At work with Jim Marous

Jim Marous, co-publisher of The Financial Brand and owner/publisher of the Digital Banking Report, told Efma’s Boris Plantier about where, how and why he enjoys his work.

At work with Jim Marous

Please tell me a little about your background.

I am a career banker, having started my career as a management trainee right out of university. I spent 15 years at various large financial institutions, moving from retail banking teller to managing financial marketing organizations. After my extensive time as a retail banker, I moved ‘across the desk’ to work as a business development executive and strategist for several direct and digital marketing agencies, serving some of the largest financial services firms in the US and Canada. I worked in this capacity until I decided to become co-publisher for The Financial Brand, the second-largest financial services publication in the world, four and a half years ago. At about the same time I bought the Digital Banking Report, a subscription-based research publication. My goal with both publications is to provide the insight and strategies to disrupt complacency in retail banking.

What does your workplace look like?

I am fortunate enough to have worked out of my personal residence for more than 20 years, which has allowed me to watch my 20-year-old son grow from a baby to a young man and to spend time with my wife who is a retail industry executive. My office is a rather comfortable (messy) workspace, with a full audio and video podcast set-up, including a high-end mic with boom as well as video and lighting equipment. This supports my expanding communications capability from writing articles and reports to participating in webinars and producing content for the banking industry. While highly convenient, having a home office also contributes to long days and unique work schedules when deadlines approach.

Could you describe your usual working day?

I usually wake up before 6:00 AM to start the day early and to go through my email and social media channels to start the day fresh. I will schedule the majority of my Twitter content for the day first thing in the morning, building outgoing tweets to support the content on The Financial Brand and the Digital Banking Report. I will also visit a select group of influencers on Twitter, reading the content they have shared and sharing good external insights I believe my followers will like. While I will revisit Twitter and LinkedIn for short times during the day, most of this time will be when I am multi-tasking. I then will spend much of my day writing articles for The Financial Brand or as a contributor to Forbes as well as doing the research and analysis needed to support the Digital Banking Report.

Of course, this all assumes that I am not on the road, which occurs often as I do keynote presentations worldwide for the banking industry. In the past 12 months, I will have done just over 30 presentations from places ranging from New York City to Nairobi and Hong Kong. While I am blessed to be able to visit some of the most interesting places in the world, my work day usually starts the same way no matter where I wake up.

What is your favorite food?

Anyone who has met me probably could attest to the reality that there are few foods I don’t like, but I really enjoy having foods that are local to the many places I visit. In other words, I avoid having pizza in Africa or pasta in Hong Kong. At home, I love to grill out for my family or to go out for a great sushi dinner with my son.

What do you do when you need a break from work?

When at home, I try to take a long walk or catch up on news when I need a break. I also love sports, so going to a live sports event or watching one on TV is a compulsion, as is watching as many of my son’s college lacrosse games as possible. When on the road, I usually extend my trips beyond the event where I am speaking, allowing myself to spend time experiencing the amazing places I visit. Finally, I am fortunate since I love researching and writing about the banking industry. As a result, my breaks also include reading about the future of our industry either online or in books written by friends.

How do you build a successful team?

As an independent contractor and sole proprietor, I don’t have a traditional team to manage. I have spent the past several years, however, building a world-class team that includes a creative director, web developer, talent manager, direct sales executive and video producer. Just as importantly, I am fortunate to have one of the most talented networks of friends in the industry. These highly influential people span the globe and provide me support with their insight that extends far beyond my capabilities. Their mentoring and support have provided me with the foundation needed to expand my businesses.

There is a saying that we learn more from failure than success. Tell me about one of your failures and what you have learned from it.

Throughout my career, I have benefitted tremendously from every experience. While there have been relatively few ‘failures’ in the traditional sense, I have certainly had many ‘learning experiences’ along the road. A challenge I continue to have is around time management – I tend to take on or accept more than I should. This ranges from saying ‘yes’ to a request that came at the wrong time to accepting ‘just one more’ speaking opportunity. Being personally responsible for all my own content, when I overbook my schedule, one of my other commitments is impacted. As a result of this ongoing issue, I have made a commitment to extend overseas speaking engagements to provide ‘down time’ and am learning the ‘power of no’.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to succeed in financial services?

First of all, I believe the key to success in any industry is to continue to be both a student and a teacher. To ‘stay relevant’, it is imperative to keep educating yourself and to share your learnings with others to provide growth and spur new innovations. As I am sharing with people who attend my presentations, I feel it is also important to ‘embrace change, take risks and disrupt yourself’ on a personal and professional level. The biggest threat to most bankers is complacency and settling for the success that has been achieved in the past. In a world of continuous disruption, not accepting the change around us and not working towards disrupting what we will do in the future is a sure-fire road to failure.

Hopefully, my contributions to The Financial Brand, Forbes, the Digital Banking Report and my presentations for organizations worldwide will help financial services executives on their journey to ‘the next big thing’ in their career.

Jim Marous will present the 10th edition of the Efma Infosys Innovation in Retail Banking Report at the Efma Innovation Summit in Lisbon on 15-16 October. Book your seat now!

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