In Conversation with Coconut Software CEO Katherine Regnier
Why would a bank or credit union want and need to adopt Coconut Software’s Technology?
A bank or credit union would want to work with Coconut if they have a desire to deepen the relationships they have with their customers and create more customized and impactful engagements, such as when they visit a branch, call into their call center or to book an appointment with their financial advisor. Customers, and bank and credit union staff, need to feel confident that when they do business with their financial services provider, they can do so in a safe way that is convenient for their schedule. We offer ways to help manage those engagements, whether it is in person, over the phone, through SMS or video conferencing.
What was the biggest challenge you have faced thus far in your career?
The biggest challenge has been growing this company from an idea on a paper napkin (true story) to what it has evolved into today, and then figuring out what it will become. It’s also what I have loved about it. No challenge is the same and my career trajectory is really up to the results I can generate for our customers, employees, and our investors.
Earlier this year it was announced that Coconut Software was partnering with Google. Can you talk about this partnership and the benefits to Google?
The Google Partnership (Reserve with Google) is in strong alignment with our core vision at Coconut: to encourage customers of financial institutions to engage with the experts who have the answer to their questions, and to get those answers in the channel of their choice. More specifically, Reserve with Google means that when a customer is searching for a branch location, phone number or website, we have made it easy to book an appointment right from those search results. It’s an obvious statement that almost every human has interacted with Google, and we’ve seen significant engagement for bank and credit union customers through this super convenient avenue.
What is the “appointment economy” and how is it changing the retail banking Experience?
The Appointment economy is the concept that in a post (or more accurately a current) Covid world, we as a society are defaulting to carving out safe times and spaces by which we accomplish the things we need to do. The easiest way of doing this in a convenient manner is relying on appointments. The appointment economy allows financial institutions to not only offer safer branch experiences and virtual meetings but allows managers to match staffing with the customer demands. The benefits of this include easing traffic and creating more meaningful meetings. It really boils down to how can we equip our clients with better anticipating and addressing their customer’s needs.
How would you compare the maturity of the fintech industry in Canada versus the US?
Regardless of location, the fintech industry is booming and becoming extremely competitive. Over the past decade Canada (and Europe) has led the US in the fintech industry in core technologies. These are measurable technologies that have been mass adopted in Canada like wireless payments, AI, and digitally transformative technologies like open banking, and the embrace of personal smartphones as financial service enablers. The US market has an increase in investments in these areas over the past few years, and there is no doubt that the pandemic has increased the importance of customer and member engagement technologies like online scheduling and branch/lobby management. Bricks and mortar banks are having to quickly adapt and fast-track their digital transformation, in the wake of COVID-19 but also because of the rise of the digital only banking options for customers. Fintech is providing both types of financial institutions the tools to better meet the changing expectations of their customers: namely, personalized, on demand, advice-based help for their questions. And these fintech tools are global in scale, and able to roll out very quickly.
How has the Coronavirus pandemic affected Coconut Software?
As we know, the majority of banks and credit unions have been going through major digital transformation. However, specifically with Coconut, COVID-19 has created positive demand for banks to really keep financial services accessible during lockdown. Many of them were not prepared for this overnight challenge, but Coconut has been able to work beside them and help them through this. We needed to help them bridge the gap between digital and physical, and it needed to be centralized in one system. It also encouraged us to fast track some of the key features and ideas we had already been working on when the pandemic hit – our phone and video meeting methods for example had been in development but we put all R&D hands on that solution to roll it out quickly (and for free for the spring and summer) to our customers who needed it. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, not only internally but also to help our customers deal with the pandemic.
A recent announcement of a partnership with Arvest Bank highlighted the software may help the bank manage in-branch traffic to abide by state regulations for social distancing. How so?
The real issue with branch traffic today is maintaining social distancing, capacity limits and safety protocols. Think about lunch times. We don’t know how many individuals will use their lunch hours to do some banking and therefore will be waiting outside or in the bank lobby. With Coconut, branches can now smooth out the traffic by encouraging wherever possible to book meetings ahead of time instead of walking in, having customers add themselves to a virtual queue using their mobile device, as well as waiting in their car or a local cafe for their appointment or for their number in line to be up. This helps manage wait times, reduces the congregation of individuals, ensures capacity limits are being observed and creates more safe meetings for staff and customers.
What advice would you give to women entrepreneurs aspiring to start a company?
For all entrepreneurs, not only women entrepreneurs – I would say if you can dream it, you can do it. There is no magical moment or perfect time. I think it’s most important to just get started. And you don’t need a million dollars to get started. You can interview potential customers, you can write a plan, you can build a minimal viable product. Just start.
Who or what has shaped who you are as a business leader?
Outside of some amazing mentors and family members, I would say our board and investors have created a huge impact on me as a business leader. They have made me think bigger, and they have the experience to point out blindspots. Most importantly, a great board keeps you accountable, helps you grow, and puts the right amount of pressure on you. As a business leader there is nothing more important than the people you surround yourself with.
What are your goals for Coconut Software over the next 12 months? Two years?
As a CEO of a startup there are so many things that require your attention and goals that need to be accomplished. In my opinion, the most important thing is to keep the chemistry of the team in alignment. I am prioritizing how to be clear and concise on what we are working towards and why. At Coconut, we will continue to focus on doubling our revenue year over year and we will continue to focus on expanding our product suite from appointment scheduling and lobby management into a fully robust customer engagement and workspace solution. The framework will always be what customer pain points can we solve?
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Sales cures all problems” was one that was said to me in a somewhat of a joking manner, however it has stuck. It means if you are moving forward, as in, if you are attracting and retaining more customers, you will then hire more, your board will trust that you are making more of the right calls, and your staff will feel even more of a sense of accomplishment and purpose. Are we ‘Getting it Done’? Are we ‘Doing it Right’? This is what that piece of advice means to me.
What inspires or motivates you?
Inspiration is speaking to experienced CEOs or leaders who have created these high growth companies with unreal cultures. It makes me think, how did they do that, and can I do it better? Our staff inspires me when they come up with creative solutions and can articulate their role in contributing to our success. I think wow, I get to work with these individuals everyday. What can I do to help them achieve more?
Then the motivation spark is really stoked when I connect with customers directly. Listening to what they need to make their lives and organizations perform even better really creates a fire to solve this problem. For me, it comes down to the fact that people really matter. I want them to feel heard and valued, and know they matter. And that is why we say at Coconut we are about People, Passion, and Performance.