Caliber Q&A with Michelle Mead, Director

Our President, Grace Keith Rodriguez virtually sat down with Director, Michelle to dig more into her passion for fintech.

Grace: What is it about the fintech industry that initially caught your attention? What were the hottest trends in fintech when you entered the field?

Michelle: You don’t know what you don’t know. That sounds so cliche, but before entering the field, I didn’t pay much attention to all of the challenges that could be solved through fintech innovation. I didn’t realize how many gaps existed in the world of banking and payments — gaps that had an impact on me personally (thought of as “this is just how it is”), but also gaps that impacted the flow of money between businesses.

After being involved in the world of fintech for only a short while, my eyes began to open regarding the true impact technology could have on streamlining how business and people pay and get paid; how they save/build wealth, etc

Re: trends, I was still in the process of repaying my student loans when I first entered the field, so I was really fascinated by the growing trend around leveraging fintech solutions to minimize this type debt. I worked with a pretty cool company that was making a splash in this space using proprietary technology — technology that I had honestly wished my own firm would adopt so I myself could take advantage of paying down my student loan debt while building up my 401(k), for example. Best of both worlds!

Grace: Which do you think are the most surprising fintech advancements being forced by the pandemic? Will you share some of your client success stories?

Michelle: It’s been really interesting (though, not surprising) to watch the demand for digital banking capabilities increase and the impact this has had on the community banking sector. Community banks often lack the infrastructure, budgets and overall capability to innovate quickly. And, frankly, they haven’t really had to up until now because members of these institutions have grown comfortable with what their local bank offers (that is, based on feedback I’ve heard from my own circles). Trust has been established.

With banks having to shut their doors amid stay-at-home orders, there’s really been no other option but to transform. So it’s been interesting to see what cloud-based providers have been able to offer these smaller institutions to set them on the right path right now and in the future.

It’s also impressive to see the impact community banks have had on helping small businesses during this time through the processing of PPP loan applications without advanced tech.

Another interesting trend has been the explosion of buy now, pay later options. This paired with the emergence of alternative payment options like the ability to pay with points shows the demand for flexibility by consumers in how and where they make purchases.

Grace: Which sector(s) within fintech do you gravitate towards when you’re reading the morning news?

Michelle: I like to keep an eye on funding announcements; which companies are raising money, who’s going public, are there any commonalities between the companies? That helps to inform which trends and sectors to keep an eye on.

I also like to keep a pulse on headlines that are most relevant to my clients, so I’ll keep tabs on the competitive landscape to see which reporters we might reach out to next.

Grace: Any inside scoop on what you’re recommending to clients?

Michelle: Making inroads with virtual forums is important. We’re advising on the best options to make an impact as we move past the pandemic. For instance, we see value in alternative media to tell a company’s story – including podcasts or webinars. One key area is staying attune to industry events, of which many are virtual, and eventually being scheduled in-person (likely not until late 2021). The pandemic will have a long-term impact on event management as more companies start to shift to more intimate events as opposed to investing time and resources in large-scale in-person conferences. The big tent parties won’t go away, but you’ll probably see more virtual options in the future given how more people will be working from home. So we’re monitoring the changes through Event Analyzer – our proprietary event platform which helps keep our team apprised of the latest developments taking place in the fintech event scene.

Grace: What advice would you give to someone who’s just getting started in fintech PR? How could they best carve their career path at Caliber to keep diving deeper and deeper into the areas of fintech that jazz them most?

Michelle: The best advice I can give to someone who is just starting out is to absorb as much as possible from individual research but also from your account teams. It’s not just about learning the industry, it’s also about learning how to run accounts, how to interact with clients and how to collaborate with a team to ensure success.

The best way to learn, I’ve found, is by observing, mirroring what works and adapting when things don’t. Adaptability leads to gaining confidence, and the only way to do that is to dive right in: ask questions, trust your PR instincts and learn “by doing”. Caliber offers an environment for its employees to take the lead on projects — all it takes is a proactive and creative mindset, and you can advance as far as you’d like to go.

Caliber affords the opportunity for our team members to work on accounts and in industries that interest them most (of course, there are some limitations to this, as with any agency). But if someone is interested in payments, for example, we’ll try to give them opportunities to work on payments-related accounts. If an account is fully staffed, then we’ll try to rope them in on a new business pitch or an internal brainstorm for more exposure.

There’s a lot of opportunity to become a “specialist” in various aspects of fintech — all you have to do is communicate your interests, and the management team will work with you to make it happen. We want the team to be passionate about the work they do!