Neil Hiltz, Head of Financial Services, Global Vertical Strategy, Facebook
Please give us a bit of background on yourself, and how Facebook works with financial services companies.
I’ve been very fortunate to work at Facebook since May 2012, just about when Mark Zuckerberg determined we needed to be a mobile-first company because that’s where people were spending so much of their time. Prior to Facebook, I spent eleven years in Financial Services, in a variety of marketing, product, and strategy roles at U.S.Bank, Wells Fargo, HSBC, and Capital One. I began my career in the Auto industry, where I worked in technical sales and global product management at Robert Bosch. I’m also a very proud husband, who supports my wife Christina’s small and growing business, Farmgirl Flowers, started in 2010.
What brought me to Facebook was my love of tech and experience in Financial Services. The two worlds are merging quickly in that much of what happens in this industry now happens on mobile. People are mobile-first, so working with financial institutions to also have them take a people-first approach to their business has been one of our top priorities. Also, given Facebook’s world-class mobile capabilities, I partner with financial institutions to determine how best to reach people across the full customer lifecycle on Facebook, Instagram, and our Audience Network, while measuring the efficacy of campaigns to ensure clients are achieving their goals.
Additionally, with more than three million active advertisers on the platform, the majority of which are small businesses, we partner with financial institutions to accept payments with companies around the world, as well as accept payments for ads, games, commerce, and in Messenger. And now, we’re working more with financial institutions to communicate with their customers and prospects through Messenger.
How well are financial companies adapting to the rapid pace of FinTech development and using big data? What fields are furthest ahead of the game, and what sectors are being left behind?
One concept to emphasize here is that people’s drastic shift to mobile should indicate to businesses that building for a mobile-first world is a top priority in order to achieve their long-held objectives: efficiency, scalability, and long-term profitability. Second, how best to use data continues to be a topic people feel strongly about and the rise of mobile has certainly contributed to that. Big data fuels accuracy, so when you couple it with a large, people-based platform like Facebook, reaching the right people at the right time, with the right message can be very powerful from a business standpoint. The ability to pair a financial institution’s data with Facebook’s data, in a privacy-safe way – to reach your customers and potential customers – is one of Facebook’s core differentiators. As capabilities continue to improve, I expect the use of data will continue to be tantamount to personalizing messages at scale.
In terms of what to watch out for, more and more, we’re seeing people crave immediate experiences, as demonstrated by the rapid rise of messaging. In a short time, Messenger’s and WhatsApp’s user bases have each grown to more than 1 billion people. Even more telling is that 6 of the top 10 most used apps in the world are messaging apps (source: Quettra in KPCB Internet Trends 2015). These changes represent a massive change in consumer behavior and preferences, and mobile continues to play a significant role in facilitating this change.
All in all, financial institutions are responding to these changes – some pivoting to mobile more drastically than others. On the other hand, some financial institutions started on mobile, so they have disrupted one of the world’s oldest industries. That said, the best advice I have is for both incumbents and disruptors to adapt to people’s behavior and reach them where they’re spending their time. This change isn’t always easy, but those who are adapting to change quickly, are seeing the best results.
What challenges do you see for FinTech development and disruption, both from a user's perspective and from a regulatory standpoint?
FinTech companies represent a very dynamic sector within Financial Services. They face a challenge not unlike other startups, as they must build awareness and consideration for their capabilities, and drive conversion to build their market shares. Facebook’s family of apps and services provide tremendous opportunity for businesses to connect their value proposition to people, and where those people spend so much of their time.
Specifically regarding regulation, FinTech companies would benefit from more quickly adapting to people’s changing behavior and expectations. An example from the Auto industry demonstrate this point. When cars were first introduced, there was no regulation that required safety belts or airbags. It wasn’t until after the technology was created, and people were introduced to its benefits, that regulations were introduced. FinTech has reached a similar point in that working more closely with regulators to capitalize on new capabilities would benefit both people and businesses. I anticipate this collaboration will increase over the next few years.
How should financial services companies use social media platforms to target potential customers and grow their business?
The first step is to adopt a mindset shift that large, people-based platforms like Facebook and Instagram offer much more than social benefits. These platforms that are rich in data allow businesses large and small to tap into personalization at scale – helping to achieve traditional objectives.
For example, with Facebook, a brand has the ability to target people with high-quality video content in their News Feed to influence the entire customer journey. We can build awareness, improve consideration, drive acquisition, as well as positively impact account management and retention. We can do this in exciting new ways because our advertising capabilities are built on understanding real people.
At Facebook we have a saying, “This journey is 1% finished” which underscores that we have a lot more to do. I hope this phrase also inspires the financial services industry to more fully embrace the ongoing change we can expect and that there is more to do to in order to continuously improve capabilities that help both people and businesses.
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