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Reimagining Financial Education in the Human + Digital Era

Evan Sigel joins The Remarkable Credit Union

It’s hard to say if credit unions are “winning” when it comes to financial coaching and education. There are certainly a lot of great resources out there, but are they inspiring behavior change? Are members proactively meeting with financial counselors? Are credit unions tracking not just the products their members are consuming but also progress toward their financial goals?

And perhaps most importantly, is your financial coaching and education approach empowering your employees to build relationships and solve problems instead of merely “taking orders” or pushing products?

For most credit unions, the answers to these questions are not a resounding yes. Evan Siegel, VP of Financial Services AI at eGain, joins us to talk about how credit unions can reimagine their financial education efforts, drawing from what he learned building a financial coaching practice of 200+ bankers at Wells Fargo. Evan shares how AI can support human AND digital financial education, and why the future of credit unions hinges on coaching, guidance, and advice.

Our latest episode of The Remarkable Credit Union tackles this month’s BIG question:

Why is financial education so hard, and why do so many credit unions fail to move the needle when it comes to helping their members achieve financial wellness?

Key Takeaways

  1. To execute human + digital financial coaching effectively, you need to include offramps to humans in your digital solutions. Bots can be effective, but people have had a lot of bad experiences.
  2. Credit unions are facing competitive threats in service and rates. What’s the opportunity? Competing on advice, guidance, and coaching. Just one win in financial wellness can open a door.
  3. Be an order taker, not a product pusher. To support your members, you need to focus on guided progress, not just guided selling.

Read the full transcript:

Cameron:
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Remarkable Credit Union Podcast. We created our podcast to help create union leaders think outside of the box about marketing, technology and community impact. Each episode we bring on guests from inside and outside of the industry for conversations about innovation. Our goal is to challenge your preconceptions about business as usual, and provide you with actionable takeaways that you can use to grow your membership, improve the financial health of your cooperative and magnify the positive impact you have in your community. Today’s big question, why is financial education so hard and why do so many credit unions fail to move the needle when it comes to helping their members achieve financial wealth? Today I’m very excited to welcome Evan Siegel. Evan currently serves as the Vice President of Financial Services AI at eGain, where he created and launched the financial service industry’s first virtual financial coach.

Cameron:
It’s currently used at 31 bank credit union and FinTech clients. And prior to eGain… I really enjoyed reading about this, Evan worked at Wells Fargo for 15 years, where he served in Senior Sales, Marketing, and Strategy roles. Evan left Wells Fargo because he wanted to have more impact, pursue his passion of democratizing quality financial advice. On a personal note, Evan is a fitness nerd, he runs swims, Pelotons, hikes and plays tennis. I will not be challenging him to any kind of physical duals anytime soon. Evan, thank you for joining us today.

Evan:
Thanks Cameron for having me.

Cameron:
So Evan, I really enjoyed reading about your background. You have kind of an amazing story of what you did at Wells Fargo and I think some wins and some hard lessons that sound like. Can you just tell us about your experience at Wells Fargo and what inspired you to through this current path?

Evan:
So I was in the latter third of my Wells Fargo career. I was a strategy executive in our contact center. And in that role, I used to listen to some customer calls, our team members interacting with the customers, and I heard people really struggling financially and the team members unable to help them to give advice and guidance. And so I approached my manager at the time and said, “Hey, I have an idea of a way to build a financial coaching team. Can I do that?”

Evan:
And I got the go ahead to start what would I would consider a skunk works kind of a little bit under the radar, built a model, a framework that our bankers could use to coach and advise the Wells Fargo customers. And it started small. We grew it to 200 bankers, however, because it was successful. Customers loved it, that team had, I would argue the highest customer satisfaction in the bank, team members loved it because instead of having to listen to customers issues and not be able to give advice at guidance, they were armed with foundational advice on things like how to save more money or how to build credit.

Evan:
And by most measures, the team was a huge success. It was actually featured in the Wells Fargo Annual Report. The bankers were featured on the 2019 TV brand commercials and get some of the bankers on ABC’s, Good Morning America. And I think the story in the annual report really shows how it’s successful. So that story highlighted one of the customers that we helped. It was a woman who was declined for credit for a secured credit card, which is the most easy credit product to get. And the team coached her over a period of nine months and she not only got an unsecured card, but she also got a Wells Fargo mortgage. And if you think about it, we took someone who probably under just the regular credit decline experience would been an unhappy customer. And instead, we not only made her, I would argue a Wells Fargo customer for life, but from a bank standpoint, we got her two extra products with the mortgage being one that’s very profitable.

Evan:
See that story, I think really encapsulates the power of financial education and guidance. Now with all that said all that success, Finance and Compliance were worried. I had data, it was very difficult data to explain, it was sort of deep data that showed that these conversations were actually profitable. But I always had a finance team sort of worried that this was a money losing venture because the conversations ran anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes. And we also had compliance worried, the big risk was bankers would go off script and get the bank in hot water because advice and guidance can be a little bit tricky.

Evan:
So ultimately the team was shut down, but I really saw that in my heart and my understanding of banking that this is the future of banking. It’s really cool thing about the financial services industry, where credit unions obviously play is that when your members or when your customers do well, you do well. They have higher balances and they have a higher capacity for products. So I left Wells Fargo and I joined an AI company, one of the leading AI companies with a mission like you talked about in introduction to build a virtual financial coach using the latest technology.

Cameron:
Evan, I’d love to hear a little more about why you think financial education is so hard, even in your own experience which was a success. We know that many financial institutions, credit unions included fail to move the needle despite having a mission to help out their members or their customers.

Evan:
Yeah, sure. There’s a lot of reasons. First and foremost, who wants to spend a Saturday afternoon reading about financial education, particularly if you’re struggling a little bit, you’re intimidated, it’s something that you don’t want to wade into. And there’s too much out there. So you as someone who might be struggling, you don’t know where to start and you’re intimidated to delve in. The other thing is education’s very general and what we’ve done and seen some success with is we’ve sort of flipped it on its ear and said, “Don’t sort of cover the waterfront and educate people on everything, take a bite size approach and give them actions on what they need to do.” And that’s the missing link in education. It doesn’t necessarily say, “Hey, Evan, based on your situation, here’s the little bit you need to know, and here’s what you need to do different tomorrow.”

Evan:
Let’s also look for a second at what most credit unions and banks do when we think about education. So most of them, if you look on their websites, you see lots of long articles. What are the issues with articles? They’re not interactive, they’re written for a general audience again, to that point of, after you read an article, you’re not quite sure what to do next. The other big thing that they have are calculators. You find a lot of calculators out there. I’ve been in the financial services industry for a while. Kind of know the terms, kind of know what to do, but when you show those to people that are less financially savvy, there’s a lot of questions. The calculators don’t have necessary support on how to answer those questions, how to fill them in correctly. And again, it’s missing that key step of, “Okay, I have my insight from the calculator, what do I do next? What do I do tomorrow?”

Evan:
And so I want to probably know sort of how we’ve taken a different approach. We’ve focused on that action and behavior change and root causes. We give some education, we’ve created a virtual coach. We give some education, but we make it very personalized. We spend some time kind of figuring out, “What’s the customer’s situation, what’s the member situation?” And then we give them no more than three bite size action client steps. So I think that’s another limitation of education is sometimes there’s just too much content covered and folks get overwhelmed. The other thing is, and I’m going to give a story here, if that’s all right of limitation of education and how I believe we’ve overcome it with our virtual coach. So when you go read about what you need to do to build credit, all the advice will say, “Pay your bills on time.”

Evan:
Our coach does that too. That’s one of the key things. That’s actually one of the heaviest weighted in your credit score. However, they don’t give the advice, “Well, why aren’t you, Evan paying your bills on time?” Our coach does that. We find, “Hey, is it that you’re not paying your bills on time because sometimes a bill comes in and you lose track of it and you miss the due date?” In which case a great solution there is a credit union’s bill pay solution, or the more common root cause is the bill comes in or it’s due, you don’t have enough cash to pay the bill. Well, then our virtual coach works with the member to figure out how do they set aside, reduce their spending and set aside a little extra savings, a cash cushion so that they can always pay their bills on time. So that inability to sort of customize it, to get to the root cause, all those are key limitations that really limit educational effectiveness.

Cameron:
Well, I appreciate that. Yeah, that focus on root causes. I think that I always think of the medical examples and how easy it is to want a quick pill. I think American society, we’re all about the silver bullet or the magic pill, but usually we’re treating symptoms and not getting to the root issue. I also appreciate it. I’m going to briefly just read this for our audience because I thought it was really good. You wrote an article for The Financial Brand. It was a little brutal Evan, but I appreciated it, really brought the pain home of six reasons financial institutions fail to move the needle on financial health.

Cameron:
I mean, you mentioned that, “It requires personalized, ongoing judgment, free advice using bankers to deliver personalized advice is expensive and risky. Success necessitates behavior change, progress is hard to measure. People must be engaged at their moment of need and no senior executive owned financial health.” And I’m just curious, I thought it was such a helpful way to capture what we need to do versus the paradigm of, “We could just get someone to sit down for an all day seminar, we could fix all their financial wellness problems because it’s such a holistic challenge, I guess, that people are facing.” It’s not an access to education issue only. So do you want to expand on any of those?

Evan:
Yeah, I mean, just let me say that, t was based on my experience trying to tackle that mega bank. We had lots of success stories like the one I shared and I’d go meet with senior executives. Every one of them would always say, “This is the way banking should be done.” But at the end of the day, I told you the effort got closed down. That lack of ownership is really a key one because it takes across institution coordination to really move the needle with financial wellness. You need to have your human channels be empowered and able to give advice and guidance, you need your products to reinforce that and you need your marketing team… And this is huge. You need your marketing team to constantly be inviting your members to engage in these moments where they can improve their financial wellness.

Evan:
In the piece I talked about you need to capture them at the moment when they’re open. And even with our virtual financial coach with our 31 clients, we’re still sort of fine tuning how to do that, how to invite people to use this great resource. And I think the common methodology of people will do a campaign, a one and done campaign, maybe send an email to every member and say, “Hey, we have this great resource for you,” and then sort of check the box and move off on. But you need to catch people at the moment when they’re open to taking advice and guidance. For some people, it might be, they just had a credit declined so that’s a big experience and they want to get a credit product. That’s when they’ll be open to it.

Evan:
For other people, it might be more of a micro moment. They just got their paycheck, they’re feeling good, their bank accounts a little bit flush, that might be the moment. So I think one of the missing pieces that no one has really figured out is what’s that right mix of marketing and ways to engage customers? You can get them members, so you can get them at the point where they’re open to get that education, advice, and guidance so they can start addressing their financial wellness.

Cameron:
Thanks for elaborating on that. I think this cross functional issues are the the thorniest ones and highlighting that can’t just be delegated to a position, there needs to be some way to connect it across the organization and connect the function. And building on that something else you said, we talked a lot last year with [inaudible 00:11:51] sometimes in the credit union space, you get this doom and gloom, that the fintechs and mega banks are going to take over everything. But we see this thriving credit union space and so much of that is due to those human connections. And in a sense COVID may have been a big opportunity that it’s driven huge digital adoption by credit union. It’s fed that up by years and that it seems like the superpower, the sweet spot for credit unions is going to be this human plus digital experience. And so I’m curious you’ve already touched on this a bit, but how do you think credit unions can pursue a human plus digital approach when it comes to financial education rather than just one or the other?

Evan:
Yeah, that’s a great question. I actually think… and I want to expand it. I want to expand the scope of your question to say not just education, but advice and guidance because we’ve already previously talked about there’s limitations to what education can do. And so I’m going to tap into my strategy roots and say, really if credit unions want to tackle this, they really need a channel and a customer segmentation strategy. Because what you want to do is you want to create an omnichannel advice and guidance strategy that will meet your sort of most important customers in the best channel and then how do you deal with the mass market? So let me elaborate. So for the branches, true, COVID has changed branch traffic, but for most people, particularly those that are financially okay, sitting down in a face to face conversation and getting advice and guidance, that’s the best way to do it.

Evan:
So what I recommend is a credit union figure out who is their most valuable or highest potential members, and they allocate those to the banker channel. I’m a big fan of a book of business model where your team members that work in the branch get a set of customers and they’re reaching out to them on a regular cadence. Now you can’t just set that up and make it a success, you really need to have, you need to look at sort of all elements of the business framework, the business, you look at technology to support those team members. You need to look at metrics so that they know if they’re making progress with the members that they’re supporting. You need to look at incentives so that they can deliver advice. And I speak of this from firsthand experience. One of the other things I did when I was at Wells is I was part of a team trying to set up a book of business model in the branches and call centers.

Evan:
And the number one limitation to that model was the bankers would really make that first call to the book of business, but then they ran out of things to talk about because they didn’t feel confident in giving advice and guidance. So here again, I’m now in a technology firm, of course, I see technology as a great solution. We have a solution that does this, AI is the way to kind of arm your bankers if a foolproof way to do a needs assessment or a financial check-in. And so I recommend that for any credit union that believes that to put both your most valuable members into the branch channel for an ongoing advice and guidance, you need to arm with that tool so that they can figure out, “How do I ask a question based on the answer, what’s the next best question to answer? How do I incorporate data from the CRM system so it’s a know me experience and then I can on an ongoing basis, give that member in the branch channel, the next best action they need to take to achieve their financial goals or the next product to meet that?”

Evan:
So that’s the taking your customer segment, your most valuable, put them in your branch channel. What do you do with everyone else? That’s where the digital channel plays out. And again, the technology solutions now are pretty robust. I speak from firsthand knowledge where you can have basically a virtual financial like we have, or a virtual banker that can do some of the same needs assessment, next best financial action, next best product, but do it in a cost effective way for the mass market. And if you take that sort of in totality, you’re then going to be able to have the human element for those in your branch channel, you give digital solutions to everyone else, but I do want to say one thing more about the digital solutions to get to your point of people want a human touch as well.

Evan:
You need to back up your digital solutions with off ramps to human beings because not everyone will be fully satisfied with their digital solutions. So if you don’t mind, I’m going to use the example of what we’ve created, our virtual financial coach. So we’ve worked with GreenPath, who’s a leading financial counseling firm. They’re our partner in creating the virtual financial coach, and there are off ramps throughout our digital experience where if people feel overwhelmed, they don’t feel they can achieve their action plan, they can actually speak with a certified GreenPath financial counselor, because some people do need that extra support.

Evan:
Now what we’re seeing is about 98% of the people stay in the digital experience, but for some talking to that counselor is really that extra step of guidance. They get to have that conversation, it’s no cost and we are now moving the next up to make that sort of human piece even a little bit more concrete. We’re using the AI to more firmly recommend people that the AI detects are stressed or in a difficult financial situation. We’re giving a sort of a stronger encouragement that they speak to a GreenPath counselor for that human touch.

Cameron:
That’s really neat way to look at it. And I’ve done some work with GreenPath and they’ve always seemed very, very impressive, like they have their act together to me. I’m curious to flip that on its head. If we think of credit unions as not for profit institutions that are designed to serve those who don’t have other options, you probably have a bit of the opposite situation where those who come into branches are often the least profitable members. If you were to think about that, if we say that, how would you think about the book of business or a strategy when maybe the in person is designed for the least profitable, most needy members, not the most profitable members with the most op in a cost standpoint because you did mention it’s very expensive in your article, which is totally true to have people spending hours with members.

Evan:
Right. And so I don’t think these two are mutually exclusive. In the book of business model, you’re inviting people to come in, you’re scheduling those appointments, you’re sort of encouraging those conversations, but I would never recommend that a credit union discourage or limit or charge people to come into the branch. I do think that you would give them the same service, you would ha sit down with them, you would use the AI powered knowledge tool to guide that conversation and give them advice. You would encourage your team members to give that guidance, but where you might sort of on the edges, you might steer them subsequent to that, the mass market, the less profitable customers to your rich set of digital tools.

Evan:
And you’re not compromising the guidance you’re giving them, you’re just giving them to a channel where it does become more cost effective, but Hey, if they want to keep talking to that banker, I think writ large when you’ve got this model worked out because the digital technology that the bankers you use, the team members use, the branches will make those conversations very streamlined. And so I think you can squeeze in both those mass market customers that want to speak to the in person and the branches, as well as those invited conversations with your strategically important segment, I believe the branch channel can handle both.

Cameron:
And I guess just to… I’m going to capture a few points you’ve made to make sure I’m hearing them correctly because I think they’re very important. So that the first one is that your solution and other ones that are being built, the concept is use AI, I.e, a tool that is learning based on continued interactions with folks to improve the quality of the results it returns just like Google Search for many other things. And that you use that same tool on the website and use that same tool in the branch to support whether it’s a teller or a loan officer or anyone that instead of this traditional model, I think the holy grail’s often been pitched as next best product. It sounds to me, it’s like using the same tool to arm people with questions so that we can help members to find the next best action or advice or product that it’s any of those of three to sort of more holistically move someone forward.

Evan:
Exactly. And can I tell a story of a mystery shop because I think it really encapsulates. Yeah. So walked into a branch. My persona was, I had $12,000 of credit card debt and a home with a lot of equity. I live in California, so a lot of people out here have a lot of equity tied up in their house. And I sat had sat down with the branch bank team member, person was actually the manager, so an experienced person and I said, “Hey, I’ve got $12,000 of credit card debt. Can you help me? What should I do next? I’m paying a lot of interest.” And what that gentleman did is, didn’t ask me a single question, didn’t probe about my other financial resources, what my priorities were, what my timeframe was jumped, right to what I call the product pusher mode. They had a special, it was a zero interest rate credit card, six months, you didn’t pay any interest and then it went up to 20% and that’s what he recommended.

Evan:
If that banker had an AI tool, like what we’ve created, he would’ve said, “Okay, great. I understand your situation, let me ask you a few questions.” He would’ve done a needs assessment. That tool based on the answers, based on what was in the CRM system, would’ve had a complete picture of my goal, my situation, and probably would’ve recommended, “Hey, this guy is thinking about trying to pay down over a number of of years, has equity in his home. That’s a much lower cost way to consolidate debt, let’s recommend that.” And by the way, that’s a much more defensible solution from a compliance standpoint. So that’s one other benefit of these types of tools is you have a record of why everything is recommended, what the customer answered, what the rationale that was used and what data was used. So it’s an audible trail that compliance really loves. So I think that story really encapsulates the difference of how technology can really create great next best product, next best action steps a member can take.

Cameron:
Yeah, and I think Evan, you’ve captured a really key distinction that sometimes what’s meant by the next best product is the next easiest product to sell, but that may not actually be the next best action for the member, which in the short term is an easy way to create results but in the long term, it always damages loyalty and reputation. Cool. All right. I appreciate that. Thanks for the digression there. I’ve read and studied this a bunch and I know you and I both have lots of Bay Area technology connections, even more literally than me right now. AI’s done a lot of cool things. There’s also a lot of stuff out there about AI algorithms, accelerating or entrenching biases, removing some of the things that humans at their best can do really well as far as serving the underserved. So what do you see as some of the pitfalls of using AI for not just financial education, but financial advice and product recommendations and how are you all addressing that?

Evan:
Yeah, I think the number one pitfall is that people have been trained over recent history that a lot of bots are not that great and so they’re skeptical. So one of the things that we’ve done is one of our frameworks, and this is thanks to our technical team has got decades of experience building bots is you need to show intelligence quickly to convince the user that this bot is different from what they’re used to. So here’s one little, kind of a fun, silly example, but it’s something that we employed. So we ask in our virtual financial coach tool, which is AI powered, we ask people their name. We know from years in the industry that people like to spoof it and say something like, “My name is Spiderman.” And then they like to see the tool be very serious and say, “Well, nice to meet you, Spiderman.”

Evan:
Well, we have connected to a database that acknowledges that they’re playing with us, but we say, “Well, that’s nice to meet you and glad I’m talking to someone famous, but I’ll continue anyway.” So yes, that’s kind of a silly example, but it shows intelligence right away. We also, we’re now launching the next version of our virtual coach. And the difference now is we’re now partnering with TransUnion and we’re using credit data. So within about a minute and a half now of our coach to show intelligence person will give us name, address last four of social, that’s how we pull their credit data and then we get not just their score, but we get eight attributes. We analyze those and we tell them, what’s the number one thing they can do to improve their credit. This is all within about a minute of meeting the coach.

Evan:
So high value, high intelligence, showing it right away. Another thing that we’re doing and that limits. So most people, they don’t like bots because they talk like a bot. And just because you’re dealing with a robot doesn’t mean it can’t be more communicative like a human. And this is again where I give my hat off to our partner GreenPath. So they write every bit of copy that our coach uses. Their counselors, they have 60 years of experience of using judgment free, highly empathetic, plain language advice. And so our bot sounds like one of their counselors and I think that’s a big difference. And then what we talked about early year, I think another limitation is people feel like they’re in bought hell and they’re captured and they can’t get out. And some people need to talk to a human and so we make that all very easy.

Evan:
And then the last thing I think is I think a lot of people spend too much… They don’t give enough time to the UI and the UX, they’re too focused on the AI. They don’t think about the user experience, they don’t think about the user interface. And so the way we’re tackling that is we baked in some gamification to make that an interactive fun experience. We give a little bit of education as we’re giving financial guidance and then we ask a really easy question. 90% of the people get the question right, that’s our intent. We want people to feel like they’re making progress. They’re getting a win on the board, they’re getting confident that they’re making improvements. When we’ve done focus groups and we watch people record them interacting with the coach, one woman, I loved it. She kind of chuckled and says, “Oh, Coach Lee is checking if I’m paying attention,” she thought that was kind of a fun. That’s our intent.

Evan:
And then as far as the behavioral science, one of the principals that we’ve employed in our coach to make it a sort of a smarter bot is something called active choice. We’re different from education because we give advice. We’re giving a sort of an action plan. People are more likely to achieve, to believe in an action plan if they helped create it. So our AI coach has a conversation with the user and we use that information to build a customized plan. And because people have input into this behavioral science principle of active choice, we ask them at the end, “How likely Evan are you to… How achievable do you think your action plan is?” 88% of the people say, “Yes, it’s achievable.” So by employing behavioral science, we believe we’re getting that sort of high buy into the action plan.

Evan:
The other things that I’ll tell you is, and we see lots of data that when we put all this together in our bot, in addition to that high achievable action plan, we ask people a net promoter score question, because this is a brand building exercise. We’re in the excellent range with our virtual coach. So by doing these things, you can get a bot that people will love and will reinforce your brand. And we also do one other thing at the beginning of our experience we ask them, “How stressed are you about credit? How confident are you in your ability to improve your credit if people go down that credit building flow?”

Evan:
We’re getting right now, the second time they asked that question, after they’ve gone through the bot, we’re getting 55% of the people saying, “Hey, my stress is now decreased.” And when they answer the question about confidence we’re getting 34% of people saying, “My confidence is improved.” So my point in saying all that is, yes, there are limitations to what bots can do, but if you’re very holistic in how you design it, you can get these same types of really great results which will rival what a human being can do.

Cameron:
That’s great. Well, I really loved the giving people an easy win example because I think shame is something that has been written about periodically, but is often that’s underrated factor when it comes to finance that so many of us have not experts in this area and are embarrassed about choices that we have made and have a high degree of trepidation, let alone going into a branch and might even using some of these websites where we know that we’re not the experts and we know that we’ve made poor choices. And I think that’s a clever way to show up with some empathy and humanity.

Cameron:
I’d love to then just ask a question. I think it’s obligatory and important, important for credit unions to be thinking about the members of the future. So gen Z, younger generations, and I just would love to know what do you see when I think of this paradigm of most credit union boards or people in their 60s and up, most credit union managers are in their sometimes 40s, often 50s, and it’s a different world out there. So I’m curious with your work with GreenPath, with eGain, what do you see the greatest challenges being for younger generations when it comes to their financial wellness and how can credit unions help them to achieve their financial wellness goals?

Evan:
Yeah. So another good question. I would like to emphasize that credit unions really do need to attract the younger members. I believe if I’ve got my data right, the average age of a credit union member’s sort of in the late 40s, it skews older than the average population and it’s past those prime lending years. And you look at millennials and gen Z, those are your future affluent customers. Focus a little bit more on millennials because I’ve studied them a bit more. Millennials are the most educated generation ever, and education generally ties with affluence. And I’ve always chuckled how most strategies of banks and credit union seem to target the affluent. But I would argue that when you’re already affluent and you’re older, you’re set in your ways, your financial institutions have their hooks into you, you set up all those digital, people aren’t going to switch.

Evan:
And so I’ve always thought the most brilliant strategy was to work on the emerging affluent, win them while they’re young while no one’s paying attention to them and then you’re with them, you gain their loyalty, give them the advice and guidance so they can hit their financial targets and then you’ll get them when they’re affluent and they won’t switch. So to your specific challenges of the younger generations, I see a number. First of all, financial concepts are not taught in school, even though they’re the most educated generations, they’re not savvy financially. Financial industry products are overly complex with all these amateurization, all these complex terms and features. The people generally explaining them, those frontline team members, those are high turnover positions so people typically don’t explain the products really well. These younger generations, America has a student loan debt crisis. 1.6 trillion of student loan out there, a debt out there.

Evan:
Very few advisors and firms are counseling these younger folks on strategies and lifestyle ways to pay down that debt. And let’s face it, we live in a society that pushes consumption and consumerism. And so making it a way to pay down at debt is something that’s not really a priority of our society. And then the recent phenomena, the big housing shortage out there and now recently in exploding housing cost scenario. So younger folks really have a lot of headwind for them achieving their financial goals. And it actually, it shows up in the data. There was a big series of articles in the Wall Street Journal, not too long ago that talked about how millennials, their average net worth is 40% below gen X at the same point of their lives. So it shows up. And so it really does beg the question if you are a credit union executive, you want to attract younger members, what do you do?

Evan:
And I just sort of say, it’s a lot of things we were talking about before. If that’s the high value segment that you’re prioritizing, really build your strategy around giving them the advice and guidance they need to achieve their financial goals. Because if you’re there with them telling them the next best financial action, the next best product so that they can achieve the of home ownership, you’re going to get the mortgage and you’re going to get loyalty of that member for life.

Cameron:
Thanks Evan, I appreciate all that focus on millennials and just how different their reality is because I remember reading a quote from a millennial and basically I believe they said, “All these about us experiences to material things is in effect B.S, we just have a crazy amount of student debt that you guys didn’t have.” And I look at my parents and I was fortunate enough to grow up middle class, upper middle class. My mom got through med school, which is however many hundreds of thousands of dollars now, and they paid for it with my dad working for the county. It wasn’t in some high powered fancy job. And that’s just mind blowing when you think about the cost of undergraduate or graduate today.

Cameron:
And here in Portland, Oregon, which is another market flailing rapidly for housing, they bought their house for $30,000. Obviously inflation, but it’s a different world. And I think it’s really important to do whatever we can to build empathy and awareness of what the reality is for folks today who are millennials or gen Z because it’s a very different set of realities they’re dealing with.

Evan:
And I couldn’t agree more and everyone has the ability to achieve their financial goals. It’s not easy, it requires behavior change for a lot of people to overcome that sort of consumerism we’re all berated with via every media channel. And I saw this when we had our coaches at Wells Fargo, sometimes just helping people get that first win. So it might be paying off their first credit card debt, it might be for the first time ever in their lives, paying more than the minimum amount due on their credit card. Then what happens is they feel empowered to learn more and they will dive into those articles because they’re like, “I can do this,” as opposed to I think what a lot of people feel is just such overwhelming, throwing their hands up, “I can’t do this, it’s too hard. I don’t know where to start.” And so it’s cool how even just coaching someone to make one win, can open up a door to self-improvement and self-empowerment. Now other people might need more handholding, but you as a financial institution you can find that tools, but sometimes all it takes is that first win.

Cameron:
I love that framing. All right, let’s go a little more lighthearted. I’m going to ask you some rapid fire questions Evan. We’re going to dig deep, deep into your subconscious and your psyche. Okay, first of all, I’d like to know, would you rather be able to read minds or be invisible?

Evan:
Ooh, I would rather be invisible. I’d be afraid to know what’s inside someone’s mind when I’m talking to them.

Cameron:
Yeah, that makes sense. I think I already know the answer here based on what you told me, but would you rather have a fast bike or a slow car?

Evan:
Oh, I’d rather have a fast bike-

Cameron:
That’s what I thought.

Evan:
… I’m an outdoor enthusiast. A fast bike would also allow me to climb up to the top of the mountains where you get the beautiful views of the world.

Cameron:
All right. Let’s dig into your ego a little bit here. Would you rather win a Nobel Prize or an Oscar?

Evan:
Oh, I’d rather win a Nobel Prize. I’d rather be known for being smart than a good actor. Plus for anyone that knows me, I could never win an Oscar, out of the realm of possibly, probably not a Nobel too, but…

Cameron:
At least it’s more possible. All right, Would you rather give up bathing for a month or give up the internet for a month?

Evan:
I’d rather give up bathing for a month.

Cameron:
All right. Well this is video call, so it’s fine [crosstalk 00:35:03].

Evan:
COVID, right? My family would be probably the primary sufferers of that given how much we go out these days.

Cameron:
Yeah, well put, I pity your family such with all that exercise, but I appreciate that. All right. It’d be hard to work in a tech company without internet. Evan, it’s been great having you, I’d love to do a final take. Is there anything that you want to reiterate or anything you didn’t get to that you wanted to share with our audience before we close?

Evan:
There is one thing I would, if I have just two minutes. One other thing I’d like to say, because I know your audience is primarily credit unions and punchline of what I’m about to say does come back to give you advice and guidance to all members. But I wrote another piece that was published in Filene Research, Filene Research, a great organization. My view is that credit unions face extreme threats right now. If you Google, “Why should I choose a credit union?” The two reasons are lower interest rates, better service. In the COVID world today, you can get 0.2% on your savings account, mortgage rates are 3%. I don’t think a little bit better on interest rates will motivate anyone. So let’s talk about better service. University of Michigan has just released its data second year in a row, Banks outscore credit unions on service.

Evan:
That’s I think those younger generations that we were talking about, millennials and gen Z, great technologies, great service. You’re a credit union what are you supposed to do? You can’t with JP Morgan Chase spending 11 billion on technology. So the punchline is the way you can compete is giving advice and guidance to your members. Banks are just structurally not set up to do that. Credit unions, have it in their DNA, have it in their mission statements to help their members, they’re the ones that can do it. So again, if your listeners can take away one thing from this, credit unions really need to figure out, “How do we deliver advice and guidance and coaching to really, really… Not just education, advice, guidance, and coaching to help our members achieve their financial goals?” If we do it, we have a sustainable strategy that will allow us to win against the banks and grow and capture younger members.

Cameron:
Well said, I, that was a great article by the way, or anyone wants to look it up it called, Humanizing the Digital Experience. Evan, thank you so so much, it’s been a real pleasure having you on here, sharing your insights and experience.

Evan:
Thanks for having me on, I really enjoyed the conversation.

Cameron:
All right, folks, another really valuable episode. I’d love to share my key takeaways. The first one was, it was great to hear Evan’s story about all the work that he did around financial coaching and building that practice at Wells Fargo, but how ultimately, despite the successes, Finance and Compliance didn’t support it. So underscoring some of the challenges around doing this well and doing it across different functions inside of an organization. My second takeaway was around this human plus digital financial coaching and how I thought it was very, very clever to think about whatever tools we’re going to build on our website, as in so many things in life it’s the questions that are more important than the answers often and being able to support your team, your employees with what the next best question is to ask, to guide them and using that same tool on your website or other online platforms.

Cameron:
I also thought it was interesting to talk about what are the challenges with bots online. I mean that they can be effective, but people have had a lot of bad experiences. I know that has certainly been my experience and sharing some of his tips of having off ramps to a human in your digital solutions. And I think using the power of using someone like GreenPath rather than often, those off ramps are not very high quality resources or well-trained people. I love that concept of active choice, helping people to co-create their plan and how much more likely they are to succeed when they do that. And I just appreciate it this has been my experience with behavior change as well, personally and with others. As Evan said that, “Just helping folks to have one win.” I mean, financial wellness can open a door to a very different future, but supporting that first win is so important.

Cameron:
And I also appreciated that framing of if at the core credit union thrive in service and rates and there’s challenges and threats around both of those is right now seeing this opportunity to compete on advice, guidance, and coaching. And I think it’s very true that credit unions have a unique advantage of not for profit institutions to truly give high quality advice and guidance with integrity and really looking out for the member in a way that most for profit institutions can’t compete with. Lastly, I just was taken by this. I’ve heard this phrase used quite a bit of, “Guided selling,” and how important that is, particularly in the online space. And I think just expanding that to say, “Focus on guided progress.” It’s not necessarily the next best product, it could be the next best action or the next best advice as well as the next best product.

Cameron:
And lastly, I think I’ve heard this phrase that, Sometimes people in financial institutions have two modes, they’re either order takers or product pushers,” figuring out how to support the humans inside of our credit union to not play either of those roles, but to actually be a partner and a coach in guiding our members to better financial wellness is something I think we can all get excited about. All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us today for another great episode. Until the next time, I wish you the best of luck in making your credit union remarkable.

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