Five Questions With: Timothy J. Draper

Timothy J. Draper was recently promoted to senior vice president of marketing for Navigant Credit Union. Draper has more than 30 years of sales and marketing experience, including 22 years with Navigant. He earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and an MBA, both from Bryant University.

PBN: What does your new role with Navigant Credit Union entail?

DRAPER: As senior vice president of marketing, I am responsible for overseeing Navigant Credit Union’s overarching communications operations. That includes our efforts related to advertising, public relations, promotions, and also dips into our philanthropic activities across Rhode Island. I’m also proud to play a role in Navigant Credit Union’s long-term strategic planning and in the ongoing maintenance and operations of our new Navigant Credit Union Charitable Foundation.

I’ve spent the better part of my professional career at Navigant Credit Union. Seeing the credit union grow into what it is today has been incredible, and to have had the opportunity to play a part in that success has truly been an honor.

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PBN: What are your top three priorities for Navigant Credit Union in the coming year?

DRAPER: Obviously, the world has changed quite a bit since the COVID-19 crisis turned everything upside down. 2020 has been a tough year for business owners, families and individuals across the state. Our role as a lender and as a financial institution is to help customers navigate these uncertain times and keep their financial goals on track. If we had to pinpoint three specific priorities that will put Navigant Credit Union in a position to do that, I’d say:

  1. Strategic growth: Navigant Credit Union is fortunate to be in a strong enough financial position to make a difference for Rhode Islanders. Our goal is to continue growing our customer base across the state, specifically in areas like Kent and Washington counties, where we’ve recently expanded.
  2. Invest in technology: We understand our customers’ banking habits are changing – they started changing well before the pandemic came along. We have a responsibility to offer the mobile-banking tools and other on-the-go services they need. We’ll always believe in the importance of physical branch locations, but we’re also fully committed to ensuring Navigant Credit Union stays at the forefront of the industry when it comes to self-service and digital banking.
  3. Member experience: We are in somewhat of a commodity business. Finding those qualities that make us different than the rest of the industry is not easy. We have spent a great deal of time and energy researching the competitive landscape, asking our members what they thought of us and where we could improve. Then we took all the information and created a road map to improve how we deliver our brand of customer service. What I think surprises our members is we ask them for their opinion and then actually execute on what they suggest.

PBN: How has the pandemic impacted marketing and outreach, for Navigant specifically and financial institutions in general?

DRAPER: The most significant impact begins and ends with the rate at which things changed. Of course, the COVID-19 crisis didn’t “come out of nowhere,” but once it arrived, the situation developed incredibly rapidly. Between keeping up with new guidelines issued by the governor and public health officials, making changes to our in-branch hours and policies, and navigating the unveiling of statewide and federal financial relief programs, we needed to stay in touch with our customers and employees on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour basis.

It became apparent very early on that consistent, two-way communication – both internally and externally – would be vitally important. I don’t think we’ve ever sent out as many e-blasts as we have in the last few months, and I’m proud to say – or at least, I’m proud to think! – that our members and employees still haven’t gotten sick of us.

PBN: What has been the biggest challenge with marketing during the COVID-19 crisis?

DRAPER: The novelty of the situation. I know the word “unprecedented” has become something of a cliché at this point, but this crisis was, and still is, brand-new for all of us. As marketers, we had to completely rethink the way we do our jobs. In some ways, marketing decisions during the first month or so of the crisis were easier. We put a pause on any “promotional communications” and focused on providing our members with relevant information that they needed during these times.

But after it became clear that these “unprecedented times” were going to last for months, not weeks, we had more difficult decisions to make. Yes, the pandemic was the most important issue taking up the most real estate in our members’ minds … but, at the same time, we knew there were plenty of customers who wanted to open a new savings account, buy their first home, get approved for a car loan, or work toward starting a business. As their financial institution, we have an ongoing responsibility to find them and help them.

The challenge we faced, and the challenge I think a lot of marketers in other industries faced, was figuring out how to help our customers solve “normal problems” in a world in which nothing felt normal. I’m proud of what our team has been able to accomplish, but I have to say I’m very much looking forward to “precedented” times!

PBN: How has the rise of fintech and an increasingly crowded banking marketplace changed the way Navigant tries to advertise and attract new customers?

DRAPER: Increased competition, specifically the competition brought on by the rise of online-only financial institutions, is an incredibly significant challenge for our industry. At Navigant Credit Union, we’re navigating the challenge by leaning into it. We’re heavily invested in improving our suite of digital tools, and we’d comfortably put ourselves up against any other bank or credit union when it comes to the technology we offer. Our goal is to take the personalized, you-first experience that our members have grown to love over the years – and ensure it’s reflected on our digital platforms the same way it is in our branch locations.

From an advertising and marketing perspective, we’re investing more and more in digital-focused campaigns, which accomplish two goals: They drive prospective customers directly to our online tools, and they give our internal team an influx of data and metrics that we can use to better communicate in the future.

Nancy Lavin is a staff writer for PBN. Contact her at Lavin@PBN.com.

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