Vision in Digital

Lucino Sotelo, Chief Marketing Officer US Personal and Commercial, BMO Harris. Photo by Sheila Barabad.

In today’s world, the title “CMO” carries more responsibility and accountability than before because growth and success are quantifiable on a day-to-day basis. Being an effective CMO comes down to having the strongest business acumen, a solid understanding of the business and its fibers, and a genuine understanding of the customer. When challenges arise, the CMO is expected to respond immediately with a progressive strategy. Lucino Sotelo, CMO in the US for Bank of Montreal (BMO), is no stranger to that.

Sotelo joined the company last year, and his expansive background in digital and analytics has given BMO a unique edge on capturing growth. The industry has put more and more value on digital marketing and analytics and will continue to do so moving forward. Sotelo says that digital marketing is all about responding to what works best and having a full-picture understanding of what it takes to reach the customers effectively. “It’s all about how we leverage the customer understanding to make a connection through their channel of choice,” Sotelo says. “It’s about having a pulse on customer needs and being able to respond at their point-of-need wherever and whenever that might be.” It’s that hands-on digital experience and ability to quantify engagement that keeps Sotelo excited and energized as he takes responsibility and responds to a myriad of challenges.

“Because our customers and their needs are evolving, our strategies are constantly evolving as well. we need to make sure we are responsive, but more ideally, that we’re one step ahead.”

At BMO, his primary areas of focus are on increasing the customer base, improving customer loyalty, and increasing customer revenue. In order to do that, Sotelo begins by addressing the customer’s needs. “Because our customers and their needs are evolving, our strategies are constantly evolving as well,” he says. “We need to make sure we are responsive, but more ideally, that we’re one step ahead. These days, that means we have to be focused on mobile-first. Everything we do for customer engagement has to start with the mobile experience.”

With mobile trends moving in all kinds of new directions, from Google Glass to the Apple Watch, BMO has to anticipate which platforms its customers will choose to engage with. For Sotelo, that means having to be quick to respond and measure the scale of these platforms.

This year, BMO launched the largest cardless ATM network in the US with its mobile banking application Mobile Cash. The network eliminates the need for debit cards because customers can use their smartphones at BMO Harris ATMs to withdraw money.

Additionally, the bank recently launched “Touch ID and Passcode” to their mobile banking app. These new fingerprint recognition technologies are a quick and secure way for customers to access their mobile banking app and build on the bank’s Mobile Cash technology. Sotelo says both services have been big wins for BMO. “We may not have been the first, but in my opinion, we did it the best,” he says.

Sotelo is acutely aware of the impact that true one-to-one marketing through digital and social media can have on a customer. “I remember when I was in business school, it was just a dream to be scale the most effective marketing method—word-of-mouth.

Today, it’s a science and a discipline because you can actually be engaged with the customer when they are looking for referrals that will meet their needs.” He’s also noticing longer turnover rates for CMOs, which he attributes to being able to produce results. He says the big turnovers of 18-24 months have increased to 24-36 months, and that’s because today’s CMOs are able to use these tools and techniques to engage the customer and demonstrate results.

In the digital world, where the expectation is to see not fast, but immediate results, Sotelo says the biggest challenge is making progress fast enough. “Since my experience is in digital and analytics, I have a different bar on what success looks like and how quickly we should get there,” he says. “I like to win at everything I do.” That means that he wants to be first or in every market. His biggest ongoing challenge has been trying to garner real-time multi-channel attribution. A customer might not respond immediately to digital offers or go into the branch after seeing an online ad, but they might a few days later.  In order to be more effective and efficient marketers, BMO needs to understand the value of each customer touch point across their journey, regardless of whether the ultimate action is taken online or through one of the branches or call centers.

This past year, Sotelo’s has triumphed in establishing marketing credibility for BMO. He has been able to clearly demonstrate how marketing strategy drives the top and bottom line in acquiring targeted customers and generating revenue. This year, BMO CEO William Downe said he wants to prioritize growing the customer base significantly by 2020. Sotelo is up for the challenge; he knows he and his team will be able to greatly contribute to achieving growth goals for BMO. “We are going to make big bets centered around our customers’ current and emerging needs and preferences,” he says. “They’re going to be informed of strategies that will fundamentally reposition the both the customer’s and the bank’s success.”