“Crisis creates opportunity” Interview with FSI Transformation Assembly Keynote Lisa Shalett, Former Partner and Head of Brand Marketing & Digital Strategy at Goldman Sachs

 -FSI Transformation Assembly - Lisa Goldman Sachs Interview

Lisa, you recently joined us as our keynote speaker at the Digital FSI & FSI Transformation Assembly. Can you give our readers a rundown of your key takeaways from the Assembly and of course, your Keynote Address?

LS: “I have a number of key takeaways from the Assembly. Firstly, that nearly every organization present was undertaking some type of “transformation”. That was certainly the word I heard the most in during and outside of the sessions. However, “transformation” takes many different forms and shapes. In some cases, an innovation center has been set up to “own” all transformation and somehow drive that within the organization; or someone has been named the head of digital transformation (often with senior management’s realization that the company needs to “be more digital”), and they are expected to figure out how to practice “influence without authority” and involve themselves in many business areas and processes technically owned by others, and drive change; or there are owners of specific businesses or within technology that are trying to drive transformation of their specific area.

  • What is the right way to drive change for a given organization?
  • What are the desired outcomes and what is driving those?
  • What does success look like?

Based on the conversations I heard and participated in, there seems to be room for best practice and case study sharing.

My second takeaway is that most attendees were a change agent in some way, a role that can feel exciting but lonely. This role requires a lot of stamina and persistence, and especially high EQ and communication skills. More attention needs to be paid to the importance of communication.

Third, because of the challenges presented by the first two takeaways, it is easy to default to focusing on very tangible, technical things, without taking a step back to think about the perspectives of key stakeholders who might not be as technical and the strategy for getting them on board.

In my Keynote, I focused on the challenges of being a change agent, and actionable strategies around communication and collaboration that are absolutely critical to successfully driving change, including:

  1. relationships and communication: taking an inventory of your relationships; thinking about your clients and stakeholders and what their pain points might be, and how you can communicate in a manner and language that is relevant to those needs; the importance of building relationships outside of stressful situations;
  2. managing risk: that the risk of not doing something is also a risk;
  3. how you manage your brand and how you want to be perceived;
  4. how you continue to grow and keep your edge; the ROI of your generosity in trying to make stakeholders and the organization smarter. I don’t think people talk about these topics enough, yet they are really make or break areas for success.

I really felt they resonated with the audience, and hopefully, people left with some “a-has” and some actionable ideas they could try back in their organizations.”

What do you see as the benefits of attending an event like ours, that brings together C-Level executives in an intimate setting?

LS: “I don’t think there has ever been a time in which collaboration and the exchanging of ideas and experiences have been more valuable. Events like yours, which bring together senior level peers across organizations, enable such great discussions and opportunities to compare notes. As I mentioned, often the change agent role is the loneliest one; it is so powerful and cathartic for people in these types of positions to be among peers who “get it” and can share what they’ve seen work.

I thought you did a very thoughtful job in curating the attendees and the setting for meaningful networking, sharing, and discussions.”

You opened your Keynote with an interesting summary of how you got started in Financial Services. Could you tell a little about how you got started?

LS: “I never imagined myself having a career on Wall Street. When I was in college and even business school, I didn’t really know anyone on Wall Street and didn’t imagine those firms would be interested in me, given my liberal arts background. I happened to discover that there was this job, called Japanese Equities Sales at investment banks, which would pay me to talk to smart people about Japan all day, and teach me what I needed to know about markets and how to be an excellent salesperson. It turned out that my Japan background, which started with a student exchange program I did when in high school, to majoring in East Asian Studies at Harvard and becoming fluent in Japanese, was quite valuable in the Japanese Equities Sales role. Important clients who were portfolio managers, traders and analysts at mutual funds, hedge funds and pension funds in North America needed ideas and advice about investing in Japan. And that is how I found myself with the perfect job, on Wall Street, first at Barclays and then at Goldman Sachs.

Thanks to those Japan skills I ended up having a wonderful 20-year career at Goldman Sachs, and advanced to the most senior levels of the firm, becoming a Partner. As a result, I always love to speak with talented liberals arts majors about Wall Street and have successfully convinced many, who like me back then, didn’t think Wall Street was interested in them, to come to Goldman, and it has been fantastic to see so many terrific careers result from that. I have also tried to be a good role model for women in this industry which has been historically male-dominated, and have tried to pay it forward through a commitment to mentorship. I definitely learn at least as much from my mentees as they do from me!”

The financial services are in the throes of digital transformation, which poses significant challenges and opportunities. What technologies are you keeping an eye on?

LS: “I think the most significant trends range from the implications of blockchain applications to the technologies being applied to backend processes related to trust and safety, to the ways in which digital enables financial services to be more customer-focused and relevant.

The technologies most interesting to me are the ones that enable firms to target and differentiate among customer segments, provide channels through which to distribute relevant and personalized information that creates relationships that add value, and enable firms to measure their efficiency, effectiveness and performance in a way that is relevant to the customer journey and needs. There is a lot of data; there are a lot of new interfaces (chatbots; AI-driven options; Virtual Reality). How do firms use that data and interfaces appropriately and to provide value that aligns with customer pain points and needs? Too many companies are ignoring these opportunities or somehow believing that their customers will be forever loyal.”

The role of the CMO is changing. Some sources predict that by the end of 2017, the CMO’s MarTech budget will be larger than the CIO’s budget! What technology are you keeping an eye on? How do you keep on top of the latest trends?

LS: “To me, it is less about any specific technology and more about the trend toward greater and greater collaboration required to do anything. The CMO and the CIO have to be working very closely together, and there are great opportunities for creativity and ideas to come from a specific effort to see each other’s perspectives and get the benefit of different sources of expertise. In particular, the collaboration within organizations around the gathering and mining of data is very important.”

The digital world has opened a lot of doors to marketers and brand specialists. You navigated Goldman Sachs through a challenging time for its brand. How did you navigate these stormy waters? What advice do you have for brands looking to strengthen their public image?

LS: “Plenty of brands go through crises. One thing that was very interesting in Goldman’s case is that the financial crisis and Goldman’s corresponding brand challenge happened to coincide with the rise of digital and social channels, enabling new ways to communicate, and a democratization of access to the narrative. I think the most important lesson Goldman learned was that if you don’t tell your story, others will tell it for you.

All brands have to be careful – it is easy for brands to lose a lot of control of their narrative. The good news is that even though all these channels of communication exist, these same channels now enable a brand to share information directly with audiences, rather than have to go through a journalist or other intermediary. The content we are now seeing brands create is often excellent, and those are stories that weren’t so easily told in the old world of the print news cycle.

Another important lesson brands can learn from Goldman’s case is to think more broadly about stakeholders. At the time of the crisis, Goldman was most focused on its clients, regulators, its employees and other stakeholders that seemed directly relevant. The crisis made it clear that the public was also a stakeholder, even though Goldman, unlike its peers, didn’t have retail-like consumer facing businesses at the time. As a result, there was a need to speak to this new audience, especially given its lack of touchpoints with Goldman’s businesses, and ensure greater transparency, understanding, and relevance for this audience regarding the work that Goldman does.

In a digital world, it is also important for brands to monitor the conversations taking place about them – to be aware of them, and to find ways they are comfortable participating in and contributing to them. Being on the front foot is always better than the alternative. The smartest brands will anticipate crises and prepare a playbook to use if they happen. These days a brand crisis can be caused by a single tweet. Creating cross-functional teams that embrace the need for collaboration and can learn together, and assess risk and make decisions together, is a major asset.”

“Crisis creates opportunity, and within the firm, there was a tremendous desire to learn, to communicate broadly and thoughtfully, and be innovative in embracing digital channels — and that approach continues to this day.”

What advice do you have for CMOs looking to stay innovative?

LS: “I hear the same thing from all the CMOs I speak with – that they want to be innovative, but feel like they are drinking from the firehose all the time. They want to have dialogues with smart entrepreneurs, but which ones? Either they are being inundated by solicitations they don’t have time to assess or want to find companies to talk with and don’t have a good/efficient way to do so. I feel strongly that these kinds of conversations are so important for large companies and startups to have – the exchange of ideas is how everyone keeps their edge. Since I now spend a lot of time meeting startups, I really enjoy being in a position to introduce impressive startups with large company CMOs I think would benefit from meeting them – CMOs trust that I’m a good filter.

If you’re a CMO reading this, please feel free to reach out and let me know what kinds of ideas or solutions you are looking for, and I will let you know when I see great companies I think would be interesting for you to talk with.”


FSI Transformation AssemblyThe Millennium Alliance is pleased to announce that application for their biannual FSI Transformation Assembly taking place September 14-15, 2017 at Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach, FL is now open.

Following on from the success of our February edition with Keynote speaker –Lisa Shalett, Former Partner and Head of Brand Marketing & Digital Strategy at Goldman Sachs, the FSI Transformation Assembly will bring together North America’s major financial services and insurance organizations.

While financial services and insurance CIOs will have to deal with many challenges in the coming year as the industry makes the final leap into digital transformation. C-level IT leaders need to understand the convergence of mobile, social, and cloud to stay ahead of the competition. One technological challenge remains prominent in the mind of CIOs everywhere – dealing with the complexity of data. This is something challenging all digital transformative industries.

With digital enhancement comes a massive explosion in data, which is creating unprecedented manageability issues for firms around the world that can be linked to the following factors: expanding customer touch points, emerging types of structured and unstructured data, new customer engagement and social media platforms, rising data security, and controlling the overall data volume.

This is not just another “Financial Services” event. Spaces are reserved for the best in the business. Enquire about attendance here!

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