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BlueVine’s new CMO Patrick Adams on the potential of getting SMB banking right

  • BlueVine has hired its first chief marketing officer.
  • Tearsheet talks to Patrick Adams, who most recently led PayPal's US marketing efforts.
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BlueVine’s new CMO Patrick Adams on the potential of getting SMB banking right

BlueVine’s roots are in digital lending to small businesses. Beginning with a factoring product, the company moved into lines of credit. And when PPP rolled out at the beginning of the pandemic, the company ended up helping 155,000 SMBs receive over $4.5 billion in assistance. As the company has matured, it’s also introduced business banking. 

Freshly appointed chief marketing officer, Patrick Adams joins us on the podcast today to talk about BlueVine’s trajectory into banking. Adams was most recently the head of US marketing at PayPal, after stints running marketing at Victoria’s Secret and BMG. He is juiced on the potential the firm has to go deeper into solving the pain points in SMB banking and we talk about his plans to grow and expand the business.

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The following excerpts were edited for clarity.

Bringing consumer experience to the new role

BlueVine's new marketing head, Patrick Adams feels like entering financial services is almost a homecoming for him. While he spent most of his career in entertainment and retail, Adams began his work life in retail banking at Chase. Part of that time, he was a product manager for business banking.

After Chase, he spent about 10 years at Bertelsmann, responsible for books, movies, and music, dozens of websites, and more than 8 million active subscribed members.

While at BMG, Adams was approached by Victoria's Secret, which was looking for someone who understood trends and how to migrate customers offline to online -- a lot of what he had done at BMG.

"It became apparent to me that I would love to spend time in retail," he said. "And it certainly was one of my personal goals to make sure I didn't spend all of my time in one vertical. And so the idea of going from financial services to entertainment to retail, I felt like it'd be great and challenging for me and my background."

After Victoria's Secret, PayPal approached Adams as it was transitioning from a merchant-first organization to include more focus on end customers. There was an opportunity to create a dual-sided network with merchants and consumers that would leverage new interactions. Patrick joined the payments firm and helped build the consumer franchise in North America.

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The new role of CMO

BlueVine's CMO role is a new one for the digital lender. The company is at a kind of pivotal moment in its lifecycle, according to Adams. The company's core business, which includes factoring and lines of credit for small businesses, has been growing at a fast clip -- doubling every year -- since launching in 2014.

About a year ago, BlueVine entered into small business banking to address the challenges of the 30 million small businesses in the U.S. When asked, only 10 percent of SMBs say they are being served well by their current financial services provider. "There's a real gap in service and product in what these SMB customers wanted," Adams said.

After a beta launch in 2019, BlueVine saw "rapid adoption" and "phenomenal growth" throughout the course of the year, according to Adams. The company plans to publish more data on its growth later this month, including the number of accounts it has opened for its small business clients.

PPP and the role of digital lending

As the pandemic spread, BlueVine was very active in helping distribute governmental assistance as part of the Paycheck Protection Program. In August, the company reported it had helped 155,000 SMBs receive over $4.5 billion of loans, saving almost 500,000 jobs.

"What really struck me the most is, the minute the pandemic hit, how the company, from a kind of all hands on deck perspective, pivoted completely to PPP," he said. "Everyone was in the mindset of servicing small businesses to get those loans out as quickly and as efficiently as they possibly could."

Objectives in the new role

Patrick is just three weeks into his new role as BlueVine CMO and he has a team he describes "really smart and scrappy". His focus out of the gate is definitely on the new banking side of the business.

"My real thrust will be connectivity, between BlueVine and the customer base -- really getting to know the small business customer, how they're experiencing our products and services today, and what they need from us in the future," he said.

Adams intends to create an interactive dialogue between the lender and and its clients to make sure BlueVine is giving them a great end to end experience.

In terms of new customer acquisition, expect to see the company expanding its marketing reach in different channels. Adams' background in traditional direct mail and digital marketing will likely mean BlueVine will focus on direct to customer digital acquisition.

"My philosophy is to meet customers where they are and acquire them via channels that they're most comfortable with. And so I do think that you'll see our methodology change and shift over time," he said.

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