KeyCorp vice chairman discusses the future of banking

September 2018

Jay Murdock

In a world of Venmo, PayPal, and online banking, it may seem that brick-and-mortar banking will be a thing of the past someday soon.

But KeyCorp vice chairman -- president of banking Chris Gorman told Farmer School students that he believes there will always be a place for people in the banking industry.

“When people are ready to make a big decision --- getting a student loan, buying a car, buying a house, retiring -- they want to sit down with a human being,” he explained. “So what you’ll see is many fewer branches, but what you can do in those branches will be constantly expanding.”

Gorman said a key component of any bank’s or business’ success is being distinctive. “The way we are distinctive to our three million retail customers is through financial wellness. What we’re trying is to do financial planning for all of our customers,” he said. “Really understanding what our clients are trying to achieve and understanding what their goals are is a unique space that we’ve carved out in the form of financial wellness.”

He also weighed in on several currently hot topics in the business world:

Financial technology: “There is no question that fintechs are forever changing the financial landscape … We want to partner with and invest in fintechs that can make our client experience better.”

Cybersecurity and information security: “What we as an industry need to do is really rethink the notion of authentication. All of these passwords that are floating out there … We’re in the trust business, and it’s our job to protect you. We spend more money and time on cybersecurity than we do anything else.”

Peer-to-peer lending: “I think we have to pay really, really close attention. I think it will be very interesting when we go through the first downturn. If I’m lending you money at 10 percent interest, but you can’t pay me back, that’s not a great deal.”

Gorman, a 1983 Farmer School finance graduate, said that students seeking success in banking can do a few things to help themselves, starting with being able to work well with others. “Life is a team sport. No one has all the answers. So the ability to work well as a team and get the best out of everyone on the team is really, really important,” he pointed out. “The thing about business is, you don’t have to have the answers. You just have to know who does.”

Gorman noted that another trait of successful people is having intellectual curiosity. “Whenever you see a certain transaction, or see someone make a strategic pivot, I think a good question to ask is, ‘Why are they doing that? Who else would think of doing that? How do they think they can get an edge?’”

“Another area where I think Farmer students have a huge advantage- when you get out into the world and are competing for jobs, a lot of the people you’re competing with haven’t had the benefit of being exposed to accounting and finance,” Gorman said. “Business is about the creation of value, value is measured in money, so I think understanding finance is really important.”

He noted that by being at the Farmer School, students have a great opportunity to learn and to be ready to work in the real world.

“We recruit everywhere, but as we evaluate the people who are starting with us, we rank people from Miami at the very top of the class,” Gorman said. “As Farmer School graduates, you’ll be very attractive to everyone in the financial services business.”

Watch Chris Gorman's speech