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Mark Turner is the chairman, president, and CEO of WSFS Bank. Founded in 1832, WSFS Bank is the oldest and largest locally managed financial services company in the Delaware Valley, and one of the oldest banks in the United States. Today, the bank is worth billions of dollars and operates from over 70 offices throughout Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Nevada.
EDWIN WARFIELD: You’ve seen a lot of ups and downs in the banking industry over the years. Where do you see things going next? What big challenges and questions are you facing?
MARK TURNER: How do we navigate the melding of what we've been good at for many, many years, which is physical delivery of services through brick and mortar, through people, to other people, whether they be consumers or businesses? How do we meld that with what’s obviously a fast-moving trend of people wanting to interact with other people digitally now through their mobile device? That's probably one of the most significant strategic questions and challenges we face because, at this point, people want both. We’ve seen in their behaviors, we’ve seen in the surveys, that people want both, and there's in fact a misperception out there that millennials—and the millennials have now become the largest segment of generation of society, overtaking the bloomers recently—only want to interact digitally. In fact, if you look at our channel usage, whether it be physical, phone, ATM, internet, mobile, the largest users of all of our channels are the millennial generation. What we invest in which channel and where, and what we do in those channels, is our biggest strategic challenge.
The question that we ask ourselves is: How do we stay relevant? How do we stay on top of, maybe even ahead of, what's going on out there in the fintech world? Because a lot is going on. We did something unique last year that has carried into this year—and will carry into next year—in terms of answering the question: How do we see what's next or what's around the corner? The board commissioned me to take three months off out of the bank and go on a sabbatical. I went around the country and visited 49 other companies, some in the traditional banking space that were doing non-traditional things, some in the fintech world, some in the traditional world—like Walmart and Becton Dickinson and Wawa—to look at other institutions, other companies that were doing leading practices, so we could get a beat on with all the stuff that's going on in the world and all the changes that are going on: What makes sense? What's really going to take off? What makes sense for us to do? What makes sense for us not to do? And if it makes sense for us to do, do we need to do it now? Do we need to get started on it now, but do it later? Or is it something that's a big project that we would need to start thinking about, but it’s two or three years down the road for us?
When I came back from that tour, I had a file of all my notes and having met with these people, and with the board and the executive management team, we prioritized 12 things that we're going to be doing. We put them in buckets. The first bucket was “we're not going to do it,” so we put in the Do Not bucket. Blockchain was one of those things—not that blockchain isn't going to be very important in the future of automated ledger, in the future especially of certain financial companies, but for our size company, it’s probably something that is to be developed and standardized for us at a later date we can plug into, so it didn't make sense for us to invest our cells in blockchain.
But there are other things we put into the Do Now category. Robo advising as part of a wealth platform is something that is starting to take off, and there are really good platforms out there. So our wealth team has now been working to evaluate: What platform do we want to plug into that’s consistent with our brand?
It’s not just about technology; it’s about leadership and it’s about the changing dynamics and the demographics, so one of the things we’re putting together is what we call the dynamic dozen. Twelve millennials from throughout the organization—high-potential millennials—will get together on a yearly basis and they’ll do a project for the organization that has value in the organization. They’ve got to deliver it at the end of that year, but during that year they’ll become cohesive as a cohort and meet with each other and hopefully, therefore, generate more ideas and become more attached to each other and to the organization. But they’ll also meet with executive management—hose of us in the boomer generation who don’t know as well what is going on in that generation—and they’ll help educate us on how that generation might think or behave differently than I’m used to behaving or thinking.
It was a very unique dedication of time and effort as a CEO of the bank to step out for three months, have no responsibilities to the bank, and just go out and learn what is going on out there, and then triage what is going on out there in the world and bring back what’s relevant to our organization. That’s another way we stay innovative.
ABOUT NEWMARK KNIGHT FRANK
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