Forum 2016 Becomes Largest Global Financial Marketing Event

In only it's third year, The Financial Brand Forum has become the world’s largest event covering financial services marketing, bringing together more than 1,000 bank and credit unions attendees. If you missed this year's event, here is a short recap with some of the highlights.

The Financial Brand Forum is the biggest and best event covering financial services marketing in the world. With close to 1,100 attendees, including bank and credit union executives from more than 21 countries, the Forum 2016 delivered on the vision of providing insights, case studies and networking opportunities for financial marketers not available at any other conference.

According to CB Insights, “The Financial Brand Forum has quickly become a must attend event for credit union and bank marketers. Anyone interested in marketing, advertising, branding and retail delivery.”

“Great venue and speakers. Your team WOW’ed! Looking forward to 2017.”

— Maria Donohue, Regional Business Development Manager, BMO Financial Group

The Forum 2016 agenda included three days of keynotes, strategy sessions, interactive workshops, and a series of ForumX presentations focused on the latest ideas in marketing that are transforming the banking industry.

“I have tried to address a big void for marketers at institutions of all sizes who are looking for new ideas and insights specific to financial marketing,” says Jeffry Pilcher, founder and CEO of The Financial Brand and host of the Forum 2016. “We limit the number of vendors and solution providers who can attend to no more than 25% of the total attendees — a unique aspect of the conference which benefits all involved. Marketing executives from banks and credit unions really want to learn from- and network with each other.”

“The best financial conference out there — hands down! I always come back with 30+ pages of notes and action items to share with the team.”

— Angie Greiner, Marketing Officer at Hills Bank & Trust

Workshops Provide Tools for Success

For those attendees who arrived a bit early for Forum 2016 at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, there was the opportunity to participate in half-day, pre-conference workshops. More than 300 marketers attended this year’s workshops that provided deep dives into the important topics of branding, data-driven marketing and content marketing.

Regarding the branding workshop, Amy Delaney, VP/Marketing Director at Pacific Continental Bank said, “I loved it. It was perfect timing. My bank is in the middle of a branding initiative.” Referencing the same workshop, Michelle Krecz, director of marketing communications for MECU of Baltimore added, “I love learning techniques that help you get out of a creative rut, especially under pressure.”

In another workshop, Allison Nygaard, VP of Marketing Strategy at Regions bank, and Darcy Hoffmann, Senior Director at Merkle presented insights into Regions’ people-based marketing approach.

Participants in each of the workshops received dozens of actionable tools to take back to their respective organizations. “Our workshops are intended to provide a much more in-depth discussion covering the most important challenges facing our industry today,” explains Pilcher. “The format has been well received, we are looking into offering more workshops in 2017.”

“Great mix of networking, learning, innovative thinking and fun!”

— Jeff MacDonald, CMO at Marquette Bank

Global Leaders Deliver Powerful Keynotes


Arkadi Kuhlmann, Founder of ING Direct

As in previous years, the keynote addresses for Forum 2016 were varied and unique in their messages. Arkadi Kuhlmann, former CEO/President and founder of ING DIRECT, author of The Orange Code, and CEO of Zenbanx provided insights into the importance of innovation in banking today. Regarnding Arkadi’s keynote, Ruth Gifford, marketing manager for WestStar bank, said, “Kuhlmann drops pearls of wisdom like a toddler drops Cheerios.”

Other keynote speakers addressing a full house crowd included Shankar Vedantam, social science correspondent at NPR and author of The Hidden Brain, Erica Javellana, ‘Speaker of the House’ at Zappos, and Tom Fishburne, the creator of Marketoonist. Each speaker provide unique perspectives on the desires of today’s consumer and the status of the financial services industry. Fishbone definitely started the final day of Forum 2016 off well with his sharp sense of humor and irreverent view of banking, exploring the world of marketing through the eyes of a cartoonist.

“The venue was outstanding. Presentations were timely and relevant. I loved the overall energy. By far, one of the best conferences I have attended in quite a while. The number one marketing conference for financial marketers. It was an incredible experience. I’m now energized and motivated.”

— Deborah Clark, Chief Marketing Officer at USF Federal Credit

Breakout Sessions Dive Deep Into Marketing

There was definitely something for everyone in the two dozen breakout sessions held over a two day period. The biggest challenge for attendees was trying to select which concurrent session to attend.

“A fantastic conference! Good conversations, good breakout sessions, and even better people.”
— Todd Petelle, Creative Campaign Manager, 3Rivers FCU

While the specifics of each session differed, the majority of the sessions focused on how to improve the customer experience using traditional and new digital channels. There were presentations on how to personalize messages, target consumers more effectively, improve communication messaging, refresh branding, connect with specific segments and measure success. There were even sessions on specific marketing channels, such as email, mobile, LinkedIn and Twitter. Throughout the event, the rooms were full and the attendees were treated to both high level and more foundational insights.

Unlike any other conference in the financial services industry, where presentations are submitted for review by a committee, Forum sessions are determined in advance by the attendees and others who read The Financial Brand. “To determine what we will offer each year, we evaluate the readership levels of all articles published by The Financial Brand,” Pilcher explained. “By using readership as our guide to building an agenda, we then find the best possible presenters for any given topic.” Pilcher believes this avoids having sessions that may be of interest to vendors but not bank and credit union executives.”

“This conference is heads and shoulders above others and I highly recommend to anyone!”

— Keri Bennitt, VP Marketing at Fresno County FCU

ForumX and Makeover Sessions Provide Inspiration

Probably the most unique and anticipated components of The Forum each year are the ForumX and the Brand and Website Makeovers. ForumX sessions are short (15 minute), high-energy presentations from noted experts who share unique perspectives that can make a difference immediately at any sized financial institution. Similar to TEDx for bankers, ForumX presentations are meant to inspire and initiate deeper conversations between Forum attendees.

This year’s ForumX speakers didn’t disappoint, with the following leaders providing thoughts on the future of banking:

  • Clara Shih, CEO of Hearsay Social – “The Age of the Trusted Advisor”
  • Luvleen Sidhu, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at BankMobile – “Disrupting Banking In The Digital Revolution”
  • Neff Hudson, VP/Corporate Development at USAA – “The Unbundling of Financial Services”
  • Irene Etzkorn, Chief Clarity Officer at Siegelvision – “Transparency: Banking on Virtues”
  • Jill Castilla, CEO of Citizens Bank of Edmond – “The Social Bank CEO”
  • Michelle Broderick, CMO at Simple – “Do Well By Doing Good”

Among the memorable moments from this year’s ForumX speeches: when Jill Castilla described how her bank closed all of their branch offices except one and didn’t lose a customer.

“The goal of the ForumX sessions is to provide amazing takeaways in a short, high-energy format,” says Pilcher. “We initiated the concept in 2015, and brought it back by popular demand.”


Another concept that is unique to the Forum are the makeover sessions — where “reality TV meets bank marketing.” In this year’s sessions, the team at Monigle revealed new creative branding concepts to Berkshire Bank for the first time, on stage, in front of the Forum audience. The second session provided an inside look into a complete website makeover process, as Michigan State University FCU was presented new concepts for the first time by ZAG Interactive.

“We really appreciate the massive amount of time and creative energy our branding and digital design partners spend on behalf of the financial institutions that were selected,” says Pilcher. “We are definitely appreciative of the commitment to this process and happy that the audience and the ‘client’ were happy with the final results.

Unequalled Networking Opportunities

During the pre-conference workshops, general and break-out sessions, meals, cocktail hours and refreshment breaks in the exhibit hall, the most acclaimed part of each year’s Forum is always the opportunity to network with people who have similar interests, challenges and passions. Because the event is focused on the singular discipline of financial services marketing, attendees don’t need to search for people to discuss bank and credit union marketing … because they’re everywhere.


Over the past three years of the Forum, new professional and personal relationships have been developed that continue well beyond the days of the conference. Many leave the event with pre-set plans for the upcoming year, while others want to expand the number of people from their team who will gain these insights in the future. In fact, Origin Bank and Gate City Bank both brought 11 people to the event this year, with many more organizations intending to bring their teams in 2017.

“I loved all the networking opportunities and after hour engagements. I was able to connect with a lot of new people and bounce ideas off each other. This was just as valuable as the speakers!”

— Michelle Dobbins, Marketing Supervisor at Georgia United Credit Union

Get Ready for The Forum 2017!

The 2017 version of The Financial Brand Forum will take place on May 17 -19, 2017 at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. As in the past, The Financial Brand Forum will be built exclusively for marketing, advertising, branding and retail executives working at banks and credit unions. Two-thirds of the attendees will be VP-level or higher — including CEOs, CMOs, COOs, EVPs and VPs. In 2017, the event is expected to draw close to 1,400 people.

For more information on Forum 2017, go to the event website.

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