Board Spotlight

Board Spotlight

We’re excited to highlight our board members, whose contributions and valuable insight and expertise make NEACH what it is today. Here board members share their insights on the payments industry, NEACH’s role in the industry, and how our exceptional board of directors are changing payments in the Northeast.

 

Benjamin Lannin

Vice President, Payments Risk Manager Avidia Bank

  • Established Avidia Bank was formed in 2007 by a merger between Hudson Savings Bank and Westborough Bank, both founded in 1869 and serving the community for over 150 years
  • Headquartered in Hudson, Mass.
  • Company size: 250 employees; $1.9B in assets
  • ACH ODFI, RDFI

As you see it, what is the biggest opportunity for financial institutions over the next three-to-five years? For businesses? What is the greatest challenge?

For financial institutions (FI), there are going to be opportunities. Customer expectations and needs have grown at a rapid rate, and the sophistication they have come to expect has gone through the roof.

Many years ago, customer needs with FIs were straightforward: They held accounts to hold money, or a loan to pay back. Now you have many different kinds of loans and payments—new types of multi-channel products and the complexities that go along with them. There are opportunities for banks to innovate and surpass expectations.

I think there are challenges in making sure the technology is the best to serve our needs, our customers’ needs, and making sure it’s the best we can offer. However, that technology also needs to be strong on the back end: Concerns such as processing, operations, accounting, and risk management. There are so many ways to use technology, you want to ensure you use it in the right way.

Incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and big data is another challenge. FIs have lots of data and the ability to process and make sense of that data. There are challenges in finding relationships between data points to notify us of issues and how to act upon that data. It’s both a challenge and an opportunity.

Keeping up with regulations is also a challenge. A lot of FIs struggle every time a major bill is passed, whether it’s at the state, federal, or local levels. One example is the cannabis industry—even though 2018 Farm Bill legislation helped to decriminalize the production of hemp, there are strict rules still regarding products and state laws that may not be in line with federal laws. That’s one area that can create confusion, but we can work to always make sure we have the best education, expertise, and resources to mitigate challenges.

 

Where do you predict the industry will be in five years? How can FIs prepare in a rapidly accelerating financial services environment?

I predict there will be a few major milestones for the payments industry.

First, the integration of real-time payments, through both RTP and the Fed, could revolutionize the way banks are able to move money quickly and safely. We went from a system for a payment taking 4-5 days to same-day and now effectively real-time to meet the demands of the industry.

Second, I think there will be developments in cryptocurrency, perhaps using different technologies like blockchain or smart contracts. I’m not one of those who predict Bitcoin will take over the dollar or anything like that, but I do think there will ultimately be a place for true cryptocurrency and technology like blockchain to be incorporated into the payments industry. FIs will need to understand the opportunity thoroughly, integrate the technology effectively, and manage the risk appropriately.

 

Why is it critical for C-level decision-makers to be actively engaged with NEACH and the work that it does?

I think it’s more critical than ever for C-level decision-makers to have the right information at their hands to make decisions. Many of them have been in the industry for a long time and are at the edge of rapid developments in payments. They have to make a decision which technologies they can engage with and what it means for their future. That information comes through education and participation, and NEACH provides those things to its members. Now is a great time for leaders looking to innovate to partner with an association like NEACH.

 

What other business topics keep you up at night?

Cybersecurity has to be number one on the list. Criminals are continuing to innovate and find better ways to attack. FIs have a large target on their backs because of the high reward; not only financial crime but also data or customer information breaches. Banks must be prepared to defend against increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks and security issues.

 

What does it mean to you personally and professionally to serve on NEACH’s Board of Directors? In addition to serving on the Board, how do you participate in NEACH?

Honestly, this is one of the biggest professional honors for me. I have been in the industry about 15 years and continue to learn a lot. I genuinely believe in NEACH’s mission and support it.

Even prior to becoming part of the board, I had participated in NEACH events such as in-person meetings and discussions and found them incredibly informative. It is great to meet different folks from the other banks that NEACH serves. I couldn’t attend NEACH Payments School this year, but plan to next year and will be encouraging my team to go as well.

I also participate in various NEACH surveys and make sure my team gets involved, too. Social media is a great way to promote posts and get the word out—you never know whose eye it’s going to catch.

 

Complete this sentence: Without NEACH, I (or my organization) would be:

Behind.

Having a local payments organization is extremely valuable. The connection we have with NEACH is incredible. There’s just something about having someone local in your area serving the industries we serve. It helps us keep up with trends and best practices.  

No matter what side of the payments equation you are on, I think there’s a fit with NEACH’s products and services. I have been thrilled to be part of NEACH and hope to serve a long time.

 

What excites you most about the industry and your role in it?

I think it has to be innovation. I have already seen our industry transform from simple ACH and credit cards to things like remote deposit capture and RTP and third-party payment processors—and the many challenges and opportunities that go along with them.

And now we have other things to think about, like digital wallets and crypto. I think It’s hard to think of an industry that has been revolutionized like payments has. Compare that to what our grandparents had—maybe cash and a savings account.

This constant change makes payments exciting. It’s what’s kept me in the payments industry for most of my professional career. It’s dynamic and innovative. Every day there’s something new. 

 

How do you keep learning and growing as an industry leader?

I am a self-proclaimed payments nerd and have always loved learning. There is something so exciting about taking something you don’t understand and then beginning to absorb it until it becomes second nature. Whether it’s learning from others, or classes or seminars or association meetings, I believe we can all benefit from learning as often and from as many people as we can. Growing and evolving is part of a healthy professional journey.

I think you need to have a passion for learning—you can’t be complacent with a certain knowledge and skill set.  Everyone learns in ways that are best for their goals, but for me, this goal has meant engaging in payments education on a regular basis, as well as starting an MBA program part time in the evenings.

 

Who has been your biggest role model and why?

I have had many; it’s hard to pick one. I have been fortunate that all my bosses have been tremendous leaders. They’ve helped guide me and give me tasks beyond my comfort zone and allowed me to thrive without being micromanaged.

On a personal note, I’d say my biggest role model is my wife. She’s gifted socially, caring, and ambitious. She volunteers at Toastmasters, a nonprofit supporting public speaking, and helps oversee a lot of its district clubs, all while working a full-time job in pharmaceutical compliance. She’s also going to graduate school for a combined MBA and master’s in business analytics and data science. She’s the most wonderful person I’ve met in my life, and I wouldn’t be who I am without her support.

 

What books are you currently reading?

I currently in the middle of The Compound Effect, by Darren Hardy. It’s about making changes in your personal life by doing little things differently every day which compound over time, making a difference in your personal and professional life.

I also just finished Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection, by Jia Jiang. The author did things to make himself feel rejection-proof by being rejected in so many things that it no longer fazed him, and he eventually learned how to cope with rejection and then learn to ask for what you want and achieve it.

 

 

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