IIBN member Rory Griffith, VP Enterprise Payments Automation for Key Bank explains in an interview that KeyBank is a leading U.S. regional, retail, corporate and investment bank. We serve individuals in our communities, in addition to small to large enterprises and high growth to scaling technology companies by providing industry and market expertise, as well as bespoke products and solutions.

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What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

I work side by side with fellow payments advisers and senior bankers to advise and solve business problems, including the need to optimize finance departments. To do this, our team looks at the big picture and provokes discussion with clients on goals and challenges. We help clients understand what tools and capabilities are available in the market that fits their unique set of circumstances, particularly as it relates to elimination of inefficient manual processes and paper; including checks and invoices.

Our team bridges the functions traditionally serviced by consulting firms, technology companies and banks. Serving thousands of middle market companies enables KeyBank to develop hypotheses, challenge and question assumptions, and use data driven insights to help clients apply the necessary technology and solutions accordingly.

What are your biggest challenges?

Helping clients get out of their own way to enact positive change can be challenging. So many factors are at play that can hold them back. These include, embedded traditional business practices, the culture of organization or just day-to-day IT and process challenges. It is important to help clients understand early what innovation and automation will mean, and what it will entail for their PE firm/company, specific teams and their clients. Getting C-suite and management to agree where the business is currently and where they would like to be in one to five years is generally a good starting point.

How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

KeyBank does a great job of including all voices and points of view through many companywide forums, team collaboration opportunities and continuous learning. Leadership demands input and responsibility from all. This fosters motivation and a sense of ownership.

KeyBank’s leadership has also embraced investment and partnering with fintechs. This signifies an ambition and appetite for growth that both attracts talent and motivates existing employees simultaneously.

What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?

The ability to adapt quickly in a crisis like Covid-19 to solve for remote treasury department needs was a real example of a true test for the industry. Having work-from-home capability tools for finance departments when Covid-19 hit enabled KeyBank clients to adapt quickly and safely to business continuity mode. Today’s challenges mean that long-term planning may take a back seat for a while to helping clients adjust priorities and adapt. Helping to protect both the bank infrastructure and clients from fraud, staying on top of geopolitical events and monitoring affects of the climate change crises are other examples of challenges facing the banking industry.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

Automation and digitization are trends that are disrupting all industries, especially banking. Companies need to be progressive and innovative in their operations to stay competitive in both their local markets and the global marketplace. Digitization and automation must be part of their strategy. KeyBank can help fund, finance and implement proprietary solutions for our clients. KeyBank must also live and breathe these technologies and trends internally in order to partner or compete with fintechs.

Ever-evolving and smarter fraud strategies by bad actors are a constant force. KeyBank must play its part to support and help protect itself and our clients by working to mitigate fraud at every chance and future proofing as much as possible to help reduce risk. Partnering with market experts and enabling the latest in analytics, AI and ML capability is baseline.

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

I think our sector can make better strides to help the unbanked with the provision of secure banking, appropriate authentication and financial management education. Better banking and ID management could help integrate the less fortunate into society in more meaningful ways.

Are you finding any skills gaps in the market?

KeyBank is constantly competing with other banks and industries to hire for the future.

How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?

The industry, regulators and banks all learned a lot and made significant adjustments. KeyBank like others are certainly in a stronger position in terms of managing risk, capitalization and future proofing the bank. A greater emphasis on risk management and staying ahead of industry trends are some of the ways KeyBank has developed.

How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?

Brexit is one of the many international geopolitical events, developments and crises that I stay on top of from both a client perspective, as well as from a family and travel perspective. The businesses we bank need the support and best available information on what it means for them. Global businesses have had to adapt and develop alternative strategies, partners and markets quickly. Banks must be proactive and prepared to with the right structures and expertise in place to be that trusted adviser that clients need.

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

Success for me is achieving a reasonable balance, of which work and career is an important part. Without a sense of balance there can’t be success.  Sustainability, intellectual stimulation, challenging yourself, time for meaningful relationships, reflection and having past times are some of the contributing factors to achieving a reasonable balance.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

Work hard, do your homework, be humble, don’t be afraid to ask for help, work on something that interests you or that you would invest in yourself that has a potential market and solves a problem.

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

I think the vigor with which KeyBank’s leadership enacted its business continuity plans and hardship programs for our clients and my continuing small part in that is powerful. Our engagement with the market at this critical time has shown that our success depends fully on the success of our clients and everyone in the communities we serve. We have implemented a staggering number of solutions for our clients in the last couple of months that have helped them during this unprecedented time.

What’s next for your company?

KeyBank is determined to stay ahead of the curve on mobile, omni-channel, contactless and automation innovation. Small businesses and enterprises are increasingly demanding the same capability and frictionless user experiences available to them in personal banking and in their personal lives. KeyBank is also continuing to prove its worth as the bank of choice for innovative technology companies with unique needs and non-traditional growth trajectories. We continue to see these companies being underserved by top tier banks and are currently addressing this market actively.

What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2020?

2020 will continue to be a challenging year. KeyBank has however already won plaudits for its PPP loan performance with clients and non-clients. We are determined to do all we can to support all clients and get them back on the right track, emerge leaner, more efficient and competitive. KeyBank will also be ready to be the bank of choice for the companies of tomorrow to help them grow and scale successfully.

Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

KeyBank is focused right now is assisting clients to get through the current Covid-19 crises, by helping businesses survive and secure government assistance to stabilize their business. There are also businesses running supermarkets and retail food distribution that require new processes and technology to handle unforeseen growth and complexity. KeyBank is proving a strong partner for these businesses who need the security, transparency, paperless, smart workflows, compliance and liquidity management that automation brings.