect vantage point. You miss that view at the end if you forget to look.


Oh, did I mention the snakes?

My friend also gave me this advice – you really should be looking up and down at the same time, because if you stop looking down, you may miss another one of Utah’s gifts…

dry animal gift dangerous
Photo by Pixabay on

Did I mention that I don’t like snakes? Even thinking about them possibly being on my trail can really take me out of the moment. This important moment! The exact reason I am up here is to experience these moments, not to have images of snakes in my head. How dare that imaginary snake rob me of this!

Perspiration, Inspiration, Ideation

I just want to run and lose myself, swimming in my endorphins, looking at the incredible vistas and visualizing successes. I cannot do that. You can’t get to the summit without perspiration. My team needs to see me sweat. They need to know I’ll roll up my sleeves. After all, the views aren’t just for me. Pictures are nice, but nothing beats getting there together and sharing the view.

Can we talk about the need for self-awareness? This journey is a delicate balance of skills. There are times to sprint, times we must dodge obstacles, times we jump, and finally, times when we must stop dead in our tracks and take everything in. (This is when I snap some pics)

Self-awareness. Mindfulness. Call it what you will, but we have to understand a lot here.  I know that I am probably not going to jump over large rocks after two hip replacements. I am not used to this altitude, having grown up in swampy New Orleans. My lungs constantly remind me of this. I know my limitations. I wear my scars as battle emblems.

The path forward isn’t just about the surroundings either. I carry a lot of obstacles in my head. People seem to love to tell me about all of the snake-sightings on these trails, but I can’t dwell on that if I want to reach the summit. I need to overcome my fears. I need to look up and down (and inside and outside), all at the same time.

Context is Everything

The history of an organization is a wonderful thing, in that it allows us to learn from experiences, giving context as to how we arrived where we are. We have taken a winding path of switchbacks, steep ups-and-downs and even tumbles to get to this wonderful place of success. We have scars. We need to look around and know that we are a sum of all of the parts of the journey so far, but we are also the beneficiary of the current view of success.

The path forward can only begin from the place where we are.

We have arrived through a collective journey. Very few of the tribe that set out on this journey are still on the team. Nevertheless, we arrived here because of all of them, and because of all of us. Hypothetically, if you were to replace our entire staff, the new tribe is still required to start from this very spot, but without the benefit of context, learnings and our passion. This new tribe only has the raw materials we left behind. They don’t even have a path. They certainly don’t see our vistas.20180923_093247

I’ll take this path, replete with the rocks, stumps and yes, even the snakes and build from this very spot. I will do so knowing that I have to exercise all of my senses, clinging to the history of the path while looking ahead, and down and around. I will break a sweat. I will pause. I will dodge. I will stop to rest. But just you wait… you ain’t seen nothing yet!

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