Episode #38: Holly Glowaty

Episode 38

Not familiar with “branded currency?” Holly Glowaty has you covered.

Glowaty, the chief partnerships officer at Prizeout, speaks to why some consumers are choosing loyalty programs and gift cards over cash and where these products fit in the financial technology value chain. Glowaty also talks about her work as cofounder of the Women in Incentives Network and promoting inclusivity in the financial industry.

Holly Glowaty Profile Pic

Featured Guest: Holly Glowaty

Holly Glowaty is the Chief Partnerships Officer and a Co-Founder of Prizeout, an ad-tech company that utilizes gift cards to drive customer acquisition. Prior to Prizeout, Holly co-founded K+H Connection: a branded currency consulting firm, Flourish Conference & Media: a conference and media network focused on branded currency, and FinFoundHer: an initiative aimed at helping female-led businesses grow and gain access to funding.

Holly is passionate about moving the branded currency industry forward in new and interesting ways. She was named one of the 25 Most Influential People in Incentives by Incentive Magazine. She serves as an Advisor to LiftUp Enterprises, is a Founder of the Women in Incentives Network, a member of Chief and an active member of the Incentive Marketing Association and the Incentive Gift Card Council.

Becca Hoeft

As a marketing, public relations and corporate communications leader, Becca (only her mom calls her Rebecca) started her career in consulting and has been involved with six startups ranging from film, fashion, technology and food, with her first startup being a social enterprise importing leather fashion accessories made by single mothers in Nairobi, Kenya. Speaking across the country, she is known for leading award-winning teams and has received recognition from the Cannes Film Festival for Best Media Campaign, Hermes, MSPBJ Women in Business, and most recently, the Top Women in Communications awards. When the day is done, you’ll find Becca behind a good travel book planning her next adventure, plunking a tune on the piano or laughing with her blended family.

Bryan Toft

Bryan Toft is Sunrise Banks’ Chief Revenue Officer. In this position, Bryan oversees commercial banking/lending, treasury management, mortgage and fintech partnerships. He has been with Sunrise Banks for more than a decade. From 2014-2017, he served as president and CEO of Community Bank Owatonna.

Bryan has held a variety of roles at Sunrise Banks including credit analyst, commercial loan officer and EVP regional manager of commercial lending in Minneapolis.

Bryan received a B.S. in Computer Science from Buena Vista University and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas. He is a board member of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, Twin Cities Metro CDC and Charter School Property, Inc.

Featured Music

The American Indie


Listen Now

Episode Transcript


0:01 – Holly Glowaty

One of my favorite things about fintech over the last few years has been watching just all this technology where it’s really just more of an evolution of what we’ve already seen. You think about “buy now, pay later,” that wasn’t any new rails. They were using existing things. Or when you look at alternative lending, it’s literally just looking at the old ways we’ve done something, saying how do we repackage this? How do we make it more useful?

0:27 – Becca Hoeft

Welcome to the NextGen Banker Podcast, where we explore what’s next in banking and talk with the innovators responsible for creating positive change in the financial sector. I’m Becca Hoeft, Sunrise Bank’s chief brand officer. And I am here with my friend and colleague Bryan Toft, Sunrise Bank’s chief revenue officer. And I am so excited for our guest today Holly Glowaty to the podcast. Holly, thanks for coming on. I’m so excited to have you here today.

0:56 – Holly Glowaty

Thanks for having me. I think I’m equally excited to be here.

1:00 – Becca Hoeft

Woo. All right. Let’s get it going. But before we get started, just a reminder to stick around to hear our musical feature at the end of the episode each NextGen Banker episode showcases one new artist from somewhere around the globe, representing a wide range of different genres. So be sure to check it out.

1:19 – Bryan Toft

Now, let’s hear about Holly. She is the chief partnership officer and co-founder at Prizeout, a company we’ll hear about in a little bit Holly is an entrepreneur, cofounding consulting businesses, conferences, and more throughout her career in finance. And she’s also the co-founder of WIN, the Women and Incentives Network.

1:37 – Bryan Toft

So let’s get started with our first question. Holly, welcome. And we just heard a little bit about your background. You are in a very specific place in finance right now, at Prizeout. Was this the path you always thought you would take into finance? And if yes, what led you down this path?

1:58 – Holly Glowaty

Well, first of all, finance was a total surprise to literally everyone in my life, for me. You are talking to a theater major, so my parents were very relieved. Let’s put it that way. No, you know what. I took a job at a great marketing agency called Marketing Innovators. And I was told I’d be helping to do B2B marketing for JCPenney and Staples, and it turns out it was their gift card portfolios.

2:27 – Holly Glowaty

I ended up moving into sales for that. And in order to sell, it I had to learn the technology behind it because at that point– this was a little over I think 10 years ago– the payment rails were changing. Digital was happening for some brands, but not all, when it came to gift cards. So I remember having to dive in and learn all about payment rails, which you guys know. It’s alphabet soup. It’s just so many acronyms.

2:55 – Holly Glowaty

And I looked at it, and I was like, oh, this is a mess. There’s so much that could be done here. And I got so excited because I thought, wow, there’s a real problem to solve. I stayed in it ever since. I’ve been on the brand side. I’ve been at other startups. Like you said, had my own. And then that landed me here at Prizeout. And never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be a gift card or branded currency expert, but here we are.

3:25 – Becca Hoeft

Wow, Bryan, that sounds super familiar, doesn’t it?

3:29 – Bryan Toft

It definitely does.

3:29 – Becca Hoeft

This is a trend on this podcast. Bryan used–

3:33 – Holly Glowaty

I heard that from others when I listen.

3:36 – Becca Hoeft

Yeah. Bryan’s IT. I’m writing. Like boom, and somehow we waltz into finance. That’s super cool. Thanks for sharing, Holly.

3:45 – Bryan Toft

So Holly, I have to ask you, are you doing anything with the theater major anymore? Are you participating in any theater or anything?

3:53 – Holly Glowaty

Not a ton. We did have a shuffleboard competition in office where my coworker and I did do the National Anthem in two part harmony on kazoos so to kick it off. So there’s that.

4:10 – Bryan Toft

That could be a show, for sure.

4:12 – Becca Hoeft

But you’re a Prizeout. So for those that don’t know, can you tell us a little bit more about Prizeout and what you do?

4:20 – Holly Glowaty

Yeah. So what I love about Prizeout that is we’re this blend of fintech and adtech. So we actually started out in the online gaming and sports betting space. And now, we’ve moved into working with financial institutions.

4:35 – Holly Glowaty

So we started as a cash-out method, where, let’s say, you’d won $100 and you didn’t want to take it as ACH or wait three days for it to appear in your account. You can click Prizeout and we would show you a selection of 50 curated gift cards with bonus value on it. And on average, we show about a 12% bonus value. So instead of $100, you’d walk away with $112.

4:58 – Holly Glowaty

And so the fintech side of it really is in those payment rails. We set up APIs with processors, and point-of-sale solutions, and e-commerce platforms, you name it. There’s a lot going on in the infrastructure in the background. And then the adtech part comes in where we’re working with retailers to offer these bonus values.

5:19 – Holly Glowaty

So sometimes, it’s hyper-targeted. They can say, oh, we’re looking for someone in the Twin Cities and we’re a coffee shop that’s really only there. So we’ll only show that gift card to someone who’s in the Twin Cities and maybe hasn’t shopped with us before. So they’re able to get hyper-targeted.

5:35 – Holly Glowaty

And working in the gift card space, I’ve never seen anyone do that. Usually, it’s just that endless scroll of options, like 250 gift cards. And you’re like, where is the one I want? So being able to pop them to the top and make it really easy, it’s so interesting.

5:52 – Holly Glowaty

You don’t even see people scroll that far because they’re like, oh, I know that. I know that brand. That’s relevant to me. So it’s been really fun to take what was starting as a cash-out method and turning it into shopping portals for financial institutions or loyalty and reward programs, employee perks, earned wage access, things like that that it’s just been really, really fun to explore and learn about all these new places that I’ve really just never had the chance to work in before.

6:22 – Becca Hoeft

Really cool. So in preparation for today and this episode, I started digging out in the archives of Holly. And I was reading one of your medium posts and you talked about Starbucks. And you talked about how much you didn’t like their coffee, or you didn’t like it that much rather, yet you visited there three times a certain week because they had this card. And so it leads me to this next question about how these gift cards or cards are being used to help create that branded currency.

6:55 – Holly Glowaty

Oh, my goodness. I love this term, and I can’t say that I coined it. The wonderful Mark Boncheck and Gene Cornfield came up with it in 2013. And it’s funny because I reached out to Mark on a whim, I think, probably in like 2016 or something. And he goes, Holly, it was like being in the woods and all of a sudden hearing a voice because I was so excited about the term.

7:18 – Holly Glowaty

He and I got to know each other. And he spoke at our conference. And it was– I mean, he’s fantastic. He’s so smart. And so I love the idea that when you think gift card, it just keeps it so boxed. It’s just a gift right. That’s the only use case for it.

7:36 – Holly Glowaty

But one of my favorite things about fintech, over the last few years, has been watching just all this technology where it’s really just more of an evolution of what we’ve already seen. You think about “buy now, pay later,” that wasn’t any new rails. They were using existing things. Or when you look at alternative lending, it’s literally just looking at the old ways we’ve done something and saying, how do we repackage this? How do we make it more useful? Because the rails are there.

8:01 – Holly Glowaty

So if you think about branded currency as more than a gift card for the merchants– or gift card as more than just a gift card and branded currency, I should say, it gives the merchant more opportunities to pull in a customer, learn about them, lock in spend before they even know what they’re going to buy.

8:18 – Holly Glowaty

And then for an advertiser, you can provide more value to your merchant customers because you’re saying, look, yeah, you got 1,000 impressions in 20 clicks, but they actually did buy at the end of this. So for me, it’s just more exciting to be able to tie more to it, and make it do more, and really pull just that more use cases out of what sometimes becomes a stagnant product.

8:48 – Bryan Toft

Yeah, I like that term branding currency to be more inclusive or expansive than just gift cards. Maybe it’s not a gift. Maybe you obtained it because of a loyalty thing or something you earned at work from an incentive. You talked about the companies obviously providing these branded currency cards. Makes sense why they would want to do that, lock in that spend, like you said.

9:12 – Bryan Toft

On the flip side, the consumer side, why do you think that it’s so popular with the consumer to do that rather than cash or something else? And it does seem to be evolving that way, where it’s more common to obtain that card at a place that you really love, but why do you think that is and how do you see it evolving from here?

9:32 – Holly Glowaty

Yeah, we’ve seen a lot more of what we say is self-use. So people are buying for themselves more and more. We see that quite frequently on Prizeout just because we know people are claiming these gift cards within four hours, within– the average of 42 hours.

9:50 – Holly Glowaty

So it’s not like they’re giving it to someone else. That’s a really short window for a gift to be received. So we’re seeing people use that. And I think there’s a couple of reasons.

9:59 – Holly Glowaty

Number one, the immediacy of the funds is a really big deal. And we see that across all verticals. Number two, I think, depending upon which vertical you come from, if it’s more fun money or found money, I think people were very excited by the idea that, OK, I can get like $112 instead of $100. This is– they’re picturing what else they can buy.

10:22 – Holly Glowaty

But then number three is– and this is becoming for better or worse I think the strongest use case of all– is that I think people are trying to make their money go further right now. And I think with inflation, and gas prices, and things like that, our biggest requests are always for the essentials anymore. When we ask our customers, what else can we do for you so? Yeah, because, I mean, we have thousands of merchants, but there’s always more to go get, right? But it is heavily gas and grocery these days that are the main requests.

10:54 – Bryan Toft

Yeah, I can see that from a need standpoint and the inflation standpoint. And also, if you’re requesting cash or something, or you obtain cash, It’s like it goes into the rest of the cash, whereas if you have the card, it’s like, hey, I can maybe spend something for myself, if you’re looking to treat yourself or something. Is there anything in particular that got you interested in branded currency? And you know that term, you mentioned that you reached out to the founder of that term and had this moment. What interests you about it?

11:22 – Holly Glowaty

I think, for me, it’s a little bit of, I mean, some of the things I said already where I just think there’s so much opportunity.

11:28 – Holly Glowaty

And it’s not a huge shift in thinking, but I find that a lot of disruption is just that, a shift in thinking and getting people to say, oh, yeah, we’ve put this label on something. And it doesn’t have to always be that label. It doesn’t have to always be a gift. So I think there’s so many simple changes I can see that just make all the difference. Like,

11:55 – Holly Glowaty

I’ve seen some companies do some incredible things by using a gift card as the underpinning of an online order. So I could say, hey, Brian. I want to get you a pair of shoes, I don’t know what size. But it would say Holly got you shoes. And then you could go in and select the color and the size. The level of returns sink way down because you’ve selected the item. But they used gift card technology in the background to sort of hold the inventory, hold the value.

12:26 – Holly Glowaty

So things like that, I think are really interesting. So it allows for there to just be more creative use. So yeah. It’s also, I think, sometimes the unsung hero a little bit. I think a lot of people in gift cards don’t get the credit where credit is due for getting a lot of sales because some of it’s not really trackable. It is an anonymous currency. So I don’t think you always get– they get that recognition. So there’s a lot happening in the space that goes unsung. And I think there’s just limitless opportunity to really keep growing. I think we’ve only scratched the surface.

13:02 – Becca Hoeft

Well, Holly, I’m going to switch gears just a little bit here. And if anyone’s listening and they’re in FinTech, they know Holly Glowaty I mean, hands down. And what I love about Holly and what she’s done is that she’s really promoted women in FinTech. And Holly is the founder of Women in Incentives Network, as Brian mentioned.

13:29 – Becca Hoeft

But you’re part of other networking groups, Finfounder, FINEX, FinTech Women, et cetera. I would love to know, because you are an inspiration to me in so many others. How are you seeing women become more involved in finance or FinTech and in leadership roles? And what roles are you hoping they’ll play?

13:52 – Holly Glowaty

That’s a great question. I think when I first got started creating groups or even just like starting to do meetups, it was only because I would go to happy hours in Chicago and the room would be packed. It’d be like 200, 300 people. And I’m like, “Where are all the women I in this industry? Why is no one here?”

14:14 – Holly Glowaty

It’s not that they weren’t there, It’s just– so I started just asking, why don’t you ever show up to these things? And the answer was pretty simple. They were like, day care ends at 5:30, and I get charged for every five minutes my kid is still there. Or, my last train is at 6:00.

14:35 – Holly Glowaty

So I would just be there for 15 minutes, and then I’d have to, you know this is a very Chicago-centric use case right now– but it was just the time of day. So we started doing breakfasts and lunch, and maybe only– so we started just inviting people. And the first group was 20, and then it was 40, and then it was 200.

14:53 – Holly Glowaty

I think the big takeaway for me was that it’s not that women weren’t there, it’s that we had to change one small thing so that it was just more accessible for them to be part of these other conversations and parts of these groups. And so figuring that out, it became the theme for everything in FinTech for me. It’s always just these tiny changes that make all the difference.

15:19 – Holly Glowaty

And I think, when I look at what role I hope women will play, I think finance has to have a bit more empathy. FinTech has to have more empathy for the end user. And I do think a lot of women inherently bring that to the work that they do, is that empathy for who will be the end user of this product or this experience. And I think it can only make better products in the end.

15:47 – Becca Hoeft

I love that. Thank you for sharing.

15:49 – Holly Glowaty

Yeah, absolutely.

15:51 – Bryan Toft

We have one final question for you today. It’s a question we ask everyone on the podcast. And that is, what do you think the next gen Banker looks like?

15:59 – Holly Glowaty

Oh, you guys. I have been thinking about this. [LAUGHS]

16:03 – Becca Hoeft

Good. I want to know what you think.

16:05 – Holly Glowaty

Oh, man. OK. I think the next gen Banker, I think there is that level of empathy that has to be brought to everything. Because I think if we don’t, people will stop coming to their banks for questions that should be brought to the banks, right? I think if you don’t know if your bank can help you with financing for something, you might go to some sort of Alt lender or a neobank or something– you know what I mean?

16:37 – Holly Glowaty

I think empathy is going to play a big role in understanding a lot more about our finances. I also think they have to be educators. More and more– as I get older and older, I understand how much I don’t understand about my own finances. And I think the best thing we can do for any of our customers in the future is really educate them. And I think that will provide the most value, especially, living in the age that we live in now where information’s everywhere. So that’s what I landed on you guys, I have a lot of other ideas. [LAUGHS]

17:13 – Becca Hoeft

That’s good. And if you ever want to share them, let me know, let Brian know. We’re in on it. Holly, thank you so much for joining us today. And thank you for what you’re doing, not only for FinTech but for women in FinTech. As a female myself in the industry, I greatly appreciate and celebrate other women, like yourself, who are doing some really special things. We can’t wait to see what happens in the future with Prizeout and with you. Thanks to everyone for listening today to the NextGen Banker Podcast, and we’ll see you next time.

17:45 – [MUSIC]

17:48 – Becca Hoeft

For this episode’s musical feature, we’re showcasing The American Indie. The American Indie is a project created by Dylan Edmunds, a Nashvillan Ian who likes telling stories with his Telecaster in Ableton. Here is “Rendezvous” by the American Indie.

18:04 – [MUSIC]

18:57 – Becca Hoeft

That was “Rendezvous” by The American Indie. You can find more of American Indies music in Spotify. If you would like your music featured on the NextGen Baker podcast, just email David@nextgen-banker.com with a link to your music and website. Thanks for listening to the NextGen Baker podcast. We’ll see you next time.