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James Robert Lay 

Have you ever gotten financially naked as a financial brand leader? Does your bank your credit and your your FinTech have a proven system or process to help your account holders first get financially naked so that you can then coach and guide them towards increasing their financial health and their financial well being. off this idea of getting financially naked sounds like a scary and painful process. I have good news for you. It doesn't have to be scary. It doesn't have to be painful for you. It doesn't have to be scary or painful for your account holders. In fact, financial coaching might just be the thing you need to keep leveling up loans and deposits that your financial brand. But how does financial coaching work? Well, let's find out together on today's episode of the banking on digital growth Podcast.

 

Greetings and Hello, my name is James Robert Lay. And I would like to welcome you to another episode of the banking on digital growth podcast. Today's episode is part of the practical perspective series. And joining me for today's conversation is Audrey Cannata, who is our operations lead here at the Digital Growth Institute. And in today's episode, Audrey and I are going to get financially connected with you so that you can learn how a financial coaching program can help your bank, your credit and or your FinTech increase the emotional connection that you have with your account holders. And then as a result, continue to level up loans and deposits. Welcome to the show, Audrey, it is so good to share time with you today.

 

Audrey Cannata: 

Thank you, James. Robert, happy to be here. Absolutely.

 

James Robert Lay 

And before we get into talking about a very important subject, even a very personal subject for many, this idea of financial coaching, and maybe dispel some myths around that but also get into your own journey that you've been on. With financial coaching what is good in your world right now personally or professionally, it is your pick to get started on a positive note

 

Audrey Cannata: 

2024 is off to a wonderful start, I have just really been enjoying, excuse my language, but you'll appreciate this getting shit done. One of the things that I really get energy out of is making things real making you know us specifically your ideas come to life. And there's just been a lot of that in the last couple of weeks. So I'm just really enjoying this time right now this season.

 

James Robert Lay 

You know, and coming out of the we'll call it the winter, if you will, the winter of 2023. And I say that because just hearing from so many leaders, CEOs, executives, marketing teams, even recently working with a team and we were talking about and reflection like what, what is good for them, and a couple of them there. To put it bluntly, they were like just making it through 2023 Just getting it to the other side. And it's this idea of surviving versus arriving versus thriving. And when I think about the work that we're doing to teach financial brand marketing and sales teams how to level up their loans and deposits. One of these opportunities is around helping their account holders not just survive, but to really thrive when it comes to their financial well being. And while it's not an area that we tend to lead with, as there are other specific areas of focus, to shore up within a financial buying journey, for example, secret shopping a website or getting a digital growth blueprint. financial coaching definitely enters into the discussion, sometimes sooner sometimes later. First and foremost, before we get into your story, what is financial coaching? And why why is there a perhaps a misunderstanding at a macro level for many when we talk about financial coaching? What are they typically thinking about?

 

Audrey Cannata: 

I think one of two things they either think financial education, financial literacy or financial advisory and it really it's a mix. It is a mix of education. I will say that there are a lot of educational components to it, but a lot of it is accountability. It's you know, someone who can be there to listen to you judgment free really help you make these personal Have goals and work on strategies that are good for you. You know, it's not about helping you invest, you know, they really don't have any skin in the game. If you think of just, you know, like a coach at the gym, they're there to guide you support you help you. And it's gonna look different for different people, I'm sure my sessions with my coach, follow up a framework, but how we go about making progress and setting goals, I'm sure looks different across the board. So I think there is a little bit of misconception that it's either strictly education or strictly advising.

 

James Robert Lay 

That's a good point that financial coaching is not about investing, or getting into the tactical pieces of money, that that is often I do see a misconception because they think that we're already doing financial literacy, or we already have, quote, unquote, financial advisors that are helping account holders with this. But through your own personal experience, you're seeing something different.

 

Audrey Cannata: 

Well, financial literacy is one to many. The coaching is one on one, it's very unique to your situation.

 

James Robert Lay 

I wouldn't I wouldn't even unpack that further financial literacy or financial education. It's the knowledge. It's helping people to gain a new perspective, maybe gain some understanding. But through your educational background, just because one gains knowledge, does that mean that they change their behavior? Correct? Does that mean that they go down a different path? Does it mean that they stopped doing something and start doing something else?

 

Audrey Cannata: 

No, we know that, we know that there has to be that feeling involved in that motivation. And that's one of the things that my financial coach works with me on is, you know, I'm almost six, seven months into it. And we're really having to do a lot of personal discovery to figure out where that motivation is where that feeling is inside of me, because you're right, just knowing what to do isn't enough to do it. So there's been a lot of trial and error. Yeah.

 

James Robert Lay 

And the idea of financial coaching is something that really has been on my radar. And I've been talking about this, I've been writing about it. I've been speaking about it since 20, maybe 2016 2017. It was interesting that back in, I think it was 2021. I even wrote about in banking on digital growth. And it was starting to introduce where this fits into the overall experience for an account holder, and how it can be deployed and how it can be packaged up to offer more than just a commoditized product. But even over the last four or five years since banking on digit growth was published, we're seeing slow to no movement in this area, at a macro industry level. And I think a lot of it is there's a misunderstanding. There's a misconception. Yeah. But even more so it was interesting in around 2021 time period, I want to say it was McKinsey, they were looking at the just the the larger financial advisors face and said, financial advisors by 2030. They're going to be more coaches, because they're going to have the technology that does all of the quote unquote, number crunching. The financial advisor is going to have to learn more about human behavior, human transformation, why people do what they do, which, to me, this was the whole reason why I wrote banking on change to begin with in the first place. Because thinking about transformation, quote, unquote, digital transformation, I was curious as to why maybe 15% of organizations would apply the thinking that we would share with them with their strategy. What was what was going on with the other 85% 90% who weren't doing anything, they had the knowledge but they weren't applying the knowledge. And then whenever I started going down this path of learning really deeply human transformation, I said, this is applicable not just to digital transformation, but to cultural transformation, brand transformation, internally. financial transformation for externally for account holders, which you have now back to your point have been on a financial journey, not by yourself. You have joined a program, the financial gym, and you have a financial coach. So take us back, because I think your perspective, your experience here is going to be helpful for those who are watching and listening who might have heard that this idea of financial coaching but they don't know what it is. is how do we integrate this within to our own methodology at our bank or at a credit union or fintech? Take us back as to why you joined a financial coaching program to begin with in the first place.

 

Audrey Cannata: 

I well, so I will just be completely transparent. And you know, most of this story, and I've even touched on some of it here and there on the podcast, but this time last year, I was in an extremely uncomfortable financial situation. And when I say uncomfortable, I mean, like suffocating, and I did that is not hyperbole. I be unexpectedly became the sole financial provider for my two kids, I had one kid at daycare at the time. So we know that is a massive monthly hit. So that was tough to have such vast changes occur and your finances unexpectedly. And on top of that, it was one of those seasons, where it just felt like when it rains, it pours, I got hit, almost, you know, back to back to back with major bills that I didn't see coming my car, we all know, when you hit that moment, when you've got a car, you've had it for a little while. And it was just like one thing out, you just split you can get out of the driveway, before it goes back in the shop. And, you know, within five or six weeks, it had been in, you know, three or four times I'm talking, it was almost to the point where you go through these emotions where you're, you're angry, and you're cursing and you're mad, and then you're sad. And then you finally just kind of throw your hands up in the air, like I don't even know what to do anymore. But just laugh because, you know, my my debt, you know, almost tripled within months. And I just, I was paralyzed. And I didn't know what to do. And, and let me also put this in there because I think it's very important to note that while a lot of these circumstances were out of my control, the fact that up until this point, I was not financially healthy. And I was not in a very, I had not been financially independent before. So and that's, that's hard to say, at 36 years old, that I really did not have a very responsible way of handling my money. And so I think had I have that, I probably could have handled this situation a little bit differently. But it was almost like I found myself really just, I had nowhere to go. I mean, I was at the bottom of a dark deep hole. And I really just didn't know what else to do. Other than asked for help. And so I started looking around and trying to get creative, okay, how can I get out of this, because it's not going to change it is what it is, you know, you learn from the school of hard knocks, this has been some tough lessons. And so this idea of getting a financial coach came up. And we had talked a little bit about it. And so I, I actually looked into it on my own, because I thought I'm gonna have to have somebody really hold my hand throughout all this. Because this is going to be tough, this is going to take a long commitment to get out of this rut that I'm in. And so yeah, I joined and I know we'll talk a little bit more about that later. But that's kind of the backstory of how I got my financial pickle.

 

James Robert Lay 

There's there's a couple of points that I want to loop back on, as you're unpacking that. First and foremost is your emotive state. I think you described it as suffocating, which is very fascinating to me just hearing this because back in 2014 SunTrust, which is now true as through the BB and T SunTrust merger SunTrust launched the on Up program, and they launched it during the Superbowl. And I will never forget this because as I watched their Superbowl ad they personified what you just shared to a tee. The commercial opened with hold your breath. Hold it, hold it. This is what financial stress feels like for millions of Americans that can't breathe. It's like you're underwater. And they personified that emotion. So well, just with the words than the visuals. So I just wanted to just pause on that point here. For those who are watching and listening. Because if you haven't felt that it's very hard to relate to that feeling.

 

Audrey Cannata: 

Yeah, 100% I mean It's hard to go to the grocery store and swipe your card even though it's necessities, just knowing that you're just stuck, and even the most important purchases, even that stresses you out. And that's tough. And we all know that, that you know that your financial stress, it carries over to a lot of aspects of your life. And, and with children, you know, especially with ones that are my age, I've got an eight year old and a five year old, and explaining to them why we're not going on a family trip this summer when all their friends are going, you know, to different states or Disney World or whatever. And, and I know James, Robert, you've shared this before, personally is hearing that word, those words growing up, we can't afford this, we can't afford this and how that stuck with you. And so it really just affects all aspects of your life. Every everywhere, I mean, my mental health was suffered because I was suffering because I just felt like this failure because a lot of I take responsibility, a lot of the situation I was in was was really on me. And it's a hard place to be especially, you know, when you look around, we've got comparison culture. I'm not in the same place as a lot of people in my life that I know. And it's tough, it's tough to swallow your pride.

 

James Robert Lay 

And in what you did, and you asked for help. You said, Hey, there's a problem. I don't like the way that I feel I don't want to continue to live this way. And this gets into a deeper level point of, you know, a newer study of psychology, which is that of the future self. So you took action, you took responsibility. But you needed some accountability. And you needed some objective perspective to to help you move beyond that painful state to get to an even better place. And before we get to what that was like for you. When you talk about this painful state, I can't help but wonder who else is watching? And who else is listening? Who else works at a financial brand right now? A bank credit nerd fintech? And they're like, Yeah, that's me. Because listen, like I get it. You know, you you brought me up in this idea of growing up my financial narrative, or my my financial story that I'm still having to work through myself was we can't afford it, we can't afford it, we can't afford it. When you hear that, you almost you go the opposite direction. And you push against that. And that creates some other challenges as well. So I bring that up. Because if you are watching, if you are listening, and you're like, Yeah, that's me, I feel the same thing. But I also feel like an imposter because I do work at a bank, I do work at a credit union. I'm struggling with this. There's this whole imposter syndrome complex, which let's make this very practical. When we go back to the SunTrust narrative with the launch of their own app program, before they launched to the public, I want to say they spent six months to a year launching on up first and foremost, internally, to their team members so that they could increase the financial confidence of their team members. Yeah, why is that? Why is that important?

 

Audrey Cannata: 

Well, empathy, I mean, empathy. When you I think you hit such a good point on the imposter, imposter syndrome. I think a lot of us or a lot of people in the industry probably do have some insecurities, financially, and they're probably thinking, wow, I mean, this is what I do for a living and, and even, you know, when I first came back for two or number two, I wasn't in the financial situation that I was in, you know, a couple years later, and we're talking about finances and money every single day. And I remember thinking to myself, This is wild. Like, I feel like I am the target audience right now, for someone who needs this kind of a program. But because I've been through it, you know, I have this different level of empathy and awareness and understanding and I can now be an advocate for programs like financial coaching, because I see it, I didn't see it before, so I didn't live it. So I've lived it now. And I can say, this is a program that is so you know, impactful and really can change someone's life or change the course of you know, their financial life but but everything Elden. So I think it's just having that, that empathy and understanding, I think, maybe more people if they really paused and thought, they might have a lot of similar stories as well, but they're just kind of holding it in, because I'll be honest with you, I didn't realize that I was in as roughest financial shape I was in until it was too late. Because we can all kind of tell ourselves and convince ourselves, Oh, I'm fine, I'm good. Everything's good until lack of better word shit hits the fan. And you realize, maybe I'm not as good as I thought I was.

 

James Robert Lay 

But I will tell you, and you do know this. And for confidentiality reasons, we're not going to name names or share their stories. But through the work that we have done with other financial brands, with their marketing teams, with sales teams, we have had a couple of cohorts connect in one on one breakouts, and then they share their financial stories. And they're not all rainbows and unicorns, there's a lot of there's a lot of pain. And to bring all of this together, empathy is such a key opportunity to connect with, with just people and meet them where they're at, which is where let's move the story along here. So you you had this problem, you knew you needed help, you knew you needed accountability. So you joined a financial coaching program, it's paid members paid monthly membership, just like a gym, which I think is important to note that this does have the potential to create non interest income. And it's not that we're trying to make money off of people's pain. But for me, from the psychology standpoint, if, if one is not paying for this, they're probably not going to do anything with it. I exact it's an investment in the future self. And I will say from looking at the research and the data with some of these financial programs. I know the payback for those that are going through them increasing credit score by 50 points within 12 months, finding ways to stop losing $5,000 in the over the course of 12 months. And when you think about a membership fee of around $100 a month or so that's a $1,200 in, but you're talking about figuring out how to stop losing $5,000 Well, you're up at that point, right around $4,000 $300 4000. So it's a huge return on investment, financially, but even more importantly, emotionally relationally physically, mentally, spiritually. So there's a much bigger, I think even return to think about that goes just beyond the dollars and cents. And how this can truly transform lives and transform families.

 

Audrey Cannata: 

Yeah, and it's funny say that, I mean, it's not this is all very real, but make a little bit light of it. In my very first call that I had, when I was still deciding whether or not I wanted to sign up, and we were looking at the different pricing plans. And I was thinking to myself, Oh my gosh, $100 or whatever it was a month. I'm not sure about that. And I mean, this is a good sales tactic. But the person I was talking to said, if that $100 A month stresses you out, then this program is precisely for you. And that kind of hit me like wow, that that actually makes perfect sense. Because if I'm stressing about $100 to invest to make myself better than that means I really do need this help. Yeah.

 

James Robert Lay 

So you got to help you join the program. Walk us through what this experience was like to begin because you had to get financially connected.

 

Audrey Cannata: 

I did it's very uncomfortable.

 

James Robert Lay 

What was that like?

 

Audrey Cannata: 

I was very I was very nervous. And I will say going into it. They this this particular organization did try to match me with some but the coach that they thought I would compliment me as far as having similar interests and vibe. So that was really neat to go into it knowing that they had kind of handpick someone based on on getting to know me a little bit but yeah, I had to get financially naked and it was terrifying. I had to bring everything to the table, all of the accounts, all of the credit cards, all of the debt, everything to my name and you know I I will say from the beginning, my coach made me feel very, very Get comfortable, one of the first things he said was, hey, look, I've been in your shoes, I have been in a really bad financial spot. And I can tell you that nothing you share today, nothing you tell me is going to make me judge you I get it. If anything, I was probably worse off than you were. So he really made me feel comfortable in that way. But yeah, we just looked at everything. And the very first few months was simply about getting organized, getting systems in place, getting budgets together, I didn't even have, like a real budget be wondering, well, I just didn't have a system really. And so that took a lot of trial and error. And, you know, we looked at things like where's there, where there's these, you know, subscriptions coming from are these fees that we can cut? And, and I thought to that, you know, going into this, all right, I'm gonna have to get so strict, they're gonna cut every extra thing that I don't have to have every little luxury, you know, my life is gonna get really boring. And he said, No, we're not going to do that. That's not the goal here, we want you to still have a good, healthy, happy life. But we need to figure out ways to, for you to be able to have that and work towards your future. And so he said, Look, what are some non negotiables? What are some things that maybe are a luxury, but you really want in your budget, and I go, my gym membership, and my hair, please make those two things work. And we can cut other things. And he goes, and I thought he was gonna judge me a little bit. He was like, okay, not a problem, because he actually threw one more in there he was want to get your nails done, too. And I was like, There's no way, that's, that's too much. But he did, he worked those things into the system. So it wasn't like I was having to remove everything. And that immediately just made me feel so comfortable. And so we looked at ways we could cut in other areas so that I could enjoy the things in life that I wanted to.

 

James Robert Lay 

You know, I want to roll this back, as you're going through, the thought that popped into my head was, and you just set it a fear of judgment, like, I'm curious as to how much that fear holds us back holds people back from even seeking and asking for help in the first place. Because I want to say it was a survey by stache.com, a couple of years ago, that found one out of every three people feel like so it's a matter of perception feel like they are worse off financially than their peers, whether or not that's reality. You mentioned this earlier, we do live in a comparison culture, we do live where people curate and filter their lives through Instagram and Tiktok and whatnot, they think that they're living their best life ever. But that's just the that's just the veneer, that's just the facade, we don't know what's going on behind the scenes. So we have to be very, very mindful of that. And then, to your point, when we begin to expose ourselves, then it's like, what are they thinking? How are they judging me? And I think when you create that environment that hey, we're not, listen, I'm not judging you, I was probably worse off than you were, it just, it reduces the anxiety around this. And there's so much anxiety already tied around money too, just to be able to reduce that as a positive when. And when you think about this idea of a brand experience, to be able to associate that feeling and that emotion tied to the brand. It increases the brand equity into into the mind of the account holder. So there are once again, other ways that these financial coaching programs create value that we might not see, at surface level, we have to keep going deeper and deeper and deeper into the into the mind, but more specifically the subconscious mind for that matter here.

 

Audrey Cannata: 

That's so true. I mean, and I never thought about that until just now. But thinking back with my relationship now with my financial coach and the organization that he's part of. Yes, I have a very deep emotional tie to them now, and I probably will it you know, as far as I can see out because I know that the things that are happening and the transformations that are happening, for me, it's because of this relationship that I have with this person through this organization. I mean, they have transformed my view of the future into there is hope. You know, I know that there is a bright future ahead that I'm not, you know, as far off or as far behind as I thought I was I'm going to be able to still achieve all these things that I wanted to that I didn't think were possible. I mean that is a gift to be given it really, really is I just, I can't stress that enough how, how important it is just mentally and emotionally, to have that connection.

 

James Robert Lay 

I'm also glad that you brought up a point here that I think if you're watching, or listening and thinking, yeah, I could probably use a financial coach, but I'm afraid that they're going to make me wear sackcloth and eat bread and water and take away all the joy of life. You just addressed that key point in you, what are the non negotiables? And you were very clear with that, and I know you, you said, your gym membership, and your hair now, I can't relate to the hair. So if you're watching, you know exactly what I'm talking about here, like I, I'm losing it, it's not coming back. And I'm okay with that. But I get the gym membership. And I think that's an important point. That's a non negotiable because we know, you and I specifically through all the research that we do, the connection between a person's physical well being and their financial well being between their physical well being, and their mental well being being between their financial well being and their mental. It's all interconnected. And I've always kind of, I've been thinking about this a lot, I don't have an answer for it. But it's like, are we? Are we going about this all wrong? As an industry? Because yeah, financial literacy has been a big discussion point for the last decade plus and to be frank, I hate the word financial literacy. Because it's almost like we have a population of illiterates. And fair enough, we do because this is not taught in school. Granted, there are, you know, inroads being made here that's positive. But there's also a body of work and research coming out saying financial education, quote, unquote, has perhaps the potential to be doing more harm than good, because it creates a pseudo sense of confidence. Because yeah, I have this knowledge. But then there's no action to apply that knowledge. As I was mentioning before, there's no accountability to change behavior. Because so much of this subject of financial well being is really associated with the subconscious, mind, environment, family of origin, belief systems and structures, that, really the only way to do this type of work is through coaching. You have to have someone bring some awareness. And that's where I want to just pause this conversation because that that's the next chapter, if you will, that I want to dive into and continue this discussion on another episode. What awareness has this brought for you through these conversations? Because where we're at right now is, you had a problem. It was taking a toll on your mental health, your relationship with your kids. You said I need some help, you got some help. They put your mind at ease. They didn't take away all the joy of life. But you just started by getting some basic systems and processes in a play that I miss anything. Just to kind of recap this?

 

Audrey Cannata: 

No, that's, that's a great summary. Definitely, just in this point, where I've got the systems, I've got the processes, I have a general understanding. But moving forward, I just had a call the other day with my coach. And now we're really getting into understanding myself and my habits and what motivates me, and how I can actually and that's the difference with this education and the knowledge. Just knowing these different there's and there's so many different ways to budget and to save. And we know that doesn't mean it's right for you, and it's gonna work for you. And so that's what we're doing right now is really figuring out what I can do, like, what, what motivates me. And so that's so that's a really fun part. And I know we can continue this on another episode.

 

James Robert Lay 

Well, let's do that. Because I think to bridge this conversation with the next, this all comes back to something that I'm writing about in banking on change. For any type of change, to happen for any type of transformation to become reality, and you're on this journey. You had the courage to commit to do once You had the courage to act. An Act is an acronym where awareness plus commitment that is what leads to transformation. And so let's pick this conversation up of the awareness that this is creating and how that awareness is going to lead to new commitments that lead to your ongoing transformation in this journey that you've been taking, Audrey I'm just thank you for sharing and just being willing to open up here because I'm telling you, there's at least one person who is watching or listening that this is me, and if that is them, and they're resonating with your story here. Seriously, what is the best way for them to reach out and connect with you to say hello to notice if nothing more? They're not alone?

 

Audrey Cannata: 

Yes, absolutely. If that is you out there, please you know, feel free to reach out and connect. I can definitely understand where you're coming from and can hopefully give you some some pointers as to some possible paths forward if nothing else, just be a listening ear and say I've got you I understand you. But you can reach out to me on LinkedIn Audrey Cannata,

 

James Robert Lay 

connect with Audrey. Learn with Audrey. Grow with Audrey Audrey. Thank you so much. This has been such a important conversation today. That it is my hope that we can continue to increase awareness into why financial coaching can truly be a path to level up loans and deposits going forward into the future.

 

Audrey Cannata: 

Thank you. I appreciate being here.

 

James Robert Lay 

As always and until next time, be well. Do good. Be the light

Brief Summary of Episode #369

For many, the world of finance is not just about numbers and investments; it's an emotional and psychological battlefield.

In this episode, we delve into the world of financial coaching, a lifeline for those drowning in financial troubles.

Audrey Cannata, Operations Lead at the Digital Growth Institute shares her journey through financial hardship and the emotional and psychological toll it took on her.

Audrey's story is a testament to the power of financial coaching in navigating the complex world of personal finance.

It's not just about making more money or investing wisely; it's about understanding your relationship with money and learning how to make it work for you.

 

Key Insights and Takeaways

  • What is financial coaching? (4:33)
  • Imposter syndrome, and the importance of empathy (13:27)
  • Financial coaching program for improving credit score and reducing debt (20:38)