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New JPMorgan Chase CMO has come a long way from telesales gig

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JP Morgan Chase CMO Leslie Gillin. | Photo by Ron Dubick

Leslie Gillin joined MBNA America in 1990 as a telemarketer to earn gas money during her senior year at the University of Delaware. She never imagined that 30 years later she’d become the chief marketing officer (CMO) at JPMorgan Chase, overseeing more than a dozen business-line CMOs and support teams in areas like performance marketing and data analytics across the the Chase brand, the JPMorgan Chase & Co. brand and the J.P. Morgan brand.

“I was an International Relations and Spanish major who wanted to be at the United Nations as an interpreter, so getting a full-time job as a telemarketing manager in Dover wasn’t quite my dream job,” she says. “But what’s interesting is I was always finding roles that were international in nature. I ran multicultural marketing, I was in Canada, I was in the UK, I ran Spain, Ireland. And I was the Global CMO at Citibank.”

Before taking on her new role in January, she was president of JPMorgan Chase’s Co-Brand business, overseeing the bank’s credit card relationships with high-profile companies like Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Disney, Starbucks, and Amazon Prime.

Gillin will divide her week between corporate headquarters in New York and Wilmington, where one-third of the company’s marketers work in the credit-card business. She sat down with DBT Editor Peter Osborne to talk about her new role.


You’ve been a senior marketer at different large financial institutions. What have you learned that will help you in this new role?

Brand and direct marketing matter as does knowing my numbers. I’ve had a mix of marketing roles and business roles. I also bring an understanding of how to align my goals with the lines of business and trying to figure out what are the most important things for us to prioritize. I’ve learned that you always start and end with the customer. A lot of times new products and new ideas come when people speak up and say they’re not happy about something. So, think of yourself as a customer. It all comes back to that, right? No matter what.

Your predecessor Kristin Lemkau (who now heads up JPMorgan Chase’s new U.S. wealth management division) says that data and marketing have replaced the traditional funnel. Do you agree?

The funnel’s been gone for a while. You can’t be successful at marketing without leveraging data today, and there’s so much of it. If you think about it, we have relationships with more than 61 million households. You can have all the data in the world, but if you don’t have all of the channels firing on all cylinders, delivery that’s enabling and customers who want to click through and actually read your content, then the data didn’t do anything for you. Data is a critical piece that enhances your ability to communicate crisply and in the right moment.

Is there a particular metric that you look at and say if we can improve that, we’re going to be more successful?

I would say top of wallet in the card space or primary bank in the consumer banking space, and then there’s mobile active engagement, which is more of a customer metric.

What I like about top of wallet and primary is it doesn’t matter what level of income you have. It’s all about who you go first. Which card do you pull out the most? Because everything else comes from that. The revenue will come, but it’s all about engagement. 

Primary bank’s great because it usually has the direct deposit included so you know that that’s the operating account. When somebody has a deposit account, it doesn’t mean that all their wealth is in that account. It could just be an operating account. That’s why you can’t just look at one metric. Beyond those engagement metrics – and those include the mobile active rate – then I think net promoter score and brand health.

What do you mean by brand health?

Awareness is super high, but just consideration, intent, favorability, looking at us versus the competition, and are they trending in the right direction.

How important is the customer experience in marketing financial products?

I think it’s paramount. You can’t even be a commodity today because customers can vote with their feet, and it’s so easy to find something new, different, that frankly… well, you can’t put lipstick on a pig. It’s not about advertising. Are you delivering a premium experience? When you have 62 million households, you want to make sure that they continue to experience you.

A lot of your experience is co-brand, affinity, portfolio acquisition, management experience. How’s that going to help you in this job?

I’ve been in the co-brand affinity space for more than 25 years. There are many times when people don’t have an affinity to a bank, but they have an affinity to an airline, a hotel, or something else. The power of the partnerships enables us to get closer to a customer and their passions and making sure we show up at the right moment. We can’t do everything on our own, and it’s up to the partnerships.

At MBNA you worked with an internal ad agency. Here, you’ve got Inner Circle. How has having an internal ad agency helped you be more efficient, and do you see other opportunities to bring functions in house that might now be out of house?

I think this is a perfect power of the AND, because you can’t get so insular. [At a bank,] you can’t possibly end up having the best agency talent because the best talent wants to work on different brands. But from a production perspective, there are certain pieces that make sense, right? I would never advocate bringing everything in house. It’s good to work with agencies that have a lot of different perspective not only in finserv but across verticals…but you can’t work with too many agencies. You need to be tight because it’s your voice, and if you have 100 agencies or 50 agencies, it makes it a lot more complicated. You need to have a master brand agency. If the people who are buying for you are looking at just a piece of data, then you’re never getting the full picture.

How are you managing the transition?

It’s a big listening tour, so I’m making sure during the first 90 days that I’m just taking it in and trying really hard not to form my own point of view too fast. I’m asking every line of business, every CMO and each operating function that supports the CMOs what their top two priorities are, and then spending a lot of time on the metrics and the trends.

What’s the skill set that you bring to the table that helps you manage a group with disparate goals like that?

Listening, but also being really disciplined and finding the common conversation and bringing people together. And [finding things] that investment bank CMOs can talk to credit card CMOs about. We all work for the same master brand and we’re all leveraging data sources. I have a good ability to bring people together and try and find the common threads, but I’m not a micromanager. They don’t need Leslie’s point of view every 50 seconds. So I would say it’s a combination of not micromanaging, listening intently, bringing all the right players to the table, and finding our common threads.

Is it going to be a challenge with this many lanes to make sure that the messaging is consistent but also reflects the individual needs of the organization?

A customer doesn’t look for all banking products at one time. Our credit cards or our banking products, a mortgage product, an auto product all need to show up on their own. You have to make sure that customers have a really crisp understanding of what we can bring to the table. If you don’t have a crisp voice or people can’t attribute all this good experience to a master brand because we’re not laddering up to a common communications platform, that gets tough.

What does success look like at the end of 2020? Is it a metric? Is it a feeling? Is it something else?

First of all, I don’t want to fix something that’s not broken. We’re doing well. I need to make sure I do no harm and listen a lot. Success in 2020 is having a real firm understanding of each of the line of business’ goals and objectives and for marketing to specifically articulate and align our goals on how we’re going to achieve those in the next three to five years, understanding what the customers of each customer segment are looking for. And then making sure our goals are super-aligned.

That feels a bit squishy. Is there something specific, a number that compares where you are versus where you were at the end of 2019? A home run, if you will.

I think we do a phenomenal job at understanding our return on investment. But there’s still 10% where we need crisp measurement. I want to make sure we can improve the ROI on 100% of our marketing spend.

Then I would say, we’re rolling out a marketing roadmap for omnichannel targeting across channels and to make sure we optimize that.

Finally, we have a tagline of “Make More of What’s Yours” that’s fairly new and we need to make sure we bring that to life through content, to tell the stories about these amazing individual products and the power of multiple relationships for the customer.

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1 Comment

  1. Susan Drejka February 28, 2020

    Congratulations Leslie……..those telesales days were the best……..we were a family !!!

    Reply

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