Technology is transforming the financial-services landscape.
Hannah Chenoweth –
Welcome to the brave new world of banking and investment: Blockchain and bitcoin have entered the mainstream discourse, Gen Z barely knows what checks are, and chatbots are the new face of customer service. Oh, and you might want to check your Venmo notifications—you probably owe someone for something.
With a number of new trends shaking up the industry—the move toward digitization chief among them—it’s no surprise people are wondering what the bank of the future will look like. Over the past two decades, we’ve become a society of smartphone sorcerers (or spoiled, on-demand brats, some could argue), summoning food, rides, and entertainment at the tap of a screen. Amid all the digital disruption, is banking bound to become yet another commodity?
“Everyone wants a piece of banking right now,” says Matt Martin, retail market manager for PNC Financial Services Group. “The biggest disruptors in the marketplace will be nontraditional players like Apple and Amazon, and it’s going to be a gamechanger.”
According to Samson Williams, principal consultant at global technology advisory Axes and Eggs, it’s not a question of whether big tech companies will trickle into the banking scene, but when.
“It’s time to reimagine banking as an action verb,” Williams says. “How can we do banking better? Look at what Netflix did to reimagine movies—they got rid of the noun, the movie theater. If you separate ‘banking’ from ‘banks,’ you end up with your smartphone.”
Williams believes that cell phone companies will be the biggest industry disruptor, with Amazon (and its unparalleled customer service) coming in at a close second. Already, we’re seeing a revolution of digital payments that take cash out of the equation: Apple Pay, Apple Card, Venmo, Snapcash, Facebook Pay.
When it comes to the much-hyped topic of blockchain—a decentralized, immutable “ledger” of transactions—there are still lots of questions and regulatory red tape ahead. The potential? An unprecedented setting for cryptocurrencies, one that will further transform the payments ecosystem.
“Looking ahead to the next few years, my prediction is that Amazon and Apple will begin to dole out credit,” says Williams. “If 10 million customers each get a $1,000 line of credit, then a billion dollars has just been generated out of nothing. That’s the future of banking.”
To stay competitive in the shifting landscape, banks are expanding their definition of customer service to include “digital transformation.” This means embracing technology such as artificial intelligence, computer vision, and machine learning to streamline and personalize the banking experience. AI and ML also enable banks to ensure customer authentication and fight fraud in massive volumes at record speed.
“A cutting-edge mobile platform is essential, but the true differentiator will be banks that can successfully humanize the digital world,” says Martin. “At the end of the day, what sets banks apart is the ability to provide consultative advice—people want to use technology for transactions, but they still crave a human touch when it comes to making financial decisions, and that’s where the huge opportunity lies for banks.”
“The landscape for brick-and-mortar is being reduced, transaction volumes are on the decline, and the teller line isn’t necessarily sustainable,” says Martin. “The branch, however, is sustainable and relevant because people still need financial advice; banks will transform themselves, not disappear.”
Indeed, despite the flood of fintechs, well-established players are rising to the challenge of reinvention. There’s Chase, which unrolled a smaller, digital-first branch format that features self-serve kiosks and an advice bar for digital products. Or take Capital One, which recently launched Capital One Cafés in partnership with Peet’s Coffee. The cafes are open to everyone, with “ambassadors” (not tellers) on hand for free one-on-one money coaching sessions. This partnership allowed Capital One to shrink their real-estate portfolio while simultaneously gaining foot traffic, the lifeblood of any brick-and-mortar establishment.
At M&T Bank, regional president for greater Baltimore Augie Chiasera shares that enhancing the digital experience is top-of-mind—but they’re also looking to redesign the physical environment in a way that’s most conducive to the wants and needs of today’s customers. To better engage Gen Z, M&T conducted more than 700 interviews with students, parents, and faculty before designing a new branch at the University of Maryland.
Martin foresees a rise in video chat consultations as consumers grow more comfortable and confident with video conferencing (see The Gen Z/Facetime love affair). He also points to the potential of video banking teller machines that support live conferencing.
“We learned that our presence on that campus needs to expand past the physical branch location, so we partnered with UMD to work from other non-branch locations to bring issues of financial literacy to the students,” says Chiasera. “Change breeds opportunity, and at M&T we’re excited about creating a better experience to support customers.”
The changes will touch investment firms, too. Kent Pearce, senior financial advisor and managing director at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in Towson, says that because technology has created an unprecedented number of investing options, there’s an increased demand for professional wealth-management advice. “Most investors love the opportunity to have an advisor, as well as enhanced technology working hand-in-hand, so they’re not alone in their financial journey,” he says.
Ultimately, banks can thrive by borrowing ideas from other industries, ones that have adapted to improve the customer experience despite disruptive tech and fierce competition.
“If you think about it, hotels can be a mobile-only experience for people from start to finish. But what keeps them coming back to the Ritz-Carlton is exceptional customer service,” says Andy Paladino, founder and owner of the Paladino Financial Group. “Banks need to focus on delivering an experience that’s above and beyond from start to finish.”
Williams believes a revamped approach to data management is also overdue to turn the banking customer experience on its head.
“Money has already gone digital—less than 2 percent of transactions nowadays involve cash. This means it’s just data,” he says. “How can banks leverage data to transform the services they provide? How can they harness analytics to provide personalized, intuitive digital solutions? How can they help people love banking as much as they love buying stuff on Amazon? It’s an important question, because, in Amazon’s next iteration of awesomeness, they’re going to say, ‘Don’t worry about them, we can provide you all your banking needs as simply as you can say, ‘Hey, Alexa, send me $20.’”
Weyrich | Cronin | Sorra
Certified Public Accountants & Business Consultants
20 Wight Avenue | Suite 210 | Hunt Valley, MD 21030 | 410.339.6464 | wcscpa.com
139 N. Main Street | Suite 201 | Bel Air, MD 21014 | 410.838.2237
200 S. Bridge Street | Elkton, MD 21921 | 410.398.1961
Angeline White (CPA, CCA, Partner), Blake Ulam (CPA, CITP, Partner), David A. Crisp (CPA, Partner), Frank Savarese (CPA, CFP, Partner), Jeff Jacobson (CPA Esq, Partner), Helen Connolly (CPA, CGMA, Principal), Karen Dojan (CPA, Principal)
The team at Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra (WCS) understands that there’s much more to accounting than number crunching and tax preparation. We’re here to inspire everyone’s corner of the world, whether it’s our clients or our staff. Over the past 40 years, we’ve learned that the better we know our clients—who they are, what they do, and where they want to go—the better we can help them achieve their goals. For this reason, we offer a wide range of accounting, consultation, and audit services, all especially tailored to the needs of each of our clients. They include everything from accounting and assurance services, income tax preparation, planning, and strategy, to business consultation, business-succession planning and valuation, CAS services, and M&A services, as well as estate planning and wealth distribution.
WCS has also established niche areas of expertise, including valuations, nonprofit organizations, construction and real estate, governmental/municipal audits, employee benefit-plan audits, and health care.
We also have a long and proven track record:
In 1979, WCS was founded under the leadership of Carroll Weyrich, William Cronin, and Manny Sorra. At that time, their goal was to establish an accounting practice built around proactive client service delivered through “close, personal attention.” Over four decades later, the tradition of excellent client service continues. Today, WCS, the winner of several industry honors—including Enterprise Worldwide’s Firm of the Year award and being named a top accounting firm by Clearlyrated—employs more than 55 people in its three offices in Hunt Valley, Bel Air, and Elkton.
Two important things set us apart from the competition: That close, personal attention we give our clients and the individually tailored plans and strategies that we provide. We listen closely to our clients’ needs, questions, concerns, and goals before we get started, and we make certain that all of our services are customized to fit those needs and goals. We don’t think that any two tax strategies, estate plans, business-succession plans, or benchmarking processes should look the same, because no two people or businesses are the same. We have the knowledge, skills, and experience to shape a plan that is just right for your business and your objectives.
Our core values are well understood by everyone on our team: personal integrity, individual value and respect, timely and professional work, dealing honestly in business transactions, and understanding that the quality begins at WCS. Not all accountants are created equal, and as such, we want to continue to grow that culture and evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of clients and the firm.
But what’s an organization if it’s not giving back to its community? We take our civic responsibilities very seriously. Whether it’s serving on the board of a nonprofit, being involved with organizations at our children’s schools, collecting school supplies for children in need, or sponsoring families and organizations during the holidays, we are devoted to the communities in which we work and live. We also sponsor many of our clients through their fundraisers and events.
Whether you simply need help with your taxes and audits or you’d like a long-term, trusted business advisor, we’re here to help. During your initial meeting with one of our experienced CPAs, we want to listen to you—what your business is, which services you need, what your goals are, and which barriers stand in your way.
Alex. Brown, a Division of Raymond James
100 International Drive | 22nd Floor | Baltimore, MD 21202 | 410.525.6200 | alexbrown.com/baltimore
Marcus Aiello (Mid Atlantic Regional Executive)
When it comes to the growth, management, and maintenance of hard-earned wealth, the only thing better than having the support of a powerful firm is having that support delivered with local finesse. Exceptional success deserves to have the resources and reach of an international leader behind it – along with the insight and experience of a trusted local team.
You will find both at the Baltimore office of Alex. Brown —the tools you need to amplify success, backed by a firm whose longevity is as unrivaled as its ingenuity, and a team of skilled professionals.
Regional Executive Marcus Aiello and his Baltimore team offer quality wealth management paired with the boutique-style service of a hometown office and the powerful resources of a renowned financial firm. They know their success depends on that of their advisors and are committed to providing the tools you need to devise sophisticated investment strategies rooted in our clients’ best interests.
Known as the nation’s first investment bank, Alex. Brown has served as a symbol of sophisticated wealth management since its founding here in Baltimore in 1800. Alex. Brown went on to help finance the B&O Railroad and invested in rebuilding the South after the Civil War.
In 2016, the Alex. Brown brand experienced a revival when it joined forces with Raymond James, one of the largest independent financial planning and wealth management firms in the U.S. Locally, this resurgence has meant a strengthening not only of our commitment to delivering on our firm’s signature approach—leveraging experience and expertise to provide uniquely successful clients with uncommonly sophisticated investment strategies. It has also meant a deeper commitment to Baltimore.
© 2020 Raymond James & Associates, Inc., member New York Stock Exchange/SIPC.
Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, The Pearce Group
901 Dulaney Valley Road, Dulaney Center #2 | Suite 516 | Towson, MD 21204 | 410.321.4340 | fa.ml.com/pearce_group
Kent Pearce (Senior Financial Advisor, Managing Director)
Beginning as a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch 25 years ago, Kent Pearce has methodically built up an extraordinary team of talented professionals. The 15-member team, with close to 250 years of combined experience, has been ranked among the top wealth-management groups in the U.S. by Forbes/Shook Research, Barron’s and the Financial Times.
The Pearce Group offers a range of services, including wealth management, financial planning, and customized portfolio management, as well as private banking, lending solutions, and planning for generational wealth transfer. Representing one of the industry’s largest global financial platforms through Merrill Lynch, the Pearce Group has access to unparalleled financial resources, industry-leading research, and cutting-edge technology. But as a methodically built winning team over the years, the team is truly able to deliver services with a personalized, boutique-style approach, ensuring that each client receives unique attention.
This Wealth Management team truly believes that clients do business with those they like and trust, so it does its best to deserve and maintain that trust, measuring its own success by that of its clients’.
Kent Pearce, who has been consistently ranked as one of Merrill Lynch’s top advisors in the country, was also recently ranked the #1 Wealth Advisor in the state of Maryland by Forbes in 2020. In addition, Kent serves on and was an inaugural member of the company’s Advisor Growth Network Board.
Pearce and his team members are also extremely active in the community and give back, participating and holding board positions in such causes as the American Heart Association, the Baltimore Community Fund, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Living Classrooms Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, the March of Dimes, the Maryland Food Bank, and many others.
Kent Pearce is employed by broker-dealer Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith.
PALADINO FINANCIAL GROUP
1954 Greenspring Drive | Suite 500 | Timonium, MD 21093 | 410.252.7630 | paladinofinancialgroup.com
Andrew J. Paladino (CPA, MSF)
When it comes to building wealth, Andy Paladino likes to help people discover their underlying “why?” He asks his clients, “What would you be doing if money was not an issue?” He then helps them to achieve their goals, likening his profession to a coach who helps clients gain confidence as they make decisions about their financial game plan. Paladino helps them look at the entire field and figure out the best strategies to reach their goals.
Paladino and his clients explore approaches that include wealth accumulation, distribution, tax planning, and legacy planning. He formed the Paladino Financial Group in 2004 after he had worked for a large Baltimore CPA firm. Paladino Financial Group is a full-service financial firm committed to helping people pursue their financial and retirement goals. As financial planners, they offer a wide range of financial products and services to individuals and business owners in the Timonium and Greater Baltimore area. With complete financial information, they believe you will be better able to identify your goals and make sound decisions to help reach them.
Paladino aims to provide clear, easily understood explanations of financial products and services. They seek to help clients feel more confident about their financial future by presenting personalized roadmaps and financial plans.
While developing a customized financial program, they will walk you through a step-by-step process that will help make you feel confident in your decisions.
Paladino has been recognized as a Baltimore magazine Five-Star Wealth Manager. He also coaches baseball at the Park School and is commissioner of Reisterstown Baseball.
Andrew J. Paladino is an investment adviser representative of, and securities and advisory services are offered through, USA Financial Securities Corp. (Member FINRA/ SIPC). USA Financial Securities is a registered investment adviser located at 6020 E Fulton St., Ada, MI 49301. Paladino Financial Group is not affiliated with USA Financial Securities.