Banking on Digital Growth
Banking on Digital Growth

Episode · 2 years ago

38) #DigitalGrowthJourneys: Fast Forward: Creating Community Around a Simple Idea w/ Yury Nabokov

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Twelve years ago, Yury Nabokov arrived in the U.S. from Russia. He wore a backpack and had less than $500 in his pocket. Today, he's building Fast Forward, a platform for an online growth summit.

I wanted to know what he'd learned in the last dozen years.

So I invited Yury Nabokov, assistant vice president of customer experience & digital marketing strategy at Machias Savings Bank in Portland, ME, to join me on this episode of Banking on Digital Growth.

Here's what Yury and I discussed:

  • What's exciting about the post-COVID landscape
  • Yury's personal story and the idea of transformation
  • How he developed the Fast Forward platform
  • Yury's best recommendations for financial brand marketers over the next 12 months

You can find this interview, and many more, by subscribing to Banking on Digital Growth on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or here.

It's a good thing to do the right thing, but it's the right thing to do it good. You're listening to banking on Digital Growth with James Robert Ley Ah, podcast that empowers financial brand marketing, sales and leadership teams to maximize their digital growth potential by generating 10 times more loans and deposits. Today's episode is part of the digital growth Journeys Siri's, where James Robert uncovers and Explorers some of the industry's biggest digital marketing and sales stories of success. Let's get into the show Greetings in Hello, I Am James Robert Ley and welcome to another episode of the Banking on Digital Growth podcast. Today's episode is part of the digital growth journey. Siri's and I'm excited to welcome your new book off to the show because he has such a great story to tell. Now you're you're the A VP of customer experience at much I a savings bank up in Portland, Maine. What is one thing right now that you're excited about in this Post co vid 19 world? Well, James Robert, thank you very much for inviting me to participate in this awesome project. I am delighted to share my thoughts, ideas, and I am simply sincerely appreciate if of the way you introduce me and the recognition by you of my story, you know, means a lot. So thank you, brother, for having me on the show to answer your question. I think the most important thing right now in post covered world is the fact that we clearly see what waas transformational digital innovation stories that a lot of people were sharing or talking about. And the reality is like Well, like they...

...say, you know, when the when, When the reality hits you in the face, you know, the plans go out the window. So I think you know, Kobe 19 truly showed who is current and who is simply preserving the past achievements. And, uh, the other thing is that I think those individuals who took the time to actually pause during covet 19 take a look around, assess their environment, competitive internal culture, all sorts of different things that play into the success of financial institutions and prepared themselves to launch into the future are the ones who are actually going to be truly successful in the policy. Kobe. 19. Well, and you said the key word right there they stopped, they paused. They reflected, they assessed. Then they thought about what the opportunities are to move forward, to create, to capture the roadblocks that they need to eliminate. Because the world that that we've moved into post Koven, it's never going back to the way things were before. The way people think The way people shop, the way people by relate, have conversations. It's completely different going forward. And I think you and I were talking in the preinterview. We cannot let our past, our past success, our past failures determine who we are in the present or who we can be in the future. We have an opportunity. That's why I'm so excited. We have an opportunity to look at Cove it as a launching pad, to almost reinvent ourselves personally as teams, as organizations, as communities to create something even bigger and better than what we had before. You know, I'm a believer that you know, for me personally as we're talking about personal, you know, transformational journeys. I believe that my greatest accomplishments are still ahead and the saboteurs off progress are no longer...

...relevant thing. I think we need Thio. We need to definitely reflect on that. You know, when I when I said about, you know, assessing the environment to see who was truly contributing and driving change and what whether this change was meaningful or it was simply driven where personal agendas. So let's talk about you like like that idea of transformation, because here's the thing. Like like anyone listening? If you're talking about change in your financial brand, whether it's in the marketing side, the sell side, the leadership side Stop talking about change today. Make that a commitment going forward because as human beings, we don't like change. There's a very innate fear of change on the alternative side, though substitute chains for transformation. Because transformation is about creating an even better version of what we have today. It's transformation isn't scary, like change is. So let's go back and talk about your own story. 12 years ago, you came to the U. S. From Russia. You had a backpack, you less than $500 in your pocket. Talk about the transformations that you've seen over those last 12 years on and what have been some of the key lessons that you've learned personally along the way? Oh, man. There is a lot to talk about it. And I'm afraid that, you know, uh, we would have to record, you know, several seasons, uh, just to unpacked all of it. But I have to tell you, one of the most amazing experiences was that and it's truly country, you know, It's a truly a testament to you know who Americans are and what this country is. When it came to Maine in 2008 I was working in a small village and a community store or a convenience store and the business owner of the store. He became my mentor. You know, during the time, you know, I would open a store with him at 5 a.m. He would be there on time. 5 a.m. Business owner. He would...

...close the store with me with me around 8 p.m. So seven days a week. 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. He is there. I'm there were working back to back. So and towards the end of the summer 2008 he asked me a relatively simple question. He's like So, Yuri, what are your, uh, what, Your next steps. I'm like, Whoa, I really wish I could find a way to stay in this country. But, you know, $500 back back students visa, you know, roadblock after roadblock. I don't think there is a lot for me here. So he's like, Well, what would be one thing that you would really want to do while you're here? Wow. I'm studying public relations in Russia, like marketing social media, starting to be a big thing. I think I would really wanna learn about all these disciplines from the American professors. So he's like, So you wanna go to a local college or university? I'm like, sure that would be awesome. Is like, Well, what are you waiting for him like? Well, uh, you know, cash on hand, kind of tie eso he's like, All right, just give it a shot. See what you can dio and let's regroup after. So, three or four weeks later, after that conversation, they came back with two acceptance letters like, Hey, I could go to a state school where I could go to a private school because, like, Well, what's the difference? Why you you know, why are we even talking about? Just pick something like, Well, the state school, you know, it seems to be, you know, bigger and better. However, there is out of state tuition, which is, you know, astronomical. And I really just can't afford it was like, Well, what about the private school I'm like, Well, the private school doesn't have the same kind of, like requirements a little bit cheaper, and it ultimately is focused on all the things that I was excited about, you know, photography, design, you know, website development. Like the things that I was just like there were so fresh and so new and exciting. I was like, that would be the thing that I really wanna do is like, Okay, what do you need from me? I'm like, um I didn't really expect that. I...

...need anything from you. He's like, Alright, let me unpack this. For how much is it going to cost, like Well, you know, the first master, You know, we're looking around, you know, $10,000 plus all the savings. And you know, all the money that I made over the summer. He went upstairs. He signed the check, he came down, he gave it to me and said Hey, go make me proud. Wow, you're giving me goose bumps. I wanna cry every time I tell this story because hard working guy came from a regular blue collar American family, started his business, retired the multimillion ear and he gave me an opportunity to succeed in this country without any strings attached. The only thing he asked me to do is to make him proud, make him proud and make him proud. You have, because along the way, not only did you get that initial degree you picked up to mawr degrees along the way and talk to me about that because you're a lifelong learner and I think that's a key trait for those that want to thrive in this Post Cove. In 19 world of exponential change, we're moving beyond the service economy we've done that years ago were transition. Now, through what many call the experience economy and moving into what I'm calling in the future, the knowledge economy are the expert economy toe where knowledge and expertise is going to be what separates individuals and organizations. So let's talk about those additional academic degrees that you've picked up along the way. Well, as of today, I I have four academic degrees. I have a degree from Russia in public relations marketing, undergrad from New England, School of Communications, Masters, NBN Healthcare management and Masters and Human Relations. But I think the reasons that I was so you know, passionate about learning and exploring new domains and new fields was probably I would...

...attribute it to four key elements off the way I am or the way I I guess you know you myself in the world or, you know, elements that I practiced. I think it's important to stay alert, be curious, appreciate life for what it is and what it gives you and ultimately focus on mastering the craft, not gaining the skill because skill seems like a very narrow approach, like a very narrow road. But the craft if we're talking about customer experience as an example, you know, we're talking about design. We're talking about user interface. We're talking about communication. We're talking about delivery channels, all sorts of things we've been talking about copyrighting to make a very emotional and the relevant appeal in the short amount of time that we have. You know, between the the moment the person receives the message and comprehends the message in response to the received message. So all of those songs, all of those things air, you know, Critical. But well, what was happening? The time when I started my undergrad journey at Nasscom in 2008. And this is another great story, and I'm very, very I'm proud off how it turned out, but I'm not proud of how I got there. So after my first semester, while I was trying to make my mentor and a friend proud, basically make the money work right around, Kind of like the meat towards the end of the semester. I wasn't really doing well. I was kind of cocky. I thought that Look at me. Here I am, top of class coming from Russia, graduate of Siberian State Aerospace University. And here I am, talking about some marketing. Wanna one of them. Like what? So anyway, the point is, my academic advisor she...

...called me in the office one day and she said your, um I'm really excited that you're here. Are you excited about being here? I'm like, Oh, yeah, of course I am. You know, I'm doing my thing. She's like Well, do you realize that the contributions there that you're making are not necessarily on par with who you say you are? And maybe maybe this place is not for you? Mm. And I was, you know, I was trying to get defensive and explain myself in all sorts of things. Just like, No, I don't know the answers right now. I just want you to show what you're capable of. So I got my rear end in gear. I finished. That's a master, you know, four point. Oh, I said I I set myself on the path that, you know, no matter what it takes is going to be four point. Oh, next semester, I was elected as vice president of student government. I received job as, um, resident assistant, and I also got accepted into, uh, MBA program for the following year as a graduate assistant. So, um, I got three jobs while I was on campus because as an international student, you don't you have a very limited cape. Abilities or opportunities to work off campus or whatever you're doing has to happen on promise, so yeah. Anyway, that's that's how I started my journey off obtaining to academic degrees. At the same time, while working three jobs. Technology has transformed our world, and digital has changed the way consumers shop for and buy financial services forever. Now consumers make purchase decisions long before they walk into a branch if they walk into a branch at all. But your financial brand still wants to grow loans and deposits. We get it. Digital growth can feel confusing, frustrating and overwhelming for any financial brand marketing and sales leader. But it doesn't have thio because James Robert wrote the book that guides you every step of the way along your digital growth journey. Visit www dot...

...digital growth dot com to get a preview of his best selling book, Banking on Digital Growth, or order a copy right Now for you and your team from Amazon. Inside you'll find a strategic marketing manifesto that was written to transform financial brands, and it is packed full of practical and proven insights. You can start using today to confidently generate 10 times more loans and deposits. Now back to the show. Wow So and and that then transitioned you into where you're at today as the a VP of customer experience and really, what you're doing is so fascinating because I've been following this one perspective. Fast forward main. I've talked a lot about financial brands and the opportunities that they have to develop community. Ah, platform a business of expertise, if you will, business people and in person workshops. It's something that I see a model other financial brands could be inspired from, but also implement and really gain some valuable positioning in a post Cove in 19 World where people are looking for clarity. So you know the way I arrived. Thio idiot radiating around fast forward Man is a platform was a multi year process and, actually, believe it or not, it started with hiring a videographer. At the time I was, I was instructor off digital marketing and social media at at Hudson University and one of my students. He was starting to be a videographer, and I kind of reached out to him and said, Hey, would you like to do a couple of you know, side side hustles for the bank, you know, do this and that. So the important message here with hiring the videographer, I was focused on content and, you know, as a marketer. You know that needs to the the content needs to be, uh, quality...

...content. It needs to be relevant, and it also needs to be personalized. So in order to do that at scale, we would have to have a significant marketing budget which you know, always, always a problem. So it was It was actually cheaper for me to hire a student and crank out videos on schedule on weekly basis. So after doing that for several years, we we started thinking about Well, how can we take this digital engagement that is currently happening on our social media channels? With the help of our videos? How can we make it a little bit mawr in person, type of experiences recording the message is putting it out there. What can we do Thio to bring people together and share their thoughts and ideas? Learn something and kind of like, you know, help other around them Thio thio get better. So we partnered with marketing agency called Flight New Media and the founder of the agency's rich Brooks his. You know, he is a famous digital marketing social media persona. Anyway, you know, over the years we became good friends. So one day three of us corroded Chasson, videographer Rich Brooks, the agency owner, and myself we were sitting there is like OK, guys, Well, how can we take this? Put it in person and scale. So we're like, Well, let's put a workshop and then record a workshop and then, you know, have those, you know, video materials available for everyone to watch after we perform this thing. So two years ago, this pilot project didn't even have a name. It was just business development workshops presented to you by Matthias Savings Bank and Flight new Media We conducted, I think six or eight in person events and they weren't really well. And during one of the events, a person got up because because you know the way they were structured the bottom part I mean, the beginning of the workshop was...

...basically presentation from two or three different experts and the end of the day waas, the mastermind session where people would present their, you know, business challenges and everyone in the audience would participate and try to offer their insights. Or maybe just simply ideas on how to address that. Because, you know, we get in the audience and you have a, you know, a restaurant owner or consultant or you know, C p a or so are sort of, you know, different individuals in the same room. So anyway, one person got up and said, Guys, how can we continue the same level off engagement And how can we continue Learn from you? Yeah. So we're like, Wow. Well, first of all, it's kind of cool that someone says that they're learning from us and they also want us to continue. So we, uh, we played with the idea off, you know, content creation, valuable information, and developing a community because what we really love during the pilot program was not necessarily the presentation of the content or, you know, positioning yourself as a business coach in the way, but uniting people to bringing people together to discuss their issues and move forward together. You can see you know how the idea started to shape up, and one day we're like, fast forward main Love it. I love it so really kind of to recap this program, this platform has been multiple years, 2 to 3 years in the making. It's not like you just we have this idea and we're gonna get going. It started with the pilot program. That pilot program showed proof of concept, and it really showed proof of concept. Three ways. One. It was about building a community of, like minds to position the bank beyond. Hey, we've we've got these commoditized loan products that every other financial brand has with these these deposit accounts, you built the community you...

...produced content to help first create value for this community. And as a result, you expanded this communities capabilities by playing the role of the helpful guide in the journeys of these business owners in Maine and as a whole, you have a purpose you're working towards to fast forward main. So absolutely love this, you know, it resonates with the DNA of the bank. It also resonates with the people who involved in the project. Because we, you know, we commit our personal time. We work on creating content training materials were sourcing different experts and we encourage them to participate in fast forward man And I also wanted to add several weeks ago, well, we were planning for a while to conduct an in person, not a workshop. But all day conference and I saw that 350 people and this was Rich Brooks. 350 people had registered to attend and then Covert hit. But that didn't stop you guys so that awesome. You know I love you, James Robert, for paying attention to the things we're doing. So I appreciate the support. So instead off, instead of canceling or post pointing, the event were like, All right, just let's refund all the tickets sales. Let's make a digital and let's make it free. So, uh, they the second day of the event we had 450 people who participated in the event across the state. We managed to bring a new, incredible incredible individuals ranging from social media experts like John Lee, Duma's and Chris Broke. Chris Broken was there. Yeah, that was That...

...was an incredible, incredible podcast because we were recording a live podcast, you know, like we basically made them like a keynote speaker. But we wanted to collect his insight and then ultimately syndicate this information and share it not just live with the audience that was there with the listeners off the fast forward main podcast after the event and again all the presentations. Everything is available free of charge. All you have to do is share your name so we know who you are. Enter your email address so we can inform you about the upcoming episodes. Here you have it. So if you're listening your financial brand marketing team member, you're on the sales team. You're on the leadership team. Yuri. You've got such a great story because you've brought together 450 individuals from around the state of Maine. Let me ask you, because I make similar recommendations for financial brands that I'm working with. How do you overcome the objections and roadblocks? Because I think that's a key part of the story to develop a platform like this that has an exponential factor for years to come. I think you know, it may sound a little bit philosophical. It's a good thing to do the right thing, but it's the right thing to do it good. So when you when you know that there is, uh, that there are no other agendas besides creating value and creating a community around one simple idea, as as the name says says fast forward main. So, you know, I believed in it as well as the people who committed to be a part of the fast forward main. I had to work with people that did not share my vision. I had to overcome the challenges off, you know, explaining what a podcast is to people that never listen to podcast and were...

...saying that they couldn't find it on their local radio channel. So there was a lot of education. But, you know, it makes it the process actually exciting. Because when you start when you when you're facing the objections and you're facing the challenges those people who are willing to persevere and and endure that, uh, the hardships off implementing change or nurturing change in somebody's, you know, perspective, that's rewarding in itself, you know, because ultimately you still get to do what you love to do. You still get to launch what you believe is the right thing. And, you know, honestly, we were going to do regardless if we would, you know, if we were going to be supported. Not. But at the end of the day, I have to say that, you know, I worked with very talented and forward thinking leaders who read the proposal, who saw the business case, who listened to podcasts and kind of like, I don't want to say that we're all on the same level because, you know their vision is 30,000, you know, foot view versus, you know, my kind of like a small Elaine. But, you know, we found the common ground. We decided to give it a shot and people were just We're just waiting to see what we can do with it. And we are going to be We're going to be recording. Well, we have 52 episodes, but way have 52 episodes for fast forward main. But we're gonna be recording a special 50th episode. Kind of like a half a millennial type of, you know, celebration. You know, half a century celebration. So, you know, we're excited about it. It z awesome. So I hear a couple of things. Number one. You had to help the unaware become aware of what the opportunities were in the first place. You had to give them clarity that this is a growth...

...opportunity. But number two, you had the support of the organization because it seems like purpose is essential theme of how you operate, how you believe as an organization, particularly through the lens of of this fast forward main program. I'd like to know where do you go from here? Because in the pre interview we were talking about like you're creating all of this content that is now being transferred to your loan officers, your business loan officer, your community development people to where they can share this and help to build their own personal platforms. So it's almost like a perpetual, evergreen like sustaining program that's just going to create more value them or that you do this. And the more that you get this content out to the people in the communities that you serve, you know, I don't want to go anywhere from where I am. I I found my place. I know my worth. I'm constantly working on polishing my skills and expanding my craft and the impact of my craft. You know, I think it's the most rewarding and, you know, very humbling thought to have when you know that it's not that I have arrived. So where I wanna be, But I'm doing exactly what I wanted to do. I love that I love that you're It's been such a good conversation. And I appreciate all the insides you shared about your own personal digital growth journey. Let me ask. You know, I'm listening. I'm a financial brand marketing team member. I'm on the sales team. I'm on leadership team. The world is very different. Post Cove in 19 and you've experienced a lot along the way. What is one thing? One practical idea insight action item that you could recommend for me to take over the next 12 months to focus on going forward. One thing that is going to be important for me is and I really hope you, you...

...know, you find some value in it is focusing on identifying open, complex, dynamic and network problems and finding solutions. So when you when you when you're when you're presented with the challenge like that, you start thinking about things like storytelling, design, thinking, empathy, mindfulness. So I can't just box it into a one thing. It's like, Hey, this is one thing. You know how the marketers do like, Oh, you know, the top five things that you must do. You know in order to increase your conversion optimization. Great. Right. So these are the elements that are going to be important for me for next 12 month, next 24 month, next five years, Because we are going to be faced with the new set off challenges. Knew that off expectations. And like we talked earlier when you presented me with this notion off the circle that is divided in for, you know, for parts, we have competition that, you know, we need to properly assess who is the competition and where we can be competitive technology. Are we on par with the customer expectations, or are we on par internally? Do we have the skills to operate the technology effectively and efficiently? Then you know, we're talking about, you know, consumer and customer behavior because you need to also remember that the expectations are shifting outside of your organization as well as the inside of your organization, and then ultimately, what the environment is going to present you. So how can you tackle those major four domains without expanding your horizons and practicing the skills and craft in the new way? So I love that four key recommendations for the listener design thinking, putting people at the center of all of your thinking, all of your doing You...

...mentioned storytelling because story content, if you will. It's what connects people together. Empathy e que. I believe in this digital world ISMM or important than I Q. And something that we're starting to study Here is a cue or the adaptability quotient, which really leads to the last point that you shared of mindfulness. Just being aware of what the opportunities in the future are looking for roadblocks that we can eliminate looking for value that we can create together as an organization but also as an example with the fast forward program looking at collaboration opportunities with other entities, organization brands within a financial brands community. You're a great conversation. If someone wants to connect with you to continue this discussion to continue this dialogue, what's the best way for them to reach out to you and say hello? Well, before I share my contact information? James Robert Absolutely. I'm a huge fan of the work you're doing. I'm a believer that you are on track to change financial institutions that engage with you, and I'm continuing to learn from your insights. I'm proud to call you my friend, my man trick person who inspires my work on daily basis. So thank you, brother. For those you know who who were still interested after hearing my story to connect with me, Hit me up on LinkedIn. You know, it's the fastest way to connect. My name is Yuri Nabokov. And you spell your e as why you are. Why, And Nabokov as a famous author. So, yeah, brush up on your literal skills and, uh, let's let's have some conversations. Hey, Yuri. Thanks for joining me so much. Seriously, thanks for joining me on another episode of Banking on Digital Growth Man. Awesome. Until next time be...

...well, do good and wash your hands. Technology has transformed our world, and digital has changed the way consumers shop for and buy financial services forever. Now, consumers make purchase decisions long before they walk into a branch if they walk into a branch at all. But your financial brand still wants to grow loans and deposits. We get it. Digital growth can feel confusing, frustrating and overwhelming for any financial brand marketing and sales leader. But it doesn't have thio because James Robert wrote the book that guides you every step of the way along your digital growth journey. Visit www dot digital growth dot com to get a preview of his best selling book, Banking on Digital Growth, or order a copy right Now for you and your team from Amazon. Inside you'll find a strategic marketing manifesto that was written to transform financial brands, and it is packed full of practical and proven insights you can start using today to confidently generate 10 times more loans and deposits. Now back to the show. Uh huh.

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