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[00:00:00] James Robert Lay: Confusion is the antithesis of clarity and the matters surrounding money, like a credit score, can often feel confusing, frustrating, even overwhelming for many people. That's why on today's episode of the Banking on Digital Growth podcast, we're going to shed some light on how financial brands can provide clarity for people in the communities that they serve. To guide them beyond confusion, to guide them beyond conflict, to guide them beyond chaos, while also at the same time, building people's financial confidence. Greetings and hello. My name is James Robert Lay and I'd like to welcome you to another episode of the Banking on Digital Growth podcast. Today's episode is part of the Exponential Insight series and I'm excited to welcome JB Orakia to the show. JB is the CEO of Savvy Money on a mission to empower financial well being through innovation and partnership. Welcome to the show JB. It is good to share time with you today, buddy.


[00:00:59] JB Orecchia: Hey, thanks James. Glad to be here.


[00:01:01] James Robert Lay: Before we get into talking about how financial brands can provide clarity for people in the communities that they serve, to give them some help, to give them some hope.


[00:01:08] Personal and Professional Victories: A Talk with JB Orecchia


[00:01:08] James Robert Lay: What's going well for you right now? Personally or professionally? What's good in your world?


[00:01:12] JB Orecchia: Wow. Personally I've got three kids, 126, 123 and 120. So my oldest daughter is a nurse in Fort Worth. The 26 year old and just got engaged three weeks ago. My 23 year old graduated from college in May of last year and interned for Savvy Money two years and is now playing a huge role in the marketing department. And then my youngest is going to be a junior in college and working two jobs on the side to pay for her clothes habit. So that's all good. On the professional side, Savvy Money has been just the last few years have been awesome. The growth that we've had in the last, I would say the last three to four years has been incredible. We just got best places to work in the Bay Area, best embedded fintech for 2023 for the Banking awards and just today got Ink 5000 fastest growing companies, so 1400 ranking and 214 in California and 89 in financial services. So not to drop all that data on you, but it's been a fun ride and an exciting time.


[00:02:37] James Robert Lay: Well, I like to start off on a positive note on every show because I really believe the perspective that we have now in the present moment, but also about the future, will directly impact the decisions that we make going forward into the future. And right now it can be a challenging time for many people. And so simply by just creating a habit for myself and you mentioned your three kids. My wife and I, we have three kids different stage 1311, nine and seven. But they have really developed a habit of looking for the good, looking for the positive.


[00:03:11] Financial Stress: A Silent Epidemic


[00:03:11] James Robert Lay: And that's where I want to dive into what I'm calling a silent epidemic, an epidemic that is rooted in financial stress. It's taking a toll on people and their health and their relationships and their well being. But I think what makes this epidemic so challenging is that, yes, indeed, people are looking for someone that they can trust to guide them beyond the confusion and the chaos that they feel in the present moment. But there's an underlying crisis impacting the greater financial services industry. Some call it guilt by association. That is a confidence crisis rooted more deeply in a communication crisis. I know SVB could be argued that they were a victim of this confidence and communication crisis, and some also felt some of that pain, just once again, by guilt by associations. My question to you is for smaller community financial brands, how can they continue to build the confidence of people in their communities when people are looking other places for knowledge, for insight, for answers like social media, even chat GPT now?


[00:04:19] JB Orecchia: Well, I think specifically to SVB, that was a very unique situation in that bank had deposits from companies that were very concentrated in a certain category, number one. And number two, some of the investments they made were, from a long term standpoint, would seem conservative and weren't given the environment and rising interest rates. And so I think transparency is super important from a local financial institution, whether you're a community bank or credit union. Super important to be transparent about the things that the consumer would care about, where they would feel secure, that their money is secure, that the decisions that the financial institution making are in their behalf, and that they're safe. And so there's a comfort level of what they're doing that's safe. I think the advantage that a lot of these institutions have, the smaller ones, is to really personalize that experience, make them seem like they care or actually care in their behavior. And that comes through both individual interaction. But as you become more digital, that digital experience needs to be personalized in order to build that trust with that end consumer.


[00:05:32] James Robert Lay: Well, that's a great point. Trust is built on two things, I say. It's built upon words and actions. What you say and what you do. And what you do can be delivered, obviously, through a digital experience.


[00:05:46] Understanding Credit Scores: An Exercise in Empathy


[00:05:46] James Robert Lay: And that's why I want to come back to questions that people have around money matters, questions around things like a credit score. I think a lot of us who work within financial services I've got 21 years now. At this point, I get it, I understand it. But for those that don't understand it, and I think that's the point, there's an exercise of empathy here. What are some questions for financial brand leaders who are watching or who are listening to this conversation that people have about a credit score that they might not be thinking about on a day to day basis? Because, yes, they have the knowledge, but the people that they're looking to help just don't right now.


[00:06:29] JB Orecchia: Well, I think each individual has a different situation. First you have to understand that, right. Just having a number, that's really a starting point and what are the ingredients in that number? And really breaking that number down into its parts is super important. Then once you've done that and you've said, hey, 40% is payment history, 23% is utilization. Great? You've told me my utilization is bad. Now what, what do I need to do from there, from an action plan in order to make progress against my utilization rate, right? Because that means I just have too much of a balance on my credit card. So I need some budgeting tips or some financial advice to create an action plan to kind of make progress there. And so tools like Savvy Money really provide the financial institution with a playbook on how they want to guide their consumers in order to get better. And a number of our financial institutions actually use Savvy Money as part of the building blocks of other things that they do with their consumers to really guide that consumer in making good decisions. The other part of it is really relevance, right? So when I built Savvy Money, part of it was education around credit, but the other part was, okay, well, I want to improve my credit score. But why? What's the benefit to me? And really pointing out to the user that as their score goes up, they fall into different credit bands and they qualify for lower interest rates. Those lower interest rates over time save you a tremendous amount of money. We point out the actual savings to the individual. So now I've actually got a reason, or I'm motivated. Like, OOH, I'm not just going to improve my score for score's sake. There's actually a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow there that if I do these certain things, I'm going to take my financial situation in a much better direction.


[00:08:27] James Robert Lay: Yes. And that idea of guideship I'm really big on. In fact, in banking on digital growth, I have a chapter around what I call story selling, and it's what role are we playing as a financial brand? Are we trying to be a hero? And I think a lot of financial brands are not to their own fault, but we have to think in mind and keep in mind for people, they're the role and the heroes of their own stories. The opportunity, though, is not to try to be the hero, but to play the role of the helpful and empathetic guide, to be the Obi Wan Kenobi's, to be the Mr. Miyagis of the world, to give people help and to give people even hope. And I like how you liken this to it's not just a score. There's something, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that can motivate and transform behaviors, opportunities when we're really digging deep now opportunities for community financial brands to transform the confusion that people have around money and these things like credit into clarity. Because if I look at a modern consumer buying journey you can go kind of the old world route of awareness, consideration, purchase, adoption and advocacy. But I'm really taking more of an emotive approach now. Every buying journey starts with some type of confusion and the first step is then clarity. So what are the opportunities to provide clarity to people to guide them beyond the chaos and the conflict that many feel right now in the present moment?


[00:10:04] JB Orecchia on Achieving Financial Wellness with Small, Measurable Goals


[00:10:04] JB Orecchia: Well one other point I was going to add to the last point then I'll answer that question is in addition to that pot of gold which I mentioned, which is financial wellness and improving where you are, there's got to be something anchored in that. Is it a vacation home? Is it buying your first home? Is it paying for a college education? Is it something where it's not just money? But now I want to achieve some of those personal goals. So I think anchoring in in that creates a little more motivation to get there as opposed to just money, right? Money. Yeah, that's better than just moving the number. But now I'm actually anchored in something super important to me, to my heart that will drive my behavior. The other thing is what you measure, you'll manage. And so what we try and do is really break things into small parts and not set the goal setting. So we've got a little goal setting module inside in our product and sometimes people will be like, I'm going to 600 credit score and they'll try and drive. I want to be an 850. Well I want to be 65 and play in the NBA. But that's probably not going to happen. But maybe I can work on my three pointer. Right? Let's set my goal from 650 to 710 and yeah, that's my first. So level up and create kind of levels that you can get to and give them the building blocks to get them there. And then there was a book at one point, I think his name's BJ Fogg. I don't know if you know him.


[00:11:39] James Robert Lay: Absolutely. He wrote a tiny habit.


[00:11:41] JB Orecchia: Tiny habits. Right. I love that book. Right? Like people are like, I want to run a marathon. Okay, well how much do you run? I don't run very much. And so how do you create those tiny habits? And whether it's know Gene Chatsky always talks about start by saving $100 or start by saving $5 a day and that'll build on itself. Don't set the goal too high where it's too difficult and you get discouraged anyway. Kind of went off on a little bit of a tangent there, but you get my point. And that's interesting that you remember BJ Fogg because he would be like, you want to get in shape start with one sit up, then go to two sit ups.


[00:12:28] The Importance of Goal Setting and Micro Behaviors in Change Management


[00:12:28] James Robert Lay: You're bringing up something very interesting here because Audrey and I discussed this book back on episode 214 and it was titled Spinning Small Behaviors into Tiny Habits. And you're touching on something about goal setting that I've been thinking a lot about, particularly writing banking on change. And when we think about change and change management through the lens of financial services, I think a lot of it we think of it digital transformation that's change management. But there's an opportunity to guide and navigate people through small behavioral changes simply by first giving them a place and a form to think about the future that they could create first and foremost within their mind and then take those small actions there. And the reason I'm bringing this up is some of the research I've been doing. Brian Tracy shared some research that he did. 98% of people in the United States either do not have written goals or do not revisit those goals on a daily basis. Where does goal setting? I want to dive deeper into the goal setting because I think when you get really clear about where you're going, then it makes those micro behaviors that much easier to commit to, which is something that James Clear wrote about in Atomic Habits, which is habit stacking.


[00:13:49] Facilitating Financial Goals Conversation: Opportunities and Tools


[00:13:49] James Robert Lay: So let's go back to goals. And where might there be opportunities for financial brands to facilitate an even deeper conversation around people's goals? Because if they're not even thinking about that, or if they're just so stuck in the pain of the present moment of financial stress and chaos, what can we do for them?


[00:14:10] JB Orecchia: Yeah, I think you have to start first with what consumer problem are you trying to solve? Or what's that individual's ultimate thing that you're trying to solve for and work backwards from there. And there are multiple ways to get there, but you need to work backwards from that problem and provide them with the tools and the resources in order to get people there. And there's a couple of different paths in order to do it. Obviously improving your credit, managing your finances, doing a little better job of budgeting and saving all those become little building blocks, and how you as a financial institution provide tools and resources and then it's analyzing their finances. Am I getting the best deal in each category of my finances? Could I be consolidating my debt? Could I be refinancing my car at a lower rate? Oftentimes you'll see people that and rates have gone up a little bit, but where their car is paid off, but their credit card debt, they could essentially refinance their car, pay off their credit card debt, and they'd pay that debt down that much faster. It's a very unique, tiny little thing. But we have a saying at Savvy money, it pays to be Savvy. It pays to be savvy. Well, think about that for a second little things that you do along the way. If you think about a graph, right? If you think about a graph, all those little things add up and next thing you know, you're here versus here.


[00:15:37] James Robert Lay: Yes.


[00:15:38] JB Orecchia: And if you think about if it pays to be Savvy, like, what are all my little Savvy assignments that I need to do in order to get to my goal? And they all kind of build on themselves.


[00:15:49] Savvy Money: Empowering Financial Well-being Through Innovation and Partnership


[00:15:49] James Robert Lay: Yes. And this is something else. You're touching on the opportunity to help people measure the progress that they're making on this journey and not get so focused on perfection or get so focused on the end goal because sometimes it can feel like, oh, I'm never going to get there. But if we measure progress by looking at where we've come, that creates motivation and momentum to keep moving forward into the future. And a lot of this is just, once again, it's getting really clear on the future. I know you're really clear on the future and the mission that drives you and the team at Savvy Money. You're on a mission to empower financial well being through innovation partnership. What does that mean and why are you doing what you're doing as a leader today?


[00:16:33] JB Orecchia: It's a great question because you talked about you've been in financial services now 21 years. You said. In fact, 88 of 88 was my 35th anniversary of being in financial services. I started my first job at Household Finance on eight eight of 88. And there I worked with a lot of consumers on really kind of across the kitchen table or in the office on improving their finances. I later went into the credit card division and took over a group that marketed a credit report product in the mail. I'm going to get to answering your question in a second. So, long story short, I was part of the original founding that delivered credit reports over the Internet because at the time when I was in banking, people were asking us to, hey, could you overnight that credit report to me? And we quickly figured out that, one, it needed to be easy to understand, and two, it needed to be digital. Right. So as everyone knows, was not free. And that company, we grew that business, sold it to Experian, and by the time I left, I think it was close to 900 million in revenue. And another little company came along. As you think about, everyone keeps solving for a different problem, right? So Credit Karma comes along and says, hey, we're going to actually make this completely free and we're going to finance it through advertising. And Legion and Ken did a fantastic job. And as many people know, Credit Karma sold to Intuit for $7 billion. And so a fantastic job of providing a great service for the consumer. Well, when I created Savvy Money, I'm, like, I came out of the financial institution space do you really want your consumers going to Karma? No offense, Ken, you've got a nice product going to Karma and then losing them to lenders that are advertising there. Why not bring that whole solution in house? So that was one problem to solve for two. Financial institutions sometimes aren't the best at engagement and marketing and analytics and showing them, here's where you're winning financial institution, here's where you're not. Here's problems that you could solve for your consumer. So happy to report we're up to 1150 institutions now. We integrate with 40 digital platforms. We don't do any direct to consumer at all. We'll never compete with our financial institutions. Our financial institutions are what drive our decisions as well as the end consumer. Right. We want to solve the end consumer problem, and we want to solve the financial institutions problem. But that's our goal. And that's what drives the DNA at Savvy. Money gets everyone excited when FIS are like, we love you guys, you make our jobs easier. And when you get that feedback from consumers, that's really the lifeblood that drives the company.


[00:19:38] James Robert Lay: Yeah. And that's such an important point to make, because there are other places I know that people are looking for that help, that hope. But sometimes that can put chinks in the armor of the relationship that one has with a financial brand.


[00:19:55] Discussion of Technological Transformation in Financial Services with JB Orecchia


[00:19:55] James Robert Lay: And that's where you think about, like you said, you've been doing this since 880. I like the way that that's framed up. So happy anniversary. Look back. Because so much has changed since eight eight eightyAt. For complete context here, which is amazing.


[00:20:15] JB Orecchia: Because this is eight eight of 2023.


[00:20:18] James Robert Lay: That's right. That's why I said happy anniversary. Because on the day of recording, it is eight eight. And on 8880, I was about to turn seven years old for context. And that's why I'm bringing this up, because if you think about what you've experienced since eight eight eightyAt. In 94, the Internet reached the mass consciousness of humanity.


[00:20:43] JB Orecchia: Let's just say interest rates were a little higher than they are now.


[00:20:47] James Robert Lay: It's funny because I know everyone's complaining about, oh, the 7% 8% mortgage rate. And I'm like, I didn't experience this, but my parents were like, yeah, we had like a 15% back in the day. I'm like, oh, it's not so bad because context is everything. So my point of this is, it's context here, because if you think about 94 was when the internet reached the mass consciousness of humanity. iPhone was launched in 2007. Chat GPT hit the scene November 30, 2022. Three big moments in, we'll call it just technological transformation. How have you, as a leader, managed not just continuous change, but now, I think more specifically exponential change that has the perception of moving faster and faster. What are you doing to keep up with all this yourself?


[00:21:38] JB Orecchia: One, it really starts with the consumer problem and then the fi problem, because we have two customers right on the consumer side, we try and make the consumer experience easier, better solve problems. And you measure that through data. So you measure that through looking like, hey, we're going to keep score because we're going to look, are people's scores getting better? Are they clicking on offers? Are you getting positive feedback? Right? So we have to measure that in order to keep ourselves honest in terms of that performance. When it comes down to the financial institution, what are their goals, what are they trying to do? Whether it be loans or deposits or financial wellness or whatever that is, how do we measure that in each of those categories? How do we leverage analytics to look at, hey, these financial institutions are actually logging into our analytics tool. Oh, these institutions are pulling down creative. We have a partner portal with tons of marketing assets and we're getting about 2500 logins a month. That's good, right? Hey team, you're putting good content out there, people are using it. Keep an eye on that. The ones that aren't, hey, give them a call. Do you need help with leveraging these assets? Because you've got to teach them to fish and you got to help them solve their problem. And then you have to measure that progress with those institutions as well as the consumers.


[00:23:05] James Robert Lay: Yeah, that was a mouthful, but no, it makes perfect sense. And I think it comes back to what I was referencing before, measuring the progress that we're making over the period of time. Because I think when things do get challenging, when things do get tough, it's easy just to get stuck. But if we continuously are keeping our head up, looking at not just where we were going, but also where we've been, that builds that momentum to continuously keep us moving forward.


[00:23:30] Solving People's Financial Problems Through Technology Collaboration and Innovation


[00:23:30] James Robert Lay: Which is where as we start to wrap up, I want to get real practical. Something that someone who is watching or listening can do to really empower financial wellbeing themselves through continuous innovation, through collaboration, so that they can provide ongoing clarity for people in the communities. What's one simple thing that they can do today? Because as we talked, BJ Fogg and James Clear and Atomic Habits, all transformation that starts and leads to future growth starts with a simple step today. What would be the one thing that you would recommend someone watching or listening do right now?


[00:24:11] JB Orecchia: Yeah, I think one, leverage proven technology providers to help you, right? Like so many institutions have what they are having to do on a daily basis and really can't do that themselves. So I would say pick what problem you want to solve first. Like what problem do we want to solve? Don't chase technology first. Figure out the problem and then partner with someone who's proven that can help you solve that problem. And of course, I would put Savvy money on that list of institutions worth partnering with because we really care and we listen and we want to try and help solve the actual problem. The other is the implementation needs to be easy, right? So whenever you seek out whatever it is you're going to do, make sure you confirm, like, that's not going to distract us from doing what we need to do as a company. That implementation should be super easy and then that will help with the decision. And to your earlier point, don't solve every problem. Make incremental progress as an organization and then keep score. Right? So we brought in analytics to keep us honest and the institution honest. How are you doing on market share against your competitors? How are you doing on penetrating certain score bands? How are you doing on consumers actually increasing their credit? And so all those things allow you to keep you honest, where you can set the goals and make sure that you're delivering on your strategy as a bank or financial institution.


[00:25:57] James Robert Lay: No, that's a fantastic point. Benchmarking, I think, is key. It's critical too, because it provides clarity. Where are we going? Are we even going in the right direction? But also, coming back to your point, not trying to boil the ocean, I think it's so easy to want to go and solve every single problem out there, or you do the inverse of that. There's so much technology that is now coming down the pipeline. It'll be an exponential challenge, I believe, as technology is moving at an exponential pace. And now AI, it feels like new AI since November 30, 2022, there's some new AI platform out there every single day. And not just one, but 20 or 30 or 40. And it's just overwhelming for the mind to conceive. Don't think technology first, think people problems first. Which I appreciate, which you were sharing, is we're solving for two problems. We're solving for the people problem, but we're also solving for the financial institution problem. And that really comes back to the heart of why you are doing what you're doing at Savvy Money, which is really to empower financial well being through not just innovation, but partnership collaboration. So I really appreciate the collaboration that we have had here today, the insights that you have shared. JB, this has been a great conversation. What's the best way for someone to reach out, to connect with you, to have a conversation, maybe even collaborate?


[00:27:24] JB Orecchia: Yeah, if you go to the Savvy Money website, it's pretty easy. You'll find it on the website JB at Savvy Money if you want to shoot me an email and I'll forward it to the right person. But yeah, no, this was fantastic today and I'm sure we could go on for a long time on this various topics, but a pleasure for having me.


[00:27:48] James Robert Lay: It's an important topic for sure, and that's why I recommend you connect with JB. You learn with JB and most importantly, you grow together with JB. This is how we all get better together. Thanks for joining me, JB, for another episode of the Banking on Digital Growth podcast. Thank you as always, and until next time, be well, do good and be the light.

Brief Summary of Episode #326

The essence of financial well-being... It's not just about the balance in your account, but the knowledge, decisions, and satisfaction that come with it.

JB Orecchia, the CEO of Savvy Money, passionately believes financial institutions should go beyond their standard offerings and be pillars of guidance for customers. Savvy Money aims empower you to take control of your financial future with easy to understand actionable advice about your credit.

By adopting a holistic approach, like providing the necessary education and tools, financial institutions can genuinely pave the way for informed financial decisions. Savvy Money is already at the forefront with its comprehensive wellness platform.

But there's more - in our dynamic digital world, JB stresses the importance of continuous innovation and collaboration, especially with fintech firms. This ensures financial institutions stay relevant and customer-centric.

JB also shines a spotlight on the power of collaboration. By partnering with tech providers, institutions can provide solutions that truly resonate with customers' needs.

It's not just about creating solutions; it's about measuring their success. Tracking vital metrics can offer insights, leading to refined strategies and long-term success.

But a word of caution from JB: don't just chase tech trends. Focus on the real challenges consumers face and provide apt solutions.

Want to deep-dive into empowering financial well-being and how institutions can make a real difference?

Check out the episode for JB's invaluable insights and strategies that financial brands can adopt to impact their customers' lives profoundly.


Key Insights and Takeaways

  • Financial stress: A silent epidemic (3:11)
  • Achieving financial wellness with small, measurable goals (10:04)
  • Solving people's financial problems through technology collaboration and innovation (23:30)