Russ Chacon is Senior Vice President of Product at BillGO, which allows him to draw on an extensive career in the financial services industry and work with the BillGO Product Team as they help financial institutions (FIs) as they work to keep pace with consumer expectations.
Prior to joining BillGO, Chacon served in a variety of leadership roles on behalf of industry heavyweights such as Fiserv, PayPal, Early Warning, Bank of America and others.
We recently took the opportunity to get Chacon's perspective on disruption in the financial services industry, steps big FIs can take to prepare for fully-digitized banking and what smaller entrepreneurs need to do to remain competitive in the marketplace.
What drew you to BillGO?
I met Dan Holt, the CEO, and Mike Pinto about three years ago when I was with another leading fintech. The discussion centered on the company I was with at the time doing some work with BillGO. But, by the time we were done talking, I was so impressed by what BillGO was doing – working to give consumers more choices in bill pay in a way that was real, now and doable - it appealed to me and I wanted to be part of that journey.
Name the single most disruptive thing that has happened in the financial services industry during your career?
The iPhone. It put amazing capabilities right in everyone’s pocket and forever changed the way we live our lives and how we conduct business.
What is “top of mind” for most financial institution executives today?
Digitization. In a large part because of COVID: the past year has forced consumers and businesses to operate remotely. This means financial institutions (FIs) must compete on their digital capabilities now. This has forced many to realize they are being beat by other FIs and fintechs.
In other words, digital capability is no longer a second channel, which is supported through measured investments. Digital capability has accelerated into THE primary method of customer interaction – meaning it now demands the lion’s share of every executive’s attention.
Do FI execs view fintechs as foes or potential collaborators?
Both. Financial services executives realize they need to move fast – and many of them are open-minded as to how to do that. FIs will continue to choose fintech partners that can help them move quickly - even though some parts of their business may be competing with fintechs.
Mainstream FIs have been resilient, but can that continue if they rely on legacy technology?
Absolutely not. As I said, the past year has forced everyone online, so FIs are being judged based on the products and service levels they provide their customers. So, a small bank - or even a digital-only fintech with clever marketing - can quickly build relationships, including with dissatisfied FI customers.
Many big FIs recognize this and are scrambling to innovate – in some cases to catch up, or in other cases, to continue in their roles as industry leaders. Regardless, everyone knows sitting still is not an option.
But, having said that, big FIs can’t simply throw out their old infrastructures. So, they are constantly looking for ways to leverage and augment them. That’s where BillGO can help.
What should FIs be doing right now to prepare for the shift to digital transactions?
They can stand in their customers' shoes and evaluate themselves the same way their customers are probably evaluating them. Doing so can provide an amazing amount of clarity. Then, look for ways to fill product and service gaps – and don’t seek parity – seek leadership. Partnering will be key to filling these gaps quickly. No one has the luxury of time anymore.
What should be motivating FIs to transition to modernized bill pay?
It’s simple: bill pay is a huge customer-engagement tool. It’s the genesis of deeper relationships. If customers go elsewhere for bill pay, then their other business goes elsewhere as well.
How can businesses manage the shift to digital engagement?
They should fully embrace it. That means critically evaluating their current paper-based and premise-based based infrastructure and solutions – and shifting investment into digital solutions. This includes creative ways to reach and engage their customers. Great marketers – great businesses - never stop looking for that. Whether it’s a B2C or B2B business, strengthening those capabilities is key.
Many big billers are included in mainstream banking networks. Is it beneficial for smaller billers to be part of those networks?
Absolutely. Competition is ruthless. Small businesses need the same digital capabilities as the larger ones do in order to stay competitive. But many of them have been left behind because the established payment system players prefer scale and volume. BillGO is solving that problem by providing solutions that reach all businesses - especially the smaller ones.
BillGO’s promotes “the new way to bill pay”. Why do we need a new way to bill pay?
Because consumers and businesses expect bill pay capabilities that match their other digital capabilities - fast, informative, complete. Why should bill pay be different?
Want to hear Russ Chacon’s take on today’s bill pay ecosystem?
Russ Chacon was a featured speaker in Consumers, Billers & Banks, Oh My!, the third installment in BillGO’s Bill Pay Knowledge webinar series. In fact, Consumers, Billers & Banks, Oh My! - which also featured Sarah Grotta of the Mercator Advisory Group - drew the largest audience of the entire three-part series. Find out why.
The Bill Pay Knowledge is now available - in its entirety - on demand. Click here and get access to all three segments. It’s your chance to hear from top industry executives and analysts as they hash over the state of bill pay and banks.