BAI Conference Preview - Debbie Bianucci, President, BAI

This year's BAI Retail Delivery Conference & Expo is the 32nd annual event - and it very much will reflect the times that financial institutions have experienced over the past year.

Risk management, social networking, customer confidence - these all will be major themes at this year's event in Boston, says Debbie Bianucci, President and CEO of BAI. In an exclusive interview, Bianucci discusses:

The major themes of the BAI event;
Specific programs related to risk management and security;
What to expect at the event and in the expo.

Bianucci leads the BAI team to find new and innovative ways to provide high-value, objective information and education to the financial services industry. She has been in financial services for over 30 years, including senior positions with several major financial services companies. Before being appointed CEO, Bianucci was responsible for a variety of functions over the course of her nearly 20 years with BAI, most recently having executive responsibility for marketing and sales. She is a frequent speaker at industry events and has authored numerous books and articles on financial services topics.

The Bank Administration Institute (BAI) is the financial services industry's partner for breakthrough information and intelligence needed to innovate and stay relevant in an evolving marketplace. For more than 80 years, BAI has focused on advancing the industry by offering unbiased education and research. In addition, we facilitate ongoing industry dialogue through a robust network of financial services professionals, thought leaders, newsmakers, and solutions experts.

TOM FIELD: What should you expect from this year's BAI Retail Delivery Conference and Expo? Let's find out from Debbie Bianucci, President and CEO of BAI. Hi, this is Tom Field, Editorial Director with Information Security Media Group. I am joined today by Debbie Bianucci. Debbie, thanks so much for joining me.

DEBBIE BIANUCCI: Hi, Tom, it's great to be here.

FIELD: What year is this for the Retail Delivery Conference and Expo?

BIANUCCI: This is the 32nd BAI Retail Delivery Conference. It started as a conference focused on ATM's, and it has evolved as financial services needs have changed over the years, and we will be in our 32nd year.

FIELD: Debbie, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself, your tenure at BAI -- and for people that don't know that is the Bank Administration Institute -- and just what has gone into this year's event in particular.

BIANUCCI: Well BAI is an organization that focuses on bringing high-quality, relevant information to the financial services industry with a special focus on retail financial services. We do that in a number of ways. We are not a lobbying organization; we focus on bringing information, education and research to bank executives to help them in setting their strategies and executing their plans.

I have been with BAI now for almost 20 years and have been involved in a number of different times during the phases of the financial services industry, as we have all been through, and certainly involved in this conference in a number of ways over that time.

This year's event is going to be especially impactful, I think. We are focusing on the value of bringing together people in the industry, whether they are from banks or other financial services companies, or solutions providers or other industry organizations, to find ways to collaborate, to change the dialogue about banking.

We all as an industry have been through so much in the past year that what we believe would be very beneficial to the industry is to have a forward-looking view of what we can do in collaboration to rebuild consumer trust and confidence in banks. And so much of the conference is focused on not only the current issues that are facing retail financial services professionals, but also how to, in an overarching way, rebuild consumer trust and confidence.

There are a number of different topics that are covered, including what you might expect that there would be a thread of content focused on important issues related to security and risk as well.

FIELD: So, Debbie, as I look through the agenda, I see some of these things coming forward; what would you say are the major themes of this year's event that you really want to resonate with the attendees?

BIANUCCI: There are several different levels to think about that as you look at the content that is covered in the conference. At a strategic level there will be a lot of discussion about the vision that a financial services executive needs to have in very turbulent times that we have been through; a vision for the future on how to meet the needs of a different customer reality. In fact, we think through effective leadership, the collaboration I mentioned, innovation that could be incremental or radical, could be with technology or people and delivery systems, which we are trying to meet a new customer reality that is part of today's world. And so we will spend a lot of time talking about strategic implications.

But we also try to bring practical and specific information about current topics that are of great interest to retail financial services professionals, whether that is how to deal with the changing dynamics of fee income; the way in which product innovation will have to evolve as a result of that; the entrée of new technology and delivery systems that are available today, particularly in mobile payments environment; how social networking will affect the way in which consumers want to deal with their financial services companies.

So, there is a strategic element, and then there is a practical element as well.

FIELD: Wow, and you are packing all of this into just over two days?

BIANUCCI: It is a busy couple of days. We start with some pre-conference workshops that give people an opportunity before the conference begins to dive deep into a few issues. But once the conference begins on Tuesday, we kick it off with Ram Charan, who is a really interesting and highly renowned consultant and author, and his focus of late has been leadership in economic uncertainty.

So we kick it off with Ram Charan, and then from there sessions are scheduled back to back, and of course we have the industry's largest expo with nearly 200 companies. So the people who are in Boston will be very busy.

FIELD: A few minutes ago, Debbie, you talked about topics that are relevant to security and risk management. As you know, a good portion of our audience is interested in that. What are some of the specific programs of interest from attendees from financial services who are coming from a securities and risk management perspective?

BIANUCCI: Well, there are several specific sessions that focus entirely on fraud security and risk elements related to one, on payments, one on the new realities of credit risk, which are changed considerably over the past years, one that focuses on risk management practices, which has an umbrella view of the kinds of things that you can do in your bank, and the last one on risk in deposits, which has a lot of nuances that are changing as the times have changed.

What is interesting though is that I think what the attendees will find is that risk management as a topic is essentially woven through every conversation we will have there, including the strategic discussions that are typically in our large general sessions, as well as other concurrent sessions because it is such an important piece of what bank executives are facing today.

There are so many elements of risk management that are changing. The practices of days gone by are not necessarily going to meet the needs of the banks as the future unfolds. And so what we find with risk is that there is a lot of attention given to what do you hold on to that has worked and then what has to change, and figuring that out is a big challenge for a lot of banking organizations today.

And so I think what you find is that while there are a number of sessions that are not necessarily completely focused on risk management or security issues or fraud, you will find commentary in practically every session in one way or another, as we are dealing with the issues of today.

FIELD: Now I know you have got a number of sponsors for this event as well. Are there any sponsor activities that you particularly want to draw people's attention to?

BIANUCCI: Well the research that we have done with the people who find such value in this event is that they come to BAI Retail Delivery for two reasons. The first is for the content, the kinds of sessions that we have been talking about for the past few minutes, but the other reason is to be able to experience what happens in this very large expo. With nearly 200 companies offering new products, new technology solutions, lots of innovation in a way that banks can meet customer needs, and finding ways to do that more cost effectively as the banks are faced with reducing expenses without affecting customer experience. I think that is a common theme that the attendees will see as they work their way through the expo to see the kinds of things that the exhibiting companies are bringing to there.

There will be a number of special events in the expo, including live presentations and podcasts of various speakers who will be able to deliver information on relevant topics as well, and those are above and beyond the sessions that are part of the agenda.

FIELD: Debbie, one last question for you. For people who are experiencing this event for the first time, what do you want them to know: 1) about BAI, but 2) about the Retail Delivery Conference and Expo in particular?

BIANUCCI: That's a great question. The commitment that BAI makes to people in the industry is that we are here to provide them with an objective view of the issues that are important to them, because we are not a lobbying organization. We don't have constituents that we need to please; we can bring the facts to the table, and whether that is in the form of market analysis and decisioning tools that are data driven or the kind of objective information that you get at a conference like retail delivery, our purpose is to put information in the hands of financial services executives that will help them set their strategies.

And so that is our commitment to them, and for someone who has not been to Retail Delivery, we believe that this is the showcase of what BAI can offer. The event is unlike anything else that is offered in the financial services space, and it is not just because it is big. We have a saying that bigger isn't better; better is better. It is a large event, and so the people that you can meet there, your networking opportunities are enormous. I think that the first time attendee consistently will tell me how surprised they are at the depth and breadth of the coverage of issues, the unique experience of meeting with so many companies who are in the expo, that it truly is well worth their time.

The one thing I would say if you haven't been there before is wear comfortable shoes, because you will have a packed agenda with not much time to take a break. You will cover a lot of ground, and when you go home you will have lots of value in the information that you have received, and you will be ready to relax.

FIELD: Very good, Debbie, I appreciate your time and your insight today.

BIANUCCI: It's great being with you, Tom. Thank you.

FIELD: We have been talking with Debbie Bianucci, the President and CEO of BAI. For Information Security Media Group, I'm Tom Field. Thank you very much.

About the Author

Tom Field

Tom Field

Senior Vice President, Editorial, ISMG

Field is responsible for all of ISMG's 28 global media properties and its team of journalists. He also helped to develop and lead ISMG's award-winning summit series that has brought together security practitioners and industry influencers from around the world, as well as ISMG's series of exclusive executive roundtables.

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