Featuring Customer Experience Aficionado: Carol Richardson


 What makes you a FinTech expert?

Throughout my career in enterprise software - having worked for some of the largest software companies as well as with innovative start-ups -  I have had the privilege of working with many of the largest Financial Institutions around the world helping them define and implement state of the art technology solutions in a secure environment - from implementing the first web-based solution for retail and commercial banking, to implementing the first generation workflow solution for home relocation services and document management (winning an industry best award), to providing data security for sensitive information in the cloud for mission critical banking solutions.  I continue to enjoy working with businesses, large and small, to help them achieve their aspirations through the application of innovative solutions.


What is the current trend in your area of expertise that people should pay attention to?

There is a substantial shift underway in the world of loyalty programs and customer strategy. Loyalty programs are becoming much more sophisticated to include omnichannel and multichannel programs that recognize the customer for every interaction helping to personalize and customize the experience.  New technological developments in artificial Intelligence (AI) and chatbots, machine learning (ML), and augmented reality (AR) provide opportunities for uniquely innovative solutions and services driving customer loyalty.  The customer wants choice and they want programs that matter in some way – it needs to touch the soul. Loyalty programs that seamlessly integrate the use of technology while not replacing the need for human interaction will create the desired customer experiences and be able to evolve at a rapid pace to keep up with these evolving expectations.  New opportunities are being created across the ecosystem as new strategic partnerships are formed further offering the customer the choice, flexibility, and experiences they are looking for at any time, any place, and any means. The new business reality relies on the creation of a customer experience/engagement program - with a measurement framework - to create and measure attitudinally loyal customers aligned to the strategic drivers of the business.   Those companies that develop a customer experience/engagement model providing their customers with a highly differentiated customer experience will be the ones who are successful at beating the competition, achieving profitable growth, and creating a loyal customer base, for their business.   I have always believed customer engagement programs, done right, are at the centre of the business strategy – they are not a nice to have, but a must have.


Why do you love FinTech?

I have always been attracted to FinTech as it has such a massive impact on the way we do business and how we live our lives.  Although innovation has been a constant feature of the industry, the speed at which we innovate is even faster now and more exciting than ever.  FinTech is in transition with new players challenging “old” ways of doing business and established players bringing important credentials to the table; it is this intersection of the new learning from the old as much as the old learning from the new that makes FinTech so interesting.  I love helping to bridge and transform these worlds by leveraging the right business and technology solution allowing all players in the ecosystem to achieve outcomes previously unattainable.  I love helping Canadian companies, large and small, accelerate their innovation agenda to compete and lead on the global stage.  


Why did you join the Fintech Growth Syndicate’s Industry Best team?

I was drawn to working with a group of experts with such deep industry expertise who are driven by a mutual desire to share, collaborate, help each other and FGS’s clients accelerate their innovation portfolios in order to compete and achieve previously unimaginable things.  It’s a privilege to work with Sue Britton who is an inspiration in every way reminding me that you can be a good person and do good work at the same time.  



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What makes you a FinTech expert? 

In the early 80’s I was asked by a major Canadian bank to explore  them utilize facsimile machines (an industry first)  to speed up the distribution of credit applications to a new centralized credit adjudication and underwriting team …. In the early 90’s part of the team at Newcourt that created, pioneered and implemented the first (pre internet) online instant credit, lending and leasing fintech platform that drove consumer credit growth growth from $5 million to $384 million in 4 years. Led 37-team members providing credit, leasing and insurance solutions through 5,500+ independent retailers. Developed 20+ Canadian and global strategic alliances and joint ventures across multiple industry….Over the past decade Led Crelogix where our team implemented point-of-sale automated consumer credit algorithms, electronic identity verification, proof of income, proof of employment, signature and digital contracting of credit, insurance and product protection services that processed over $3B in transactions for more than 300K consumers across super-prime, prime, non-prime and sub-prime credit profiles.  Our team executed a comprehensive one-to-many geographic, industry and omni-channel marketing strategy that allowed the platform to scale to become Canada’s leading financial technology enabled provider of point-of-sale instalment credit financing through more than 8,000 business partners within the Vacation Ownership, Tuition, Healthcare, Membership, Motorsports, Marine, Recreational Vehicle, Home Improvement and Consumer Durable industries. We conceived, developed and launched an Omni-channel financial technology enabled lending solution at retail, through a diverse group of merchants, wholesalers, manufactures, franchisers and industry associations their websites and via mobile applications.


What is the current trend in your area of expertise that people should pay attention to? 

Nelson Lin and his team might be on to something…. fintrux.com


Why do you love FinTech? 

Fintech attempts to align innovation with utility, price and cost positions allowing early adopters to drive differentiation and lower costs achievement simultaneously.


Why did you join the FinTech Growth Syndicate’s Industry Best Team? 

Sue asked me to….to share my 30+ years of demonstrated track record creating compelling strategic visions and missions, fostering cultures that attract, retain and develop amazing team members who have achieved rapid transformational growth and outsized risk adjusted returns on invested capital at financial, FinTech, SaaS and information technology organizations across North America and Europe.

Top Payment Influencers to Follow on Twitter

Top Payment Influencers to Follow on Twitter

In between conferences and gatherings, social networks are playing an increasingly important role helping people in the payments industry connect and stay up-to-date on key developments. Jay Palter has compiled a list of top payments influencers globally on Twitter so you can follow news about innovation around the world and the people driving change.


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What makes you a Digital Banking & Payments Expert?

I have been working in payments technology and digital banking now for about 15 years and have a range of experiences building, trialing & implementing digital financial services. I really enjoy the challenge of working through complex banking problems and solving them with technology.

Prior to building and launching Tangerine’s credit card business in 2015, I spent about seven years with MasterCard Canada where we commercialized the first generations of contactless, wallets and mobile payments technology…long before Apple & Google Pay came to market!


What is the current trend in your area of expertise that people should pay attention to?

I think the emergence of open-banking applications and the emergence of Banking as a Service will change financial services as we currently know it. While we don’t yet have an open-standard like PSD2 in Canada, it is coming.

If you spend enough time in the FinTech space, you will recognize that a lot of these companies are creating Banking as a Service inspired applications, putting the consumer front-and-centre in the experience with transactions increasingly in the background and not necessarily with a single bank, all without open-banking standards.


Why do you love FinTech?

Working within Canadian FinTech is exciting, apply new technology and design methods to solve real problems and improve customer experience through technology. What’s not to love about that!


Why are you excited to participate in the panel?

I am excited to participate on the panel and to be challenged to find new ways to problem solve and advocate for businesses that improve payments and banking for Canadians. Sue and the team have assembled quite a leadership roster and I am proud to stand along side these industry experts and contributing to building Canada’s leadership role in FinTech!



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What makes you a brand engineering expert?

I am an idealist. I believe great brands are causes. When my firm created ING DIRECT, Expedia.ca, Intact Insurance or Borrowell, we parked our cynicism at the door and became true believers in what those brands wanted to do. When you force yourself to be accountable for everything your client’s brand does, you gain insights, you learn what works and what doesn’t in a way that transcends a sales or research report.  That’s one way you become an expert. The other is simpler, and harder. Listen, listen, listen. Retain your capacity for awe and never behave like you’ve got it all figured out.


What is the current trend in your area of expertise that people should pay attention to? 

Brands are no longer taught. They are observed. So everything a brand does matters. If a brand speaks one way over here and another way over here, it creates dissonance, and that will be felt and interpreted uncharitably. Trust suffers. Another important thing to pay attention to, even more so today, is making sure your customers feel your authentic motive for creating the product or service you are so proud of. It’s too easy to rely on what the product does to get attention, but that can be copied. Make sure you find ways to consistently express why you do what you do. It will make selling what you make far more satisfying and start building a brand people can love, not just admire or find useful.

Why do you love FinTech?

Money is so key to our identity. How we manage it is a litmus test for almost, well, anything. With literally thousands of Fintech startups rethinking how we relate to money, how we save it, move it, use it, give it away etc…the opportunities for these brands to be on the consumer’s side means that Fintech is really correcting the balance of power in terms of consumerism. We should never again talk about empowering the customer. The customer was always empowered. We have to earn their loyalty. No other category is like this to this degree, and as exciting for a marketer.  That’s why I love Fintech. 


Why did you join the FinTech Growth Syndicate’s Industry Best Team?

Because the FinTech Growth Syndicate is like that old movie The Dirty Dozen. Everyone is truly and profoundly skilled in their own area and respectful of the other. What a panel to have on your side if you are a startup or an FI of any stripe. When the FGS is working with a client they are receiving a level of counsel and a diversity of opinions that no corporate culture can sustain internally. On a personal level I also enjoy the fact that even after thirty years in this business I can learn so much from my peers on the panel.


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What makes you a Sales & Marketing Leader?

I am still learning but have a few years of experience working in a variety of sales environments, building and leading teams and businesses. I have great passion for helping create strong narratives to take to the market and to drive demand via powerful marketing and sales efforts. Someone once said that nothing happens until somebody sells something and I think it’s something to pay attention to in time of rapid change. It is still true that even for new solutions that improve peoples and businesses lives, you need effective B2B and B2C sales and marketing to have success. New applications and approaches will not achieve mass success and scale with a “build it and they will come” approach. Thoughtful execution of informed sales and marketing is a key component of success in 2018, just as it has always been. 


What is the current trend in your area of expertise that people should pay attention to?

We are rightfully excited about developing great new technology that enables consumer and businesses to do more in the financial area. In parallel there are some basics that need to be accomplished to achieve scale. Sales and Marketing are part of the foundation of every successful business and are increasingly linked in the application strategy and tools that are available. 

Powerful advances in MarTech and AdTech are creating new avenues for start-ups to compete and forcing change for incumbents in how they go to market. There are fundamentals of sales that are still critical to execute and new ways of thinking about approaches including Account Based Sales and Marketing that are key to understand. 


Why do you love FinTech?

Canada’s FinTech companies are creating world class new products and ideas. There is incredible energy and passion coming from established Financial Institutions right through to the start-up community. I feel fortunate to be part of an exciting arena that is bringing innovation and disruption to the financial services industry. I have always enjoyed being part of market change and am thrilled to share ideas and to help businesses achieve growth and success. 


Why did you join the FinTech Growth Syndicate’s Industry Best Team?

I believe Sue Britton saw an opportunity to help Canada’s FinTech community work together more cohesively and has been a real champion of sharing and connecting ideas and people. In that way FGS and I are very aligned as I believe in the power of bringing solutions and leaders together to achieve great things. I look forward to adding value to the FGS Industry Best Team as much as possible by leveraging my network and bringing FinTech businesses together.


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What makes you an Communications Expert?

There aren’t very many communications professionals who have engineering degrees. My problem-solving skills allow me to get to the core of issues and identify the most strategic solutions quickly. I have “Spock-like” logic and the ability to grasp the subtle and broader implications of a situation through listening and probing. Unlike Spock however, I have a keen sense of humour and distinctive laugh that can ease the tension in any situation. I have been a member of the C-suite myself, so I understand the pressures involved.

Before starting JAd’E Communications, I was the Chief Communications Officer for Deloitte Canada for 10 years and enjoyed a varied 20-year career with P&G. I am a registered professional engineer, accredited with the International Association of Business Communicators and was honoured with the lifetime achievement designation, Master Communicator.


What is the current trend in your area of expertise that people should pay attention to?

To succeed in business, you need to connect with your stakeholders and engage them in dialogue that helps achieve the business objectives. Those objectives may go from having employees understand the goals to answering the criticisms of detractors.

I help businesses find ways to achieve their business objectives by reaching the right people at the right time using the right media.  


Why do you love FinTech?

I am a self-proclaimed geek and I love the financial industry.  It’s a natural fit!


Why are you excited to participate in the panel?

Being around people who are experts in their fields and love what they do is stimulating.  I am curious by nature, so surrounding myself with people who come from a variety of backgrounds with diverse skills enables me to learn and grow.  


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What makes you an Online Influence Expert?

A long time ago, I realized that social networks were much better used for networking in a B2B context than for marketing. So, I started building relationships with people online, instead of marketing at them. I consciously focused on giving more than I was asking for and invested more of my time and attention in online communities, instead of obsessing with what I was getting from these networks in terms of new business and opportunities.

We’ve all heard the business adage: “Who you know is more important than what you know.” When used strategically, online social networks and the virtual communities of influence that they allow you to access can be one of the most potent business development tools in your arsenal. How do I know? I’ve developed my own relationships with dozens of fintech influencers around the world and have leveraged this network to increase my own visibility as a leader in this space. Everything I advocate doing to build visibility and influence for my clients is based on first hand experience.


What is the current trend in your area of expertise that people should pay attention to?

Social networks are constantly changing. Algorithms that control who sees what in social networks are the monetization engines for these businesses, whether we’re talking about social sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, or Google search itself.

If there’s a trend to pay attention to, it’s this: these businesses want to monetize their networks and they are giving away less and less access for free. This is commonly described as the decline of organic reach. If you want more visibility and reach, you have two main options: pay for it, or earn it through engagement. Influencers who have online audiences are the gatekeepers and you need to get to know them and help them get to know you if you want to increase your visibility online.

You can’t pay for this kind of influence, you have to earn it. Smart businesses see this trend and are building their capacity, both as businesses and as individual leaders, to engage online influencers in authentic and productive relationships.


Why do you love FinTech?

Fintech is the frontier of the future. Every technology trend is intersecting with the re-engineering of finance as we know it. In order for the technology future to play out, finance needs to change and be transformed.

Innovative, out-of-the-box thinking is everywhere in fintech and that is spectacularly exciting to be part of – especially for people with a penchant for creative thinking and making things work better.


Why did you join the FinTech Growth Syndicate’s Industry Best Team?

If it’s not already obvious, I’m passionate about what I do, the people I encounter and the mission of building a better future. What could be better than aligning oneself with other leaders who bring similar passion and expertise to their work?

In a rapidly changing marketspace, the people your business needs to succeed are often outside your organization. FGS is helping to bring these people together and I’m proud to participate.

A Real-time Account of Friction in Customer Experience

A little while ago, we had to renew our business insurance policy and were given a new rate from our existing provider that was 3 times the previous year. But there is more. And it requires going back a little to how we chose this provider.

We started the company and as first-time entrepreneurs, didn’t know much about some of the key elements of starting a company. Getting business insurance was one of them. With one of our 1st clients – a large Canadian financial institution – came the realization that we needed to have a lot of things in place if we wanted to do business with the big girls (notice I didn’t say boys).

We started our search for a business insurance partner back in early 2016. It was not easy at all. We went to our current insurance relationships and none of them provided business insurance. We looked online, and then thought – like our lawyer and accountant – maybe it would be nice to have someone local.

I wont name names, but we found a local business insurance company and proceeded to get information. It took many phone calls, emails, and eventually an in-person meeting and at least a few days in total (spread out over a few weeks). We eventually got our insurance and hoped we had the right coverage. Not a good experience overall.


Over the year as the business grew and we needed things for clients, it was a pretty big pain to get what we needed. Not enough to change providers, but annoying nonetheless.

But when we received the renewal amount, that was it. 3 times the amount from the previous year. Crazy. It was 7am on a weekday, and we had less than 2 weeks before our policy had to be renewed.

We went online, and searched for other options. And then I remembered Zensurance. As a regular visitor and supporter of the DMZ, I remembered they had won the BMO Next Big Idea In FinTech Challenge, and also remembered meeting a few of the key team and founders. So there was some trust there already. We found them in 1 second online, and started to fill out an application online.

It was EASY. PAINLESS. FAST. An amazing client experience to say the least. In less than a few minutes, we were done. We received an email right away saying we would hear from them within 24 hours. That same day in my inbox was the proposed policies that based on the application process, I was confident were the right ones. The price was only slightly higher than we were paying, and that was that. We provided authorization, signed the documents online, and now we are a Zensurance client. Definitely feeling Zen – that’s for sure.


Whats the lesson? Friction is what drives customers away. If you think a customer wont leave you because you are a trusted large incumbent, and new companies are perceived as risky, I believe you are wrong.

We represent one customer segment, and other customers with a different persona may have left earlier, or stayed with the provider for different reasons. But in general – all of that friction in the customer experience is table-stakes now for all companies – no matter how big or small – to remove in order to have the good fortune to keep their business. Hope you find your ZEN too.

What’s all the fuss about regulatory sandboxes? Bob Ferguson Head of Project Innovate, from the FCA UK told us why....

Exactly one month ago, on November 1st, I was gifted the amazing opportunity to hold a round-table event with Bob Ferguson, Head of Project Innovate with the Federal Conduct Authority (FCA). Bob has been on the speaking circuit having just spoken at Money 2020 and several other prominent FinTech events.

Henry Long of the UK Department for International Trade – whom I am surprised I haven’t met before because of how involved he is in the FinTech community – somewhat of a celebrity – Gilda Carbone and I put the event together with about a week’s notice, with Gowlings WLG as our generous host in their Toronto offices. We had no trouble filling the room. Why? Well, our FinTech network in Canada is good and, because a regulatory sandbox is becoming a proven strategy for accelerating innovation and enabling competition in many regions around the world, and Canada is all-a-buzz about it.

I first heard about regulatory sandboxes in the spring of 2016 and have been studying it and the growth of the idea around the world since then. While the FCA’s sandbox is 2 years old, the popularity and almost celebrity around their first-to-market approach is recent. Regulators are launching similar efforts in other regions such as Singapore, Australia, Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Abu Dhabi, and many more countries have now announced they are doing the same. Canada 2020 and the US House are both making noise about creating sandboxes. And of course, the Ontario Securities Commission here in Ontario, Canada has just announced the LaunchPad for FinTech experimentation.

The need for a regulatory sandbox is in response to the dramatic increase in competition coming from FinTech startups, who are gaining momentum in the market with consumers and businesses. With this new competition, regulators are seeing the need to assist with navigating the regulations by providing advice and guidance through the process, and create controlled environments for startups to test their ideas with real customers with a looser set of rules and oversight.

Carrie Russell, Strategic Advisor to the FinTech Growth Syndicate, agreed to interview Bob Ferguson for the round-table, and what a masterful interviewer she is. Carrie is a veteran of the Fintech industry in Canada, having served in both Financial Services and technology organizations for the last 20 years.  Most recently as CMO and EVP of strategy and innovation at one North Americas largest Fintech organizations and prior as SVP of everyday banking, payments, and investment businesses at TD. Carrie has a way with words, and I know everyone who attended the event would agree her approach to interviewing Bob – or rather facilitating the discussion - was atypical and extremely engaging.

Carrie took Bob back to the beginning 2 years ago, and asked Bob what the market context was prior to the idea for Project Innovate, and what the original plans were from launch as compared to what is in place today, which Bob told us is far bigger in scope. Carrie helped Bob explain the story, by asking questions around what worked and what didn’t, what some of the lessons learned have been, and the results to date.

Collaboration has been a global mandate for the FCA from the beginning, and so many other regions have created co-operation agreements to enable companies from other markets to participate. The group Bob leads has amazingly received 700 requests for assistance and advice, and of those they took on, 25% of those have come from large banks who are experimenting with small start-ups. About 25% of the inquiries the FCA receives are from start-ups outside the UK. Oh, and unlike a typical “testing sandbox” which is a place, the FCA Regulatory Sandbox is not a physical space – it’s a set of tools, resources, oversight and guidelines.

The FinTech Growth Syndicate would be very happy to share Bob’s answers to Carrie’s questions, along with our own research and insights about regulatory sandboxes around the world, and the need for Canada to move faster toward enabling experimentation in this manner. Please give us a call!