Finding Value In The Digital Banking Lifestyle

Urban FT digital banking lifestyle

Consumers have come to expect the ability to bank digitally, but is there a way to make the experience more than just a transaction? In the latest installment of our Commander-in-Chief series, Glen Fossella, EVP of Enterprise Growth at Urban FT, explains why spurring growth starts with showing the value in transforming digital banking into a service customers can’t live without.

PYMNTS: What does a day in the life of a chief growth officer look like?

GF: Like most people in this role, I spend a good part of the day with a headset in my ear. Growth is about revenue; that’s primarily a tactical pursuit. I’m spending time contacting customers, prospects and partners. In recent years, the role has changed in the sense that, as software technology has become more distributed and service-oriented, so has business development. Partnering, whether it’s to bring new capabilities to the Urban FT platform or developing sales channels, is now at least as important as working directly with prospective or current clients. Nothing happens anymore without dependable partners.

PYMNTS: What is the most difficult part of your job, and why?

GF: I’ve spent my career primarily in startups and early-stage companies, and the hardest part of this job happens to also be the most fun. How do you take a new technology or capability and explain the value proposition in a meaningful way? The answer to that question is different for various stakeholders within a buying organization. You have functional buyers, technical buyers and economic buyers, and they all need to understand the value in their own terms.

If you look at what Urban FT is doing — that is, merging traditional banking and AFS functionality and then wrapping it with a social layer that drives a digital conversation with the customer — it’s second-generation mobile banking.

A big part of this job is defining the potential value of second-generation mobile banking for each stakeholder group, measuring that value and articulating that qualitative and quantitative value to prospects. We’ve done the grunt work, so the hard part is out of the way.

PYMNTS: What do you wish you had more time to do? 

GF: At this stage, I just wish I had more time. As I was just saying, we have these proof points in the market, and now, it’s all about execution. So, 2016 for Urban FT is about scaling the company to support our growth.

PYMNTS: What’s the biggest impact mobile is having on payments and commerce that you’ve experienced?

GF: My personal view is that the last five years or so have been about getting ready to get ready. There are so many competing technologies and schemes, so many players and so much fragmentation that it’s taken this long for mobile payments to get past the early adopter stage. I think we are at the tail end of that now and seeing the beginnings of scale. Chase Pay is going to move huge numbers and so will Walmart Pay and some of the other major brands.

For the foreseeable future, it’s still going to be a hot mess for consumers with all the various types of mobile payments schemes, brands, etc., out there. But, in my view, everyone will be paying with their phone, with either a bank app or retailer app, in the near future. If I’m wedded to a particular brand as a consumer and it provides a mobile payment experience with a strong incentive around it, I’m going to start using it. I think that’s a pretty fair statement.

PYMNTS: What’s the biggest unfilled potential of mobile? How are you helping your organization realize it?

GF: Looking at financial services generally, mobile is still transactional. I have this function on my phone that lets me deposit a check or make a purchase. And that’s OK because transactional has to come first; you need to take the friction out of a physical transaction, and that becomes your reason to exist as a FinTech company. But it’s not enough to build a business long term, and it’s not defensible on its own, because, at some point, someone will come along with a way to manage that transaction with even less friction.

In our view, the next generation of digital banking and payments needs to be experiential. This is when you can engage in an ongoing conversation with customers, get to know them and really respond to their needs. This way, you become ingrained within consumers’ lifestyles, integrating their social lives with the financial lives. This is what the Urban FT platform is all about. I’m helping our clients understand what this lifestyle digital banking thing is, how it works and what the value proposition is for them and their customers.

PYMNTS: In your opinion, what company outside of payments has mastered mobile? What can payments players learn from them?

GF: I don’t know if I would say that this company has mastered mobile, but in terms of being a mobile-first business, Snapchat is doing things that no one else is. Now, clearly, they skew to a young demographic, but for your readers’ benefit, I would suggest they download the app and check out the Discover area, where the news content is. There are about 20 different brands in there, and they deliver very brief content, mostly pop news but not all. The other day, CNN, for example, had a piece on the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

I recommend going in there and checking out how other brands approach the format. Are they shooting in portrait mode? How is the pace of their pieces compared to other brands? What’s the length of the pieces? What are they trying to accomplish? Are they telling a story directly, or are they trying get you to another medium, such as their website or mobile app? These are major media brands, and they are spending a ton of money for these spots, and it’s interesting to see what they do.

The content is not aimed at me, probably not aimed at a lot readers, but I probably check in on the app about once a month just to see what’s going on. Because, again, there is a lot of experimentation, and I think we can all learn some things from that. It will also be interesting to see how they integrate the upcoming commerce functionality with the content and how various brands take advantage of that and the different approaches they take as commerce gets plugged in.

PYMNTS: How long after you open your eyes in the morning do you reach for your mobile device?

GF: My phone is my alarm clock, so half the time, my eyes aren’t even opened yet when I reach for it. But once I have my coffee and wake up, I typically start the day by catching up on industry news in my mailbox, and is one of my first reads.


Glen Fossella EVP of Enterprise Growth Urban FT

Glen Fossella

EVP of Enterprise Growth, Urban FT

Glen is the EVP of Enterprise Growth at Urban FT. He has extensive sales and marketing management experience in startup and early/mid-stage technology companies. Over the course of 12 years in banking and payments, he has acquired considerable domain knowledge in branch automation, Check 21/remote deposit and mobile banking applications. Most recently, Glen was VP of Enterprise Business Development with Ingo Money, a leader in mobile payment solutions and money movement services. Prior to the banking/payments space, he helped build and successfully exit several manufacturing and supply chain software companies and also spent time as a venture capitalist. Glen holds a bachelor’s degree in music composition from Harvard University with a minor in economics.