Creating a Genuine Brand, With Aaron Wollner of Quontic Bank

  • If you want to develop a brand voice and connect with a broader audience, it has to be authentic.
  • Great ideas are measured, in part, by how excited they get the people who are affected by them.
  • If something isn’t working, put your ego aside and recognize the problem. Then fix it. Constantly ask this one question: Is this working?

As the balance continues to shift from in-person banking to digital banking, financial institutions are struggling to maintain the traditional “personal touch” in the new all-digital world. This effort has to start with proper brand management.

Quontic Bank is an adaptive digital bank that is changing the narrative of traditional banking. It is innovative, digital-first, and customer-centric without sacrificing the personal touch. Aaron Wollner, Chief Marketing Officer at Quontic Bank, explained how they successfully convey their brand to consumers.

“We actually did an experiment,” he explained. “Looking back, it was a little dangerous. But we built the plane while we were flying in the air, which is not a great way to do things necessarily, and by that, I mean we created the brand guidelines, which established our identity, in our graphics, in our words, and in our personality, and all that good stuff while we were doing the .com redesign. So this was roughly a 10-month project, and during that time, we had intentional milestones where we’d piece together parts of the brand guidelines, and at the end of it, we came out with something that was just spot-on.”

Wollner said that Quontic made a conscious decision to be a bit playful in its branding. “It may be a little coy and maybe a little fun; it’s risky in my opinion because you could hit the market it could come off as goofy or unserious,” he noted. “At the end of the day, banking, lending – this is people’s money, and a lot of the times, that’s their livelihood, and trust is a major aspect of it. So it was a risk, in my opinion. That’s, broadly speaking, the journey that we went on to establish Quontic and our brand.

Quontic – From a Sleepy Community Bank to a National Digital Bank

Quontic began as a New York-based community bank over a decade ago, but today is a national digital bank with a full trophy case. Last year, Quontic won its most significant award – Forbes named it the best online bank. According to Wollner, their journey was difficult, and they had to undergo a digital transformation. 

“All these little things that we do, little emails, and advertisements, and communications, they add up to what really should be feeling, and that goes back to hitting the mark and having an authentic voice and image,” said Wollner. “That’s really worked well for us. But, just a few basic facts about Quontic. We’re FDIC, so the legitimate bank that is insured by the United States Treasury. We are also a CDFI, so a Community Development Financial Institution; the US Treasury gives that out to about 3% of banks in the country, and we’re one of them. So, what that means is we need to do roughly 60% of our loans to a predefined population. One way to think about that is underbanked. So, we’re primarily a mortgage lender and more than half of our loans are to underserved people who deserve to get a mortgage.”

Speaking about the national recognition Quontic has achieved, he added, “Not everybody knows who Quontic is, and that’s okay; we’re certainly not a household name by any stretch, but most folks out there know who Nerd Wallet is, or Bank Rate, or Forbes, and so there’s this power to that. And so, what they say about Quontic and our other competitors of ours in the online digital bank space, it’s crucial. And so, there are pros and cons when they do reviews. They do reviews on Quontic, and they do reviews on Quontic savings accounts, and checking accounts. We have a Bitcoin rewards account, we give out a free ring when you sign up with a checking card, that’s a wearable payments device, all this stuff that is our products that get reviewed by these pretty big brands and publishers out there. They do pros and cons, and so addressing those cons was like a very simple, practical way for us to clean house a little bit.”

Personalized Service at Every Touchpoint

The ideology of Quontic is being a digital bank with a heart and being able to do that at scale. According to Wollner, they included that ideology in digital transformation. About a month ago, they launched Glia, which applies conversational AI.

“Imagine you’re on; you see the bubble in the bottom, live chat, and, initially, you’re talking to AI, of course, because you can’t scale that first interaction piece; it just doesn’t make sense from a business standpoint,” he noted. “But very quickly, you’re passed through to one of our customer service people, and you have the option to go to video. And once you’re on video, you have the option to co-browse.”

Speaking more about Glia, he added, “Glia is a software provider specifically made for finance and fintech. So it just made a lot of sense, and it’s really been great for us, and it was obvious as we went into this concept, and bringing it to life and launching it, if you think about an obvious example of a digital bank with a heart, that’s it, the ability to see the person online, and have them help you and facilitate what you’re struggling with at that moment.”

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