March 24, 2021

Ryan MacDonald, CMO
Wholesale Payments

Looking back on 2020…

How did your actions during the COVID crisis change the perception of marketing among J.P. Morgan executives and your internal stakeholders?

Like a lot of large financial institutions, we, too, are very relationship-oriented and live in a sales-driven culture where bankers rule. And, like our peers, when we were thrown into the crisis, our sales teams were denied the in-person interactions to engage clients in one-on-one conversations. So, marketing stepped in with webinars to start talking about what clients needed to do during the Covid situation.

Next, we created thought-leadership messages focused on relevant topics, using social media to get the message out and our sales teams to convey the content to clients digitally (beyond email). All channels played an important role in the engagement process, but the shift also gave Sales an opportunity to engage in different ways and to have our clients engage with us differently. We found leadership teams asking us to do more of these activities, particularly when we created 360-degree market campaigns around our events and thought-leadership.

We became the primary channel to deliver key messages of resilience and how our innovations were helping clients. Those messages unified our story line in the market and among our sales teams. During that time, more and more executives recognized the value of digital marketing delivery in their markets.

What one thing are you most proud of that you and your team accomplished in 2020 that elevated that perception?

We moved quickly. Within 10 days of the lockdown, we had a webinar series up and ready to reach out to clients so our sales teams could engage them directly. It wasn’t just webinars, but campaigns around them. We surrounded the webinars with thought leadership. We hosted Q&A sessions before and after each session with our sales teams to ensure that we were all in sync. I’m proud of our team because they didn’t just get the series up and running fast, but they put great effort into doing it well. They really stepped up to pivot to new formats, learning the technology, new logistics, training our subject-matter experts quickly and getting the right content together. Their agility and ability to move quickly was impressive.

Putting it all together gave us a real opportunity to sharpen our image in the market. One thing that J.P. Morgan Chase does well is invest in its clients, technology and innovation. We don’t often get the credit in the market. So, 2020 really allowed us to sharpen our brand of innovation. In the transaction banking space, everyone is innovating. We ask ourselves "what brand of innovation do we have?'. Our job is to sharpen and refine our messages focusing on how we can transform the way our clients think about digital solutions and our ability to deploy innovations in practical and collaborative ways.

Thinking back, what is the biggest change you observed in your team’s behaviors in 2020?

It goes back to agility. It was amazing to watch how quickly our teams pivoted to adapt to new circumstances; a great lesson in how agility works well. You know, it’s hard when you have a day job and a whole set of other priorities and practices that tether you to old norms. When those constraints are removed, people move in the direction that makes the most sense. In our case, their moves weren’t just for them, but for our clients. Beside all the personal adjustments, we assumed the role of putting our arms around our clients to help them understand that we would operate as usual and that their business would continue to run smoothly in a new environment. It was our job to help them find new ways to do business in this new norm. The changes in behaviors to do that quickly and be in constant contact with clients was very impressive. I hope it continues as we come out of Covid.

The new year: 2021…
What will differ in your overall approach to marketing this year?

First, we have a much tighter alignment with our sales teams now. We earned their trust through our collaboration with them last year. Account-Based Marketing (ABM) will be big this year. The financial sector has really been late to the game with ABM, unlike the tech sector. We’ve dabbled in things that look like ABM, but we don’t really follow the discipline as we should. So, doubling down on ABM and collaborating with sales more tightly is a huge emphasis for our teams in 2021 and beyond.  

The second priority is continuing to deliver the message around our positioning. The position we took in 2020 is different than the one we’re delivering on in 2021 and will be different again for 2022 -- all because of the environment. How we tighten our message and deliver it across channels will continue to evolve. What we use to focus our editorial calendar and content production must be tightly woven into that strategic narrative.

Finally, the convergence of digital with the physical as we bring these two together seamlessly in a physical world. Our focus will be on figuring out how they work together, best use cases and best ways to deploy digital around physical components.

I believe that 2021 will be year of Hybrid Marketing. How would you define Hybrid Marketing, especially as it defines events and content?

I’ve changed the way I talk about this because hybrid assumes that things co-exist as opposed to being fully integrated. If you look at the consumer space, it’s all about omni-channel approaches and connected experiences. It’s important for us to look at it this way on the B2B side, because we haven’t really been good at the connection between digital and physical before. They lived as unique and distinct elements that were brought together when it made sense. But in reality, 2020 taught us that hybrid, the convergence of digital and physical, can be much more powerful.

When I think about what it looks like, I think about how we begin to take what we learned from a digital perspective and reintroduce physical in a way that’s complimentary. One thing we learned is that you can have richer experiences by being more inclusive with the individuals that you bring to the table for events. We also think that we will see some behavior shifts in our audiences. For example, senior audiences may be more reluctant to travel to physical events and may prefer more curated digital experiences. But we’ll also need to invest in and engage in the physical space for their staff who prefer the in-person experience. We still have a lot to learn, but, over a longer period of time, there will be a convergence of the digital and physical worlds that needs to work seamlessly. How digital works in a remote environment and how digital works in a physical environment will begin to come together; they will no longer be mutually exclusive. We can provide connected experiences through our event strategies and digital will help us pull that together.

What data (and insights) will you depend on to create your hybrid marketing mix?

Historically, physical events have not provided us with good quality data. So, recently, we’ve tried to do a better job at connecting those physical events back to the campaigns so we can better understand success rates. With digital events, there is real discipline around who we’re targeting in the sales pipeline and inserting signals that point us to attribution to sales and marketing pieces. We can now start to connect the dots as we move into more physical environments. Data must be the connection across all pieces. This convergence and connection of data will help us transform to being more data-driven throughout the lifecycle of marketing in the digital and physical world.

How can technology help you fill the gaps?
On the wholesale side we’ve been very slow and reluctant to make the necessary investments. On the consumer side, it is very much connected and more technologically advanced. We need to push the envelope more on the wholesale side and get our executive teams to trust that the faster we invest in technology to support sales, marketing and product, the faster we can see those investments pay back with more efficiency and effectiveness.    

Accountability: By what measure(s) will you account for success this year?

Our success will depend on how we change the image of J.P. Morgan in the market and among our clients. What that means is enhancing our already strong image for servicing and innovation. While we still have work to do there, we want to get credit for the story we’re telling. It’s a perceptual change that we will track to prove that the efforts we’re putting into the marketing are paying off.

In your opinion, what is your biggest challenge in proving marketing’s value?

Everything we do in marketing is designed to enable the sales teams to have more engaging conversation with clients and prospects and win new business. So our challenge is in how we track those efforts and their effectiveness in making the sales process more efficient. Our investment in data and technology is key to continuing to demonstrate marketing’s value. The hardest part of making these investments is staying focused and not getting blinded by the constant stream of new shiny objects around technology.


Why did you choose financial marketing as your career?

I don’t think I chose it; rather, it chose me. I started my career out of school and spent 6 years at a small financial services company in San Francisco. When I was looking to make a change, an old boss called me and offered me an opportunity to move back east. Frankly, I haven’t had a chance to leave since then. J.P. Morgan Chase continues to provide me with awesome challenges and new experiences. I’ve moved around the organization from acquisition marketing, then shifting to digital acquisition and product marketing on credit cards, ran brand and advertising for card products then moved into wholesale business. What’s interesting is that wholesale banking is a space that’s disrupting itself constantly. It’s an exciting place to be. So much of what’s happening in fintech and the start-up space is happening within wholesale payments. Experiencing the disruptions ourselves enables us to help our clients adapt their own business practices.

In your opinion, what is the one thing that you learned along the way that has contributed to your success as a marketer?

A marketer’s emphasis must be on the customer--this lesson from my consumer days. Understanding the client is step one. Not just what they tell you they need but digging underneath to figure out their true motivations. In wholesale, we don’t do that too well.  If you think about it, ultimately, we’re selling to people not businesses. Taking the client’s point of view allows you to see how they make decisions and how you can deliver better servicing maybe even at a higher price. We have to make sure that what we’re selling is more than just the product, services and the rails that we allow their payments to run on. What we invest in around the client – resiliency, servicing and value-added benefits – that’s what makes the difference. All that starts with the client and what motivates them to do business with you.

What is your biggest challenge in your role as leader of large marketing team?

Leading a team means managing your talent and making sure that it all fits together. It can be very complicated. People often think about goals and jobs as more finite than they are. You hire people with certain skill set for a job, and along the way you realize that they can stretch into other areas. You shape your organization around those skills. But sometimes you find that their skills are not as good as they think they are. Trying to convince them to do something else to leverage other strengths is difficult but rewarding when they find out their new direction. Shifting people into different places activates new and different muscles and skills.

Another challenge is keeping people motivated, especially in times like the last year. It’s hard to rally people around a common purpose if there isn’t one. Creating that common purpose, reinforcing it, and taking the time to recognize the work that people are doing makes your people feel like they’re part of a team and not just individual contributors. Giving people the right opportunities while managing the sensitivities of others on the team is a complex puzzle. I spend a lot of time on making sure I have the balance right.

When you coach younger marketers, what advice do you give them to advance their careers?

People often think…there’s something I should be doing, or job I should take, or a path I need to get on to do something else. The advice I often give is don’t define what you want to do in 5 to 10 years now. And, if anybody asks you about long-term goals, don’t answer! Rather, think about what really inspires you in your day-to-day. If you’re in a job that doesn’t get you really excited, then you’re probably in wrong job. 

Some early advice I got in my career was: don’t pick a job you want, pick someone in the organization that you aspire to be one day. Whose job do you want? Who’s doing things that align with your own interests. Then say it out loud and tell someone. When you say it out loud, it creates momentum for yourself that you wouldn’t have gotten if you kept it to yourself. Then, go talk to that person. Sometimes the path is curvy, and you may find that it’s not what you really wanted to do. That’s okay. You can adapt to something new. Have passion for what you do!

What career advice would you give to the younger Ryan?

Take action. There is a great quote I often refer to: “ideas without actions are just regrets.” Things that you regret most are never mistakes if you take action. If you never take action, you’ll always ask what it could have been. If you make a mistake, it’s ok; you’ll learn from it and the outcome will be better than not doing anything about it.

…More Words of Wisdom from Ryan

B2B financial is going through an awakening. Disrupting our business are technology players who have grown up in a much scrappier environment where marketing matters and creates the leverage for sales teams. Our large financial companies have been far too reliant on a sales-driven strategy. There’s an opportunity now for digital to disrupt a space itching to be disrupted. We’re seeing it in the tech space where large companies like Salesforce and IBM are integrating more digital tactics within their sales teams to get a more connected experience for customers. They’re providing buyers with more tools to explore their space, creating a buying environment. Their sales teams help to lead and facilitate as opposed to being so intent on trying to get in the door. Sales and marketing have to coexist and converge in the financial space as they have in so many other industries. This is our time to make that happen!

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