Emerge 2019: Three Days of Innovation, Plus a Name Change, in Scottsdale

Financial Health Network

Does the name Financial Health Network ring a bell?

Probably not, unless you were at last week’s Emerge conference in Scottsdale. But that’s likely to change soon.

Jennifer Tescher announced during the event that her organization, formerly known as the Center for Financial Services Innovation, will now be known as the Financial Health Network. Tescher, the president and CEO of the Financial Health Network, explained that the work the organization does will remain the same, notwithstanding the name change.

The only difference, she said, is that the Financial Health Network will have a larger array of partners to work with to improve financial services and innovations for consumers.

“We will continue to offer membership services to bring together everyone in the financial health ecosystem, spur partnerships and develop best practices,” said Tescher.

The name-change announcement was just one of the many highlights that took place during the three-day conference, which focused on technology, consumer trust and transparency within the financial sector.

Gaining Consumer Trust

Held at the Fairmont Princess Hotel in Scottsdale, Emerge took place May 14-16 and was attended by hundreds of innovators from the financial sector, all intent on answering one question: How do we instill trust in our consumers?

Less than 60 percent of Americans have trust in the financial services industry, making it difficult for banks to gain consumer confidence.

“Trust is paramount to success, and it must be earned,” said Tanya Ladha, a director at the Financial Health Network, during opening remarks.

“It must be gained through an authentic desire to listen to stories, to work alongside customers, to design solutions that empower communities and be honest when things go wrong.”

The event was made up of a hodgepodge of attendees, from financial behemoths like U.S. Bank, Prudential and Wells Fargo, to up-and-coming fintechs from around the country.

Stacy Opitz, marketing and communications director at Prepare and Prosper, emphasized the importance of trust in the industry, especially as it relates to Prepare and Prosper’s FAIR product.

“FAIR, our fair financial solution that we’ve built, is centered around trust, so it’s super exciting to hear trust being talked about at this conference and getting those different perspectives son it,” said Opitz. “How to build it, solve for it and what it means in financial services.”

“Finding Beauty in the Problem”

The conference touched on banking the young and the old, and doing both with the help of up-and-coming technology.

On one end of the spectrum, AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins spoke to longer life expectancies and what that means for the financial services industry. People are living longer and therefore marrying, going back to school and changing careers later in life. She said a ten-year-old child today has a 50 percent chance of living to 104.

“Because of this better health, we have opportunities for continued productivity and growth that generations before us never had,” she said. “…what if instead of saving for retirement, we thought about saving to enhance our financial resilience over our lives?”

While Jenkins discussed better serving an aging population, Apple Crider was part of a panel exploring Generation Z’s thoughts on finance.

Crider’s podcast, Young Smart Money, focuses on financial health for the younger generation. He says his audience is made up of mostly 18-24 year olds. He said Gen Z, comprised of those born in the late ‘90s and early aughts, wants to be able to trust their banks, and believe that they’re genuine about helping consumers.

His podcast provides a source of information that’s relatable, said Crider, who is a Gen Zer himself.

“I think it’s a lot easier to connect with someone who’s not an 80-year-old man in a suit in front of a green screen,” Crider said, evoking laughs from an audience that skewed much older than him.

At its core, Emerge looked to bring people together to help solve problems of financial insecurity, especially as income inequality has taken center stage across the country and the world.

On Tuesday, Sunrise Banks CEO David Reiling sat in as a panelist on a conversation involving the role of banks and financial institutions in creating financial wellness for its employees and consumers.

According to the Financial Health Network, less than 30 percent of Americans are financially healthy, but almost 80 percent of financial executives don’t think most Americans struggle with their finances.

Reiling said financial executives and banks need to engage with, and truly understand, the problems that their clients face in order to help solve them. The more you understand about your consumers, the easier it is to make positive change, he said.

“You have to find the beauty in the problem, the innovation in the problem,” said Reiling. “If you really understand the problem, the strategy (to fix it) becomes simple.”