4 Banking CMOs to Watch in 2024

CMOs are pushing the industry forward both in terms of technology and new strategies. Marketing leaders said one of their most pressing concerns is how to best invest in and deploy new technologies within their organizations.

A string of departures by prominent chief marketing officers has made for a rocky start to 2024.

Some of the world’s most recognizable companies, like Walmart, Etsy and the United States Postal Service, have all eliminated the role in recent months amid slumping revenues and continued economic uncertainty. That’s on top of megalithic banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo which made similar announcements to retire the position in 2021.

That’s not to say the importance of the marketing role is diminishing, but possibly evolving.

Leading executives are now asked to look beyond traditional print and digital ad spots and help their organizations navigate an increasingly complex media landscape. Many leaders are proving just how valuable marketing is and are using new technology to lead the charge in digital transformation.

In fact, new ways to gather customer data are creating never-before-seen revenue streams, bringing in more customers and producing measurable results. According to a recent PwC survey, more than eight in 10 (81%) marketing executives expect to use generative AI to change their business models and support new revenue streams in the next 12 to 18 months. Six in 10 (61%) executives ranked personalizing the customer experience as a high priority — more than any other measure.

It’s proof that marketing is continuing to play a prominent role in the future of banking.

Some of the industry’s top marketers are also rallying around social causes — like diversity and inclusion efforts — to help gain customer trust and likeability. Not to mention, help bring about real change in the world. Those efforts have allowed some banks to see a meteoric rise in consumer sentiment.

The Financial Brand has compiled a short list of CMOs that are pushing the industry forward — both in terms of technology and new strategies. These marketing leaders agreed one of their most pressing concerns is how to best invest in and deploy new technologies within their organizations. According to research from the ABA Banking Journal, marketers were most likely to choose digital advertising, paid SEO, social media or email when asked where they anticipated investing more of their budget next year. Somewhat surprisingly, more than 20% of respondents see increased allocation to direct mail, outdoor and network television.

The good news is that as the CMO role evolves, there is also a massive opportunity for marketers to drive growth, according to the survey.

Ally Financial

andrea brimmer headshot

Andrea Brimmer

Chief Marketing and PR Officer

As the CMO of a digital-only bank, Andrea Brimmer considers her team on the “leading edge” of technology. The complexity of the media ecosystem is becoming a real challenge for the industry, specifically the shift from traditional “linear” television and print media to a host of new streaming platforms and social media ecosystems.

“How can marketers burst through the clutter?” Brimmer says.

One way is by creating the actual streaming content themselves. Ally is partnering with a production company to debut an original series on Roku called “Side Hustlers,” a 5-episode series that showcases young women turning part-time jobs into booming businesses.

“It’s a really heavy lift,” Brimmer says, “but a unique way to highlight the brand.”

Social causes are also top of mind. In 2022, Ally Financial created the 50/50 pledge with the goal of reaching equal spending on advertising between men’s and women’s sports within five years. The bank is ahead of schedule, which was expected to be near a 60/40 split by 2024. “We’re pretty damn close to 50/50,” Brimmer says.

Her passion for sports and her experience as a former collegiate athlete — a member of Michigan State’s first womens’ varsity team — has helped drive the initiatives. Social impact causes can also benefit the firm’s bottom line, helping boost brand awareness and improve likability.

“It has ignited our brand,” she says. “We’ve seen historic levels of key performance indicators like brand awareness, likability and sentiment.”

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ConnectOne Bank

headshot of siya vansia

Siya Vansia

Chief Brand and Innovation Officer

For Siya Vansia, Chief Brand and Innovation Officer at ConnectOne Bank, personalization is reshaping what’s possible in banking relationships. The Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey-based bank is making investments in marketing tools that allow bankers to better understand clients’ financial pictures and tailor products that best fit their needs.

“The introduction of new and advanced tools will reshape traditional roles and talent structures,” Vansia says. While much has been written about AI, the technology is still in its infancy for bankers. “At this stage, these tools are more in a phase of exploration, rather than actual implementation.”

Social media has also “leveled the playing field” for smaller institutions, creating a new challenge for markets: having your voice heard. “Marketers will need to innovate and find distinctive ways to ensure their content stands out amidst the clutter,” she says.

Dig deeper: ConnectOne’s Elizabeth Magennis on How to Get to the C-Suite

JPMorgan Chase

headshot of carla hassan

Carla Zakhem-Hassan

Chief Marketing Officer

It’s hard to miss the chief marketing officer of the world’s largest bank. Carla Zakhem-Hassan leads the helm at JPMorgan Chase, which now has a market capitalization of approximately $500 billion and products in dozens of countries around the globe. She is responsible for firmwide marketing, which includes advertising, media, sponsorships, market research and customer insights of all corporate brands.

Like Brimmer, Zakhem-Hassan is also helping to promote social causes as a way to help underserved communities and give more consumers access to financial products. Back in 2020, JPMorgan Chase announced its $30 billion Racial Equity Commitment to advance economic inclusion among Black, Hispanic and Latino customers and communities that are underserved. The initiative is now at least two years ahead of its five-year goal, according to the company.

First Horizon Bank

erin pryor headshot

Erin Pryor

Chief Marketing Officer

For Erin Pryor, Chief Marketing Officer at First Horizon Bank, the death of the internet cookie is upending the marketing industry.

The Memphis, Tenn.-based company became the first bank to implement Salesforce’s customer data platform in 2022, according to Pryor. The company is also currently utilizing AI in programmatic advertising to optimize campaigns and better target audiences. These algorithms analyze user behaviors and serve ads at ideal times, she says.

“Client privacy remains central to our efforts to improve their banking experience,” Pryor says.

Learn more: How First Horizon’s CMO Navigates Merger Misfire

The bank has also explored AI in content creation, but found that ultimately these new technologies have not yet replaced the “human touch” required to incorporate detailed nuances and emotions.

One of the most important attributes for any bank is to remain flexible and continue to learn from mistakes, she says. “Failure is inevitable,” Pryor says. “You have to lean in, learn and move forward.”

Sean Allocca is an award-winning journalist with more than 15 years of experience. Most recently, he was Editor-in-Chief of ETF.com, overseeing the company’s content strategy and long-term editorial goals. He was also deputy managing editor at InvestmentNews, an editor for the wealth management publication Financial Planning, and editor of CFO Magazine. He has a M.A. in business communication from Fordham University and a B.A. in journalism from Loyola University, Md.

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