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Jorge Saenz Of SkyPoint Federal Credit Union On The Future Of Money and Banking

An Interview With David Liu

Understand and remind yourself that it’s not about you. Keep your focus customer-driven. Listen to your customers, understand what they need and want, and find ways to deliver that to them.

The way we bank has changed dramatically over the last decade. It was not too long ago when you had to wait in line in a bank to deposit money. Today things are totally different. You can do your banking without ever walking into a bank. In addition, the whole concept of money has changed. In the recent past, money usually meant bills and coins. But today, the concept of money has expanded to include digital currency and NFTs. What other innovations should we expect to see in banking in the short and medium term?

To address this, we are talking to leaders in the banking, finance, and fintech worlds, to discuss the future of banking and money over the next few years. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jorge Saenz.

Jorge Saenz is the Chief Development and Engagement Officer for SkyPoint Federal Credit Union. In his role, Jorge oversees business and community development, employee and member engagement, and digital banking. This includes core system reporting, digital marketing, and credit union-wide systems used by all employees.

Since joining SkyPoint in the fall of 2012, Jorge has held several roles, from Call Center Manager to Digital Banking Director, to being a part of the executive management team. Jorge draws on his experience to engage staff members with development, marketing, and digital banking initiatives.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started in this industry?

When I was a junior in high school, I thought I would go into radiology. Then I realized radiologists need to look at blood, and I knew I couldn’t do that. So, my guidance counselor steered me toward a program called Academy of Finance, which involved competing for an internship, and I was one of four selected. I worked part-time at the Montgomery County Teachers Federal Credit Union, mostly doing teller work, and went to school part-time, taking courses in finance and accounting.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One that stands out is when I was promoted to the executive team at SkyPoint. It wasn’t really a goal of mine yet, because I was only 29. So, when I got a meeting invite for Friday at 4:30, I thought that was not a good sign! People get fired on Fridays. But I’d just had lunch with my boss, so I wondered why he hadn’t said anything then if something was wrong. It turned out that we had a vacancy on the executive team, and it was offered to me. So, I was promoted to Chief Development and Engagement Officer. I didn’t expect such a promotion at this point, and it was a lot to take in.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’m not a person who looks for quotes to live by. But I was leafing through a book called “212 Degrees,” when a quote jumped out at me. It was: “Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another,” by Walter Elliott. And I realized that’s how I’ve achieved what I have so far, by working hard at each task until mastering it, then moving on to the next one.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

Our goal at SkyPoint is to simplify things for our membership. I’ve been working on a service called SkyPoint Pay, which allows members to transfer money from other institutions — or pay people — similar to Zelle, but we’re not joining that network. To avoid the fraudulent issues that can occur in these types of transfers, SkyPoint Pay will ensure security with each transfer by requiring an answer to a security question that only the payer and the payee will know. So, if I am sending money to you, I will send you the answer to my security question that I have just written. To claim the money, you will need to answer the question with the response I sent securely to you and only you.

How do you think this might change the world?

It will certainly be a much more secure way to transfer money, thereby reducing the risk that their funds or personal data will be vulnerable. Your security questions and answers aren’t out there on the internet where they can be hacked. They change every time you make a transfer, yet it’s easy to do. So it’s a way to provide security to our members while simplifying their lives, too.

What most excites you about the banking or payments industry as it is today? Can you explain what you mean?

I love that the industry is in an exploratory mode now. Everyone is focusing on consumer experiences. In the past, the industry as a whole was more focused on profit — and of course, that’s still important — but the driving force now is to create experiences customers will value, which then leads to profits because customers’ needs and concerns are met.

What most concerns you about the banking or payments industry as it is today? What would you suggest needs to be done to address that?

Maintaining the security and integrity of the transactions people perform is what keeps all of us in the industry up at night, and worries everyone who has personal information on the internet. We’re all as tight as we can be, but financial institutions get hacked because there are people out there who work very hard at doing that. As new technologies are developed, we always have to think about how to keep every process secure, and I don’t believe there is anyone “right” answer for how to do that. It’s going to get harder, not easier, to stay secure, so we have to keep two steps ahead of those who want to harm.

How would you articulate how the concept of money has changed in recent times? Is it really a change? How is it still the same? Can you explain what you mean?

The concept of money is the same; we’re using money to pay for goods and services.

But, the way money has changed is that it’s no longer tangible. We use plastic to pay for almost everything, we pay over the phone, and we use cash apps to move money around. Now you also have Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. As a society, we’ve become so comfortable with these intangible services that we’ve actionized them, saying, for example, “Zelle me some money.”

Based on your vantage point as an insider in the finance industry, what innovations should we expect to see in banking in the short and medium term?

We’re all working on Artificial Intelligence, but it isn’t fully developed. People have become reliant on tools like Siri and Alexa. It’s become second nature to say, “Hey Siri, do I have enough money to buy this?” or “Hey Alexa, I need a recipe.” We just don’t know yet how AI is going to augment member or consumer experiences.

How has the pandemic changed the way banks interact and engage with their customers?

It changed everything! The financial industry moved decades in months. We had to rush to create ways to be accessible without coming into the bank. We were really pushed to get accessibility going so we could serve our customers. Now that the pandemic rules have eased up, some people want to come into the bank again. But many like the remote services, like appointments by phone or video, so some of those will continue to be options.

In your particular experience, how has the pandemic changed the way you interact with, and engage your customers?

It augmented what we were already doing. We found that people were most engaged when we contacted them by email, but our open rates before the pandemic were 23% to 29%, which was pretty good. Now, we have 40% to 50% email open rates.

How much of your interactions have moved to digital such as chatbots, encrypted messaging apps, phone, or video calls? How has this shift impacted the user and customer experience? What challenges do these apps present when used as a customer engagement tool?

We are in the process of developing most of these. We have online chat available, and we’re looking into enabling a chatbot. This would free our reps to do higher-end communications and other tasks. During the pandemic we offered video appointments, so customers could choose to chat, talk by phone or use video. We’d like to integrate all of these so we can answer customers through all of these channels. That’s the current challenge.

If you could design the perfect communication feature or system to help your business, what would it be?

I’d love to have a fully integrated Customer Relationship Management program where I could look at all members, select the target audience and create an email to go out to them, then track the ROI and let relationship managers know if each person took advantage of our offer. Currently, we have to rely on two or three vendors or platforms to accomplish this and it would be nice to connect all the channels.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Modern Finance, Banking and Fintech industries?

For a successful career in finance, banking or Fintech today I believe you need to:

  1. Be creative.

People don’t often realize this in the financial environment, but being creative and having the ability to think outside the box, doing the research on your ideas, and applying what you learned from your research, allows you to develop new services.

When COVID-19 restrictions began, and we had to close and/or limit in-person banking, we needed to come up with alternatives quickly. Since we were used to thinking creatively, we were able to devise new ways to serve our customer’s banking needs without hesitation. We already had online banking and helped customers by phone. It was not difficult for us to add video meetings between customers and bank representatives.

For customers who preferred meeting in person, we provided the option of making an appointment with a banker for a specific day and time, when only customers with appointments would be allowed entry to the bank, and both parties were required to wear masks. We were able to give customers the convenience they wanted in a way that was safe for both customers and staff.

2. Be passionate.

You have to want to have fun with it, to find excitement in knowing you’re working towards the purpose of simplifying someone’s life by improving the way they manage their finances.

I’m passionate about developing solutions to simplify processes for customers, and I love new tech gadgets. It’s fun for me to try to put the two together in different ways to arrive at the best solutions. I enjoy seeing what new technology will allow us to do and how it can optimize customer experiences.

3. Love to experiment but be prepared to fail.

You have to expect to fail sometimes when you’re trying new methods and ideas. SkyPoint provides me with the necessary tools and resources to get my job done. At the same time, I am also given opportunities to try new solutions knowing that if they do not work, it is okay to move forward with the next thing. That’s the kind of environment to look for in your career, where you are supported in your efforts to experiment and supported when an idea fails, so you have the confidence to try again.

It’s important to work where you share the company’s mission and values. I share SkyPoint’s mission and values when it comes to the ultimate goal of simplifying banking through digital platforms.

Of course, while experimenting you don’t want to break the world, but it’s OK to fail as long as you pick up and move on to the next idea. You can’t give up because of a failure.

4. Focus on the consumer.

Understand and remind yourself that it’s not about you. Keep your focus customer-driven. Listen to your customers, understand what they need and want, and find ways to deliver that to them.

At SkyPoint, before any solution is rolled out, it is tested and retested internally to ensure quality and ease of use for the membership. We will pause rollouts at the last minute when needed if we know it will have a negative impact on the member experience.

5. Build trust.

We want our members to know that their experiences and security remain our top focus. This means always being aware of competitors’ solutions, too, so we are confident our solutions are equal to or better than what others are offering.

This practice has led us to a continued growth path for inactive users of our digital banking platform. We have an innovation lab where we keep a close look on solutions that are not yet ready for “primetime,” whether it is because they do not meet our experience standards or they are still in early development.

You’re working with people’s money, and that’s a huge responsibility. They need to know they can trust you to manage it with integrity. Put yourself in the customers’ shoes and ask yourself what you would want, and how you would need to be treated to trust someone with your money.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

During the pandemic, everything shifted to wellness, primarily physical wellness. That’s a movement in and of itself, but I’d like to focus more on total wellness, including financial wellness. We’re doing this now on our Community Development Team, going into underserved areas of the community that need the most help, hosting financial seminars, and other outreach events. I’d like to continue to expand this outreach to more target markets and encourage other institutions to do the same.

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.

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David Liu

David Liu

134 Followers

David is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, a unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication