Kelly Coughlin is interviwed by Chris Carlson. Chris is a lawyer and actor in Minneapolis and applies his Socratic method to extract from Kelly what the heck he is doing with BankBosun.
Kelly Coughlin is CEO of BankBosun, a management consulting firm helping bank C-Level Officers navigate risk and discover reward. He is the host of the syndicated audio podcast, BankBosun.com. Kelly brings over 25 years of experience with companies like PWC, Lloyds Bank, and Merrill Lynch. On the podcast Kelly interviews key executives in the banking ecosystem to provide bank C-Suite officers, risk management, technology, and investment ideas and solutions to help them navigate risks and discover rewards. And now your host, Kelly Coughlin.
Kelly: Hi, this is Kelly Coughlin. I’ve got my long-time friend Chris Carlson on the line. He’s CEO of Narrative Pros. Chris, are you there?
Chris: I am.
Kelly: Great. How are you doing?
Chris: I’m pretty good. How about you?
Kelly: I’m terrific. Chris and I were catching up. We haven’t talked with each other in a while, and we were catching up on what’s going on. Chris had a bunch of questions about what we’re doing at the Bank Bosun, and we thought, “Well, let’s turn this into a podcast.” Rather than me talking to Chris about what I’m doing, he’s going to ask me some questions so it will help him and the audience better understand what we’ve got going on. Chris I’m going to turn it over to you.
Chris: All right. Well, I think first up on the order of business is letting everyone else know a little bit more about who you are. I’ve known you for a while, but why don’t you let people know a little bit more about yourself.
Kelly: I’m 58, 4 daughters, 4 granddaughters, and I don’t know if you knew this, I have one grandson. Finally a male in the family.
Chris: Oh, congratulations! Finally!
Kelly: CPA. Went to Gonzaga University. My uncle is Father Bernard J. Coughlin who is President. Go Barney! He’s 92 now, and I always give him a shout-out when given the opportunity. I also got my MBA from Babson. Let’s see, I worked for PWC when it was Coopers and Lybrand, and then Lloyd’s Bank, CEO of an investment and financial technology company that I founded, managed, and sold. I don’t if I’ve touched base with you since I’ve started working with Equias Alliance as a risk consultant. They do bank-owned life insurance (BOLI) and non-qualified plan programs for banks. I don’t think we’ve really touched base since I started with them.
Chris: No. It’s interesting.
Kelly: Yes, it is.
Chris: Speaking of which, explain to me this BankBosun. Am I saying that right? I take it it’s a nautical term.
Kelly: Yeah. Technically, it’s spelled B-O-S-U-N on the website, BankBosun, but Bosun is actually spelled B-O-A-T-S-W-A-I-N, like boat swain, but it’s pronounced Bosun.
Kelly: BankBosun, it’s a syndicated audio program, really, that’s designed to bring together executives all throughout the U.S. who are participating in what I call the bank ecosystem.
Chris: Wait. I’m not going to let off the hook here. What does a boatswain do?
Kelly: The captain of a ship needs help and guidance and support, so the boatswain helps the skipper, the captain of the ship, achieve its mission and purpose.
Chris: All right. Yeah, that’s a segue because I’m connecting the dots as we speak as I listen to you. BankBosun helps C-level execs in the way. Is that right?
Kelly: Yeah. That’s correct. We’re not dealing with ship captains. We’re dealing with bank officers, chief officers. It’s a clever play on the words C-officers, sea-level officers.
Chris: It is clever. It’s very punny. A lot of puns. That’s good though. It keeps the interest. I’m not going to let off the hook with the other fancy term which is banking ecosystem. An ecosystem, if I remember it, that’s like the jungle. Right? What do you mean by banking ecosystem?
Kelly: The jungle is one ecosystem, so technically it’s a biological community interacting within a set relationship among resources, habitats, and residents of the area. By this, I mean the residents of the banking community, so it’s all the residents of the banking community interacting among each other. The area is not defined as a physical definition like a pond or an ocean or a jungle. It’s defined as a business industry, and in this case, it’s the banking industry.
Chris: Sure. All right. What do they need? I mean, why them? I mean, given your background it makes sense.
Kelly: Why the banking ecosystem?
Chris: Yeah, why do they need particular help and why are you the one to help direct that assistance?
Kelly: Well, bankers are just fascinating, interesting people, aren’t they?
Chris: Yes, yes they are. They evidently need a lot of help.
Kelly: Well, I’ve been in the banking ecosystem, if we can keep using and then abusing and overusing that term, since I was 22. I started my career at Merrill in Seattle in the early 80’s selling mortgage-backed securities to the banks and credit unions. That was a good introduction to navigating this ecosystem. I would say that I learned a lot from that. Then I was consultant at PWC, and CEO of Lloyd’s at two asset management subsidiaries of Lloyd’s Bank, and then as a CEO of our financial technology company Global Bridge. Our primary market was banks, so I’ve been in this ecosystem, if you will, for many, many years, and I do find it interesting and fascinating. The 2008 crash, or melt down I should say, and several others that we’ve had in history, emphasize that banks are a foundation or bedrock of the economy. Frankly, they need all the help they can get. It’s good for the economy.
Chris: These bankers you’re trying to reach, I’m assuming you’re doing it through these podcasts and other high-tech, and you’re pretty comfortable that they’ll be able to get the help they need through that and not be put off by it? It’s a good way to reach them?
Kelly: Well, it’s certainly is not something that historically they’re used to and comfortable with. Historically it’s been print media, download reports, print them, stick them in your briefcase, read them when you can. Half the time you don’t read them, or if you do, you read them on the airplane and then chuck them. It’s not something that they’re used to right now, but I know as a CEO of a couple of companies in my past, that we pulled in so many different directions from different constituents whether it be board members or key customers or regulators, employees, suppliers, consultants, accountants, everybody is pulling at us and yanking at our time.
CEO’s, generally, and CFO’s, but C-level execs, they need to extract value from all these different sources of information efficiently and effectively. I really am a proponent of the multitasking concept, so the idea was, “Let’s give them some good information, bring together this ecosystem, give them some good information but in a way that they can do other things.”
Kelly: Frankly, we’re right in the middle of sporting season, football season and the World Series. I was actually down in Kansas City for the World Series. That was fun. The commercials are ridiculous in these sporting events especially football, so I figured out a way to multitask during these games. Certainly during football games you can read if you want, but also you can listen and learn too. CEO’s, you run your own company. You got a million things going on. Right? You’ve got to figure out a way to maximize the return off of that.
Chris: Absolutely. Yeah. You said earlier that you think that it’s a time when banks have a greater challenge than they’ve had in the past, and with your nautical-themed assistance, give me a sense of why now is a particularly challenging time for banks and how you’re going to be able to help us.
Kelly: Well, I like the nautical theme for the Bank Bosun. I’ve sailed for many years. I’ve lived in Seattle in the 80’s. To me skippering a boat was, where you have a lot of moving parts and people and weather and tides and currents and rocks and other boats to deal with and coast guard, the regulator, and it really served as a great metaphor for running a business, but especially a bank. I think any executive that’s been in charge of a boat knows exactly what I mean about that. When you’re out sailing in the Puget Sound or the ocean, you use whatever tools and information you can muster up to get you and your crew and your boat to the next point. There are no guide posts. There are no signs. You have to watch weather, currents, tides, all that kind of stuff. All of those principles apply to skippering a company, but especially a bank.
Chris: That makes sense. You sold me on the metaphor.
Chris: Tell me more about where you’re at right now and what the connection is with your Bank Bosun. Are they okay with this new gig? How do they relate?
Kelly: Well, Equias is in the bank-owned life insurance space. BOLI is the acronym for that. I came across Equias and the BOLI industry when I was working on a management consulting project. I didn’t know anything about the industry or the product at that time, but after I finished the engagement I thought, “Man, I need to get into this space,” because I love the asset class, if you will. Frankly, it’s an alternative investment for banks’ portfolios. Now, it has to be surrounded by insurance and you have to make sure that insurance is a key part of it, but at the end of the day, it’s a phenomenal asset class. It transfers balance sheet risk. You get a higher return than treasuries, than municipal bonds, and that sort of thing, but I really do like the asset class. Then it has some benefits for funding non-qualified plans.
The thing that I liked about it is it reminded me of my early Merrill Lynch days selling mortgage backed securities. At the time, mortgage backed securities were a new, innovative product. They had a few more moving parts involved, and it required me to simplify the value proposition. You really need to focus on the benefits, which everybody needs to do in any business. With any product, you’ve got to focus on the benefits. I always think of the line, “People don’t want a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” Now this is, at the end of the day, a life insurance product. I also love the line by Woody Allen, “I tried to commit suicide one day by inhaling next to an insurance salesman.” There’s always some inherent bias against that. My father sold insurance, and I told that to him when I was about 22 or something. He didn’t find it that funny actually. I find it funny.
Chris: It is funny. It’s a funny line.
Kelly: Yeah, it is.
Chris: It’s funny because the word inhaling is funny.
Kelly: You’re going to probably offend somebody.
Chris: Probably, but that’s not your target market.
Kelly: They’re my colleagues.
Chris: Your friends, as it were. Speaking of friends, I haven’t wished you, my friend, a Happy New Year. We’re about a year into it here, and you see all these lists coming out, top movies, top TV shows. Why don’t you give me the top three initiatives for, BOLI, or for the banking ecosystem?
Chris: Pick your field.
Kelly: Well, I certainly have three, but I’m not going to tell you two of them because I wouldn’t want to tip off our competitors onto what I’ve got up my proverbial sleeve.
Kelly: Stay tuned. News at 5.
Chris: That’s right.
Kelly: Let me hear your sales voice say that.
Chris: News at 5. Now it’s, News in 5 seconds. I asked you for the top three initiatives for 2016 and you said that you’ll give me one.
Kelly: I’ll give you one.
Chris: It’s called negotiating?
Kelly: The one that I’m intrigued by is a confluence of two things. One is cyber security risk.
Chris: All right.
Kelly: The other is risk transference of that risk. I want to explore whether it makes sense to pursue a captive insurance program for banks to underwrite cyber security risk. Setup a collective or a community to do that. I think it’s being mispriced now by insurance companies because they haven’t really identified the risk. They haven’t really identified how big the risk is, how to mitigate the risk, and then how to price it. Anytime you have unknowns like that, especially in insurance, you get over, mispricing, I should say. That’s something that intrigues me.
Chris: Yeah, it makes sense.
Kelly: Yeah. The other two I’m not going to tell you about.
Chris: Perfect! In the acting business, we call this dramatic tension, which you’ve done a good job of creating.
Chris: Well it sounds interesting. It’s good stuff.
We want to thank you for listening to the syndicated audio program, BankBosun.com The audio content is produced by Kelly Coughlin, Chief Executive Officer of BankBosun, LLC; and syndicated by Seth Greene, Market Domination LLC, with the help of Kevin Boyle.
Video content is produced by The Guildmaster Studio, Keenan Bobson Boyle. The voice introduction is me, Karim Kronfli. The program is hosted by Kelly Coughlin.
If you like this program, please tell us. If you don’t, please tell us how we can improve it. Now, some disclaimers