Chuck Garcia is a payments industry veteran working for all sides of the business: banks, processors and now as commercial head of banking at Bottomline. As he prepares for his first Association on Financial Professionals (AFP) conference, we caught up to him for this Q&A:
Q: Chuck, you’re a veteran to the banking business, new to Bottomline and now heading to the AFP conference. What excites you at this point about what banks are doing to serve their customers?
Garcia: Technology, the evolution of it and use cases around it. That always excites me. In particular, I’m fascinated by some of the things different organizations are doing around artificial intelligence. And while I'm not an expert in that discipline by any means, I can see that AI holds tremendous opportunity for improved client experience and a round-the-clock ability to operate. And clearly there's the assist to the human element that takes out a significant amount of costs.
Q: You’ve had several senior positions in the payments industry and you’ve watched the development of many innovations. We’ve been doing a lot of work around the deployment of ISO 20022 lately and I have to ask if you think banks know enough about the capabilities of this messaging format. Do banks know enough about ISO to really understand what it can do?
Garcia: I don't. And as you said coming most-recently from a mid-cap bank I know that reliance on key partners like ourselves is really important. Many banks just don't have the technical wherewithal to deploy ISO 20022. And some don’t have the budgets. So that's a critical piece. I think we all play a role in the marketplace, and for us, it’s about being able to access the technology to serve customers at an optimal level.
Q: Let's go to another critical issue, which is payments and cash management. I was surprised to read the recent Aite-Novarica awards in that category because there were so many use cases like customer experience that go beyond simple PCM. Do you expect more of them to come to the fore?
Garcia: Definitely. The reason is customers are demanding more use cases from PCM platforms. In some cases, they’re demanding it because they’ve seen it used at another bank, or in some cases they’ve heard about these use cases from their clients. They expect that PCM will produce a frictionless user experience. You have to remember that some of our clients are in our system virtually all day long. So, the ability to have smooth workflows, ease of use, and navigation is really critically important. That’s even the case in smaller companies where someone is not in there all day long but needs to go in the morning, check in at noon and then draw down later in the day – those user experiences are still critically important.
Q: You’ve mentioned that PCM needs to be as easy as a consumer app.
Garcia: Yes. We all have the ability to know how easy things are to navigate even if you aren't tech savvy. So we have taken the Amazon or Apple type experience of make it easy and make it usable to work hand-in-hand with our partners. Having been on the other side of the desk and seeing what other providers do in fact have, I think we lead the category.
Q: It’s almost as if your experience working for a bank is your superpower.
Garcia: It really is and I think it's helped in discussions with our clients. I can say ‘well, let me flip the table on you because if this were a discussion we were having from my old seat, I would be pushing on some issues.’ So, my experience provides a healthy, balanced discussion with my colleagues and our clients. For example, if I’m meeting with a bank that does not have the technical wherewithal inside their organization to take the digital journey and needs help, well, I’ve been there.
Q: In your experience how much pressure are banks under to step up their game digitally?
Garcia: A lot, but I also think that over the past few years, bank executives are acutely aware of that need and very savvy about achieving it. I think the pressure and the awareness of it comes from customers. They’re telling their banks that if they don’t provide digital services they will go somewhere else and find it. Again, at my previous bank we had a very workable platform for existing clients. Most of them were happy it worked. It showed up every day. Good workhorse if you will. It worked until we went head-to-head with one of the larger banks, and then we put a new business case together to upgrade. It's full acknowledgement at all levels of management inside the organizations that digital is an absolute.
Q: On to AFP. It’s an organization that places a high premium on educating members, so with that in mind if you were going to keynote the last day what would you say?
Garcia: If I had to boil it down to one line it would be to encourage them to embrace the change that is our industry. I think AFP has frankly done a really great job of helping the industry change and grow and NACHA has as well (Garcia is a former NACHA board member). Push your providers, push your people, be faster, do things more efficiently and more effectively for your end clients. I would also encourage AFP members to proceed smartly and securely and keep the ball moving down the road.
Chuck Garcia is a financial service veteran who has held a wide variety of senior roles in portfolio management, commercial lending and banking. He was recently named commercial head of banking at Bottomline.