Editor’s Note: Brian Hoffman joined the Illinois Bankers Association in 2010, and managed its education and for-profit subsidiaries concurrently from 2012 to 2017, when he was named president of Illinois Bankers Business Services. In October 2022, Hoffman left IBBS to join Memphis-based Strategic Resource Management as its director of industry partnerships. BankBeat caught up with Hoffman at his home office in Springfield, Ill., where he talked by phone to Editor-at-large Jackie Hilgert about his career, the industry and his new role. The following has been edited for clarity.
Q: As president of Illinois Bankers Business Services, you launched BankTalentHQ, correct?
Brian Hoffman: I started that, as well as the idea, and it’s still taking off. We launched in January 2017 and when I left, we had almost 40 state banking associations as well as being the job board for the American Bankers Association. That was the exciting piece. The whole idea was to create a nationwide career center for banking, something that hadn’t really been created before.
Q: Tell us about Strategic Resource Management.
B.H.: We do contract negotiations for financial institutions and offer advisory services. Many of the negotiations are core contracts. Also card contracts, debit and credit cards. Really anywhere a bank spends money. We have benchmark pricing to be able to go in and negotiate those contracts on behalf of the financial institution, and bankers find it can save them money but also time. We work on a shared savings model, taking a percentage of savings. So if we don’t save a bank money, there’s no cost to the bank.
We have 88 employees, with 40 employees added in the last two years. It’s the largest company I’ve ever worked for, but at the same time, it’s still a small company.
Q: How is this new role a natural next step for your career?
B.H.: Before the IBA, I was at a bank for 10 years. Now I’m working for a vendor. So in essence, I’ve come full circle.
The company was really wanting to grow its banking side of the business. That’s why I got approached a little less than two years ago, because of my network. As director of industry partnerships, I manage the company’s relationships with banking associations and other referral partners. I also help out with our speakers, getting them plugged into associations.
Working remotely is new to me. At IBA I wore so many hats, with so many things going on. Here, I’ve been able to focus in this role, building those relationships between our salespeople and our referral partners. It’s gone very well.
Q: Managing the speaker side of the business must keep you abreast of the hottest topics in banking.
B.H.: When I started here a little over a year ago, it was really a lot of digital assets, cryptocurrency; we were doing a lot of talks about that and we do some advisory work in that area. And then when things happened last year [the failures of SVB and Signature Bank], that’s kind of gone by the wayside. Our team does a lot in artificial intelligence because that topic is really hot. Bankers want to learn about AI and how it can help their organizations. So that area is getting a lot of requests for speaking. Contract negotiation is always a hot topic, so is boosting non-interest income.
Q: Payments is a hot topic as well, and your company is actively educating through its Payments University.
B.H.: That’s something that had been on the to-do list for several years. We do a lot of payments contract negotiations and we really felt we needed to give back to our institutions and our customers just so that they had a better knowledge of how the payments and card industries work. We looked at payment sources. Were banks maximizing their networks? Were they looking at all of their incentives? Those types of things. It’s a great two-day overview of how the payments system works, and of course it’s all changing with FedNOW, and we cover that as well. We held the first one last fall and, based on feedback, we’re tweaking it for the next University to be held in the spring [April 30-May 2].
Q: You said you worked at a bank before joining the Illinois Bankers. How does that experience inform your work today?
B.H.: I understand banking. I can talk the talk. I can help some of our partners understand what the hot topics are.
I have my hands in all kinds of different education. I was kind of brought into IBA because the education team didn’t have a banker who understood what the topics were, trying to help with program development. I try to really bring that expertise and build that bond, to help the associations understand what contracts we can help with. A banker will negotiate a core contract one time in seven years. We’re doing multiple core contracts in a year. So we have years worth of data, but also the staff to get the best deal for a contract. So making the banker understand they can use us as a resource.
Q: Is your company involved in core conversions?
B.H.: Our goal is never to have the bank go through a conversion, just because it’s a long and painful process. But, if the bank has pain points, where they’re not getting levels of service that they need from their provider, we can help. There is a fee to do some of that work, but sometimes it is needed for the bank if they have a core that may not be supported anymore or they need to look into other ancillary services because the core is just not keeping up. We’ve really beefed up our core services area this year, with a couple of great hires so we’re able to do anything from RFPs to being involved in the implementation.