“We, as bankers, need to educate and share ideas with our customers and make all payment technologies available to them.”
Elena Martin believes in finding ways to creatively use all resources. It’s a lesson she learned early from her Guatemalan father—who started working at 11 and didn’t stop until age 90—and has taken through to her work at Bar Harbor Bank & Trust.
She remembers, “He used to say, ‘No excuses. If you want to do it, just do it. Don’t find excuses, just find a way to do it.’”
Elena believes that finding a way to come up with creative solutions for what customers want is key. It’s best done by listening to Bar Harbor’s customers. “We need to offer the right services for our customers that meet their needs, but first we need to listen to what they want to accomplish,” she says.
NEACH recently chatted with Elena to learn more about upcoming developments in banking, the importance of educating customers, and even a little bit of gene theory.
NEACH: How did you get involved in financial services?
ELENA: It’s pretty much what I’ve done all my life. I came to the US from Guatemala in 1992. In1993, I started working at another financial institution. I worked for that institution for five years, and then transferred here. I started in operations as one of the team members in electronic banking and then moved on to a team leader and supervisory position.
NEACH: What do you think will be the biggest change in payments over the next three- to-five years?
ELENA: I think everything mobile is the next thing. We’re already there, with mobile wallets and other services consumers want all hooked up to their phones 24/7. They want it now, and they want it fast. They think their phones should handle everything and banks should provide all the needed security.
NEACH: What is the biggest payments opportunity for financial institutions and businesses?
ELENA: I think we need to be creative, while keeping regulation and security top priority. Creativity with technology and partnering with the right vendors is very important. Customers don’t want to hear what the limitations are; they want us to come up with something that will work for them.
Also, the information needs to be shared in a manner that’s not overwhelming: We need to put it in terms customers understand, so they can see the value of what we offer.
NEACH: What excites you most about the industry and your role in it?
ELENA: I think again, it’s technology. What is the next thing after mobile payments? Insert something in our fingers we carry with us all the time?
Every business out there is offering online, mobile coupons, discounts, tracking…there are so many advances in technology, creativity, and ways to engage customers to be in touch. All the connectivity is exciting. We need to meet customer needs and find something they can’t have anywhere else, and always back it up with good service.
NEACH: How do you participate with NEACH?
ELENA: When I call NEACH with an ACH question, they make it easy and explain it so well. They are really receptive and provide good answers. They are just there for you and help you out.
Also in the last two-to-three years, I’ve been involved with their education club: You purchase 10 of their training classes, schedule them, and have them on demand. It allows me to train my staff and other departments on many different topics.
Finally, I participate in their Members Corner, which offers emails with good questions and their answers. This provides great information.
NEACH: What was your favorite vacation?
ELENA: A few years ago, my husband and three kids went to Guatemala, my home country. I was able to show them where I grew up, enjoy the culture, and meet other family and friends.
NEACH: What is your favorite movie?
ELENA: Castaway. It’s the idea you have to be so resourceful and be in survival mode all the time, and need to focus on something to ground you and keep you from going crazy.
NEACH: Who has been your biggest role model? Why?
ELENA: It would have to be my dad; he always strove to get better. He didn’t finish his high school diploma; his father died and he had to help his mom with the kids. Not having an education was never a deterrent; he was always looking for a way to learn, get ahead, and help others. To me that is an impressive way of life, really starting from nothing to really accomplish great things in his career without having a title or a career per se. He got it on his own by working hard, reading books, taking classes on his own and doing it.
NEACH: What book are you currently reading?
ELENA: It’s called Evolving Ourselves. It’s a great book about genes and how we are changing our bodies, one gene at a time. We are seeing things today we didn’t see 10, 20, or 100 years ago. It’s very interesting all the things we’re changing at a molecular level.