Martha Bartlett Piland headshot

We had the pleasure of chatting with Banktastic CEO Martha Bartlett Piland about ways financial services can differentiate in a commoditized industry. We hope you’ll find this conversation to be as interesting as we do. 

Are banks and credit unions doing enough to remain relevant to millennials and Generation Z?

Many financial institutions are trying to shoehorn old ways of doing business to fit newer audiences. That won’t work long term because there are far too many competitors from all sides—and new competitors—reinventing the financial world. Not surprisingly, our National Millennial Advisory Board tells us millennials want easy digital access for everything but they also want personal relationships and the opportunity for face-to-face interactions.

The other thing we hear time and time again is that younger audiences are hungry for financial education and they’re not getting it through their banking relationships. In many institutions, this is an unfulfilled opportunity. Banks and credit unions can solidify relationships with younger customers if they answer this call with unique solutions.

What does the bank of the future look like? 

The bank of the future is a problem-solver that addresses customers’ individual needs. Technology is getting ever more accessible and affordable to institutions of all sizes. Harnessing this technology and using it to serve customers as individuals will build longtime relationships that benefit both customers and the institutions serving them.

We’re a big proponent of bankers rethinking product strategy as a way to get off the commodity hamster wheel. What role does product innovation have in modern retail banking? 

Fast local loan decisions and great customer service are not your brand. Those are table stakes. Product innovation—tied closely to the institution’s brand and purpose—is what differentiates a bank or credit union from its competitors. Innovation in products and services is the path to creating something unique and valuable. And that’s sticky!

What advice can you offer bank executives who want to think more creatively?

Look for inspiration in new places. Observe how customers interact with brands on social media, in entertainment venues, college campuses, and online. What do they want? How do they act? What are they talking about? Take your observations and then cross-pollinate: think about how you can apply what’s happening in other sectors to your work.

Don’t relegate innovation and problem-solving to the C-suite alone.

Martha Bartlett Piland

Also, don’t relegate innovation and problem-solving to the C-suite alone. Gather a diverse group of people from all departments and levels throughout your institution. Brainstorm with them, ask them for ideas, and be open-minded. Establish a culture of challengers instead of yes men. (For more information, read this Banktastic blog post devoted to this specific topic.)

What motivates you to succeed?

I don’t think about success as a destination. I approach my work as an ongoing challenge. When I’m working… when I’m creating, I’m succeeding.

When you’re not running Banktastic or writing a book, what do you do for fun? 

I’m a painter, yogi, avid live theatre fan, pianist, and traveler.


Martha Bartlett Piland is president & CEO of Banktastic, a firm that helps financial organizations build better ROI by aligning their internal and external brands. She’s a national speaker on branding, marketing, business development, and advertising. Martha has presented at more than 100 events and conferences, has served on three bank advisory boards, and is a regular contributor to ABA Bank Marketing Journal. 

Martha is also an inventor, author, and illustrator. Her second book, Beyond Sticky, is available online and at all major booksellers.