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TECHNOLOGY

How SunTrust’s CMO Is Using A.I. to Drive Digital Transformation (While Sparking Personal Change In 5 Million Customers’ Lives)

A.I. is changing SunTrust. And SunTrust is using A.I. to change its customers’ lives.

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BY John Koetsier - 27 Mar 2019

suntrust cmo ai

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

SunTrust is a purpose-driven organization that is seeking to spark financial confidence and competence in 5 million people. It's also a for-profit business that needs digital transformation to keep pace in the fast-paced fintech world.

That's why CMO Susan Johnson is using A.I.

Artificial intelligence is changing SunTrust from a bank into a tech company. It's boosting conversion lift up to 29 percent, and making SunTrust's segments 7.6 times more predictive of future account activity.

But it's also helping the company lead more customers into taking steps towards financial success. And the transformation that it's ushering in mirrors a transformation in Johnson's own life, years ago.

I spent some time with her to understand how.

John Koetsier: You say SunTrust has goals beyond financial. What do you mean?

Johnson: We're a purpose-driven company, and we've committed ourselves to help our customers reach financial confidence. We started the "onUp" movement two years ago, and today 4.4 million people have participated in the movement by taking a step to financial confidence: taking a class, doing a workshop, or downloading a calculator.

John Koetsier: How does this goal connect to your corporate digital transformation plans?

Johnson: It's very important for us to reach people through digital if we're going to give them the right advice at the right time. Technology empowers us to help people on their journey to financial confidence, and technology is helping us guide people through their journeys.

In addition, the Adobe Experience Cloud helps us focus our messages with people.

With A.I.--Adobe Sensei--we can dynamically create segments, find them on other sites, and target them. We can also use machine learning for real-time offers on our own sites.

It's been an incredible journey. We had a pretty sophisticated real-time offer engine set up by our quants and it worked pretty well, but six months ago, we turned machine learning on and saw significant lift. We also use A.I. for predictive analytics, and became four times more effective.

Banks are now tech companies, and our goal is to reach 5 million people in five years.

John Koetsier: Talk to me about the journey. When you're optimizing with A.I., you never stop improving, and businesses undergoing digital transformation never really arrive...you keep transforming, right?

Johnson: That's right...there's no end. We've learned a lot on this journey.

Two years ago, we had point solutions...that's evolved into a strategy, and we have a really powerful suite of tools.... We've evolved from point-solution silos to a more holistic strategy that works across our product lines instead of trying to solve a problem for our checking accounts, or mortgages, or another single product.

John Koetsier: We're really seeing the science side of marketing now, with A.I. and data-driven decisions. Did you come into marketing from the creative side or the engineering side?

Johnson: I'm an engineer by training. I was at Apple, and one of the leaders saw something in me that I didn't see in myself.

Marketing scared me, because you couldn't measure it. I never thought we'd be here, where technology and marketing are completely intertwined. Now with technology, we have some degree of certainty about what is happening and why.

John Koetsier: Thank you for your time!

 

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