Chatbots, onboarding solutions and data aggregation showcased at FinovateFall 2016

More than 70 companies ranging from industry giants such as IBM to recently launched fintech startups took the stage at the 10th annual FinovateFall conference in New York City earlier this month. The two-day event was a reflection of how truly global fintech has become, as the conference drew attendees and presenters from six continents. Each company had seven minutes to demonstrate its product to an audience filled with investors, bankers, regulators, analysts and industry peers — think of it as financial technology speed dating.

With a constant stream of new product launches, it was easy to see some trends come to the forefront that hint at where banking and financial services are headed:
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— The days of calling your bank or stopping by a brick-and-mortar branch to speak to an actual human are long gone. The next wave of financial services is all about the chatbot with many on display at FinovateFall. A crowd favorite was Clinc’s banking chatbot “Finie” which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to communicate in conversational language. A similar chatbot launched by Kore is specifically designed to give retail bank and credit union customers a personalized experience, specifically on mobile. The Kore Smart Bot is also integrated Walker Sands client Finicity’s banking platform, enabling the chatbot to access user-permissioned financial data quickly and compliantly.

Onboarding solutions — Technology designed to improve the new account opening and onboarding process in banking highlighted how financial institutions often struggle to create a (somewhat) enjoyable onboarding experience. The Financial Brand profiled seven companies that unleashed onboarding technology including GRO Solutions’ claim that financial institutions can open and fund new accounts in under four minutes.
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Data aggregation and analytics — In order to continue delivering fintech innovation to consumers and businesses, user-permissioned financial data must find its way from banks into the hands of app developers. Similarly, banks need to know how to best use the data to provide their customer with modern solutions and analysis to assist with personal financial management. MX, a technology provider that enables financial institutions to acquire new data, won the very coveted “Best of Show” award at FinovateFall for its advancement in its data analytics platform.

As fintech grows and traditional banks evolve to meet the needs of businesses and consumers, the innovations on display at Finovate will continue to advance the global financial community.

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Seven Steps to Managing a Crisis

By Rosie Gillam and Beth Burghgraef, Senior Account Executives 

“Put time between anger and response.” – Abraham Lincoln

Crises are never planned and they come in many forms. From violent and immediate – flood, epidemic or major accident – to non-violent and emerging – data breach, product failure or fiscal mismanagement – crisis situations are difficult and they call for smart, effective action.

As public relations professionals, our responsibility is far more broad than advising and implementing news and social media strategies in a crisis. We are to take a lead role in guiding wise decision-making and protecting our client’s reputation.

Last week, we attended “Managing Intense Media Scrutiny,” a training session in San Francisco hosted by PRSA, and took away some key tactics for handling media and social media relations during a crisis. While there is no one way to handle a crisis, the following seven steps are guidelines to follow when executing on a crisis situation:

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Walker Sands Study: College students turn to TV and movies for understanding of consulting

As the demand for consultants increases, professional services companies are working to fill the rapidly expanding employment pipeline. But recruiting young talent can be a challenge when so many college students view consulting careers through the distorting lens of popular entertainment.

A recent Walker Sands study of 500 U.S. college students found that of the less than half who report knowing what consulting firms do, more than one-third base that knowledge on media sources like “House of Lies” and “Up in the Air.”

Unfortunately for consulting firms, TV shows and movies like these often present an inaccurate – not to mention unflattering – picture of the consulting business. “House of Lies,” for instance, would have you believe a consulting job is all about insulting clients, while “Up in the Air” would convince you it’s actually about firing people. College students who watch these shows and movies and emerge with a skewed perception of what it means to work in consulting.

Not that “House of Lies’” writing team is to be blamed; their aim is to entertain. But the fact that so many college students base their awareness of consulting careers on entertainment points to a dearth of accessible information about what the field really entails.

Walker-Sands-Students-Perceptions-of-Consulting-Company-CultureThis awareness gap is a problem for consulting firms, especially as the need for young talent increases. Between 2014 and 2024, the demand for consulting services employment is projected to grow by 400,000 jobs. But as our study reveals, college students aren’t flocking to these roles: Only nine percent of those surveyed said they’d applied for consulting internships or jobs. And on a recent National Society of High School Scholars list of businesses millennials want to work for, only two consulting firms broke the top 100.

To debunk the media-borne myths surrounding consulting, firms should spearhead college outreach efforts that present young talent with an accurate and inviting picture of the opportunities a consulting career offers. For starters, this means emphasizing initiatives beyond the career fair, and promoting awareness through the channels students rely on most (such as professor recommendations and career centers.) It’s also never too early to start shaping perception: initiatives aimed at freshmen and sophomore college students can help ensure they don’t accept pop culture stereotypes as fact.

To learn more about how college students perceive the consulting industry – and what firms can do to better attract millennial talent – check out the full study, Where They’re Going, They Don’t Want Roadmaps: Gauging College Students’ Perceptions of Consulting Careers and watch the video.

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PR Lessons from the 2016 Summer Olympic Games

Despite public concerns and skepticism leading up to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, the Games came and went without any major hitches. But that’s not to say the Games weren’t filled with plenty of memorable moments. For 16 days, the world was captivated by moments like Simone Biles’ flawless floor routine, the image of injured track runners Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand and Abbey D’Agostino of the U.S. crossing the finish line together, and Michael Phelps last Olympic race (or so he says).

In many ways, this year’s Olympics were a journey of good and bad PR moments. If PR professionals take a step back, there are quite a few lessons to be learned from the Games. Here are a few key PR takeaways from this summer’s Olympics:

  • Tell the truth. If there’s one less to be learned from the “Lochte-Gate” scandal, it’s don’t lie (especially to mom!). Swimmer Ryan Lochte dug himself into an epic hole by claiming that he and three other U.S. swimmers had been robbed at gunpoint after a night out in Rio. However, within a few days, conflicting reports found that the swimmers had actually vandalized a bathroom and the “armed robbers” were in fact security guards. The incident not only resulted in international embarrassment for Lochte, but it also cost him several major sponsors including Speedo USA.

    Lochte could have avoided the whole fiasco by being more honest from the beginning, instead of lying repeatedly and failing to give an adequate apology. To maintain public trust, brands need to be honest and accept responsibility for their mistakes. If your brand finds itself in the wrong, don’t delay your apology and do your best to make it come across as sincere.
  • Choose your words carefully- since nothing is ever really “off the record.” U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo proved she hadn’t learned from her prior media blunders when she went on a rant about how the Swedish soccer team is “a bunch of cowards.” While it’s easy to get caught up in the moment, if you’re in the media spotlight it’s important to never lose sight of your audience and how your message may be perceived. If you’re message carries even the slightest bit of controversy, it will likely attract negative attention (especially in today’s age of social media). Tread your words carefully and remember the old sang “if you don’t want to see it in print, don’t say it.”

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Walker Sands Study: What College Students Really Think About Consulting Careers

At Walker Sands, our professional services practice area works with clients in the management and technology consulting space on a daily basis. Suffice it to say, we have a direct window into the what these businesses do, how they’re structured and what motivates their employees.



An understanding of how consulting firms operate isn’t only a necessary quality for the PR agencies they work with – it’s also a prerequisite for potential new recruits. With consulting industry employment projected to swell 26 percent between 2014 and 2024, firms need to start establishing a pipeline of interested, knowledgeable candidates.

But as our latest research illustrates, this might be easier said than done.

Walker Sands recently surveyed 500 college students across the U.S. to gauge how the next generation of the workforce perceives consulting firms and the careers they offer, and how they find out about job opportunities in the industry. Surprisingly, we discovered that four in 10 college students don’t fully understand what consulting firms do.

The new study, Where They’re Going, They Don’t Want Roadmaps: Gauging College Students’ Perceptions of Consulting Careers, highlights a handful of findings that suggest a troubling awareness gap between students and consulting firms, such as:

  • 56% of college students don’t know if consulting firms recruit at their school
  • 60% of students would rather work for a startup than a consulting firm after graduation
  • Only 9% of students have applied to intern or work for a consulting firm

Download the study and watch the video to learn more about how college students perceive the consulting industry, and what the implications are for employers.

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