The Quarterly Review

Quarterly Review: Laurel Road is drilling down on financial and educational offerings after a strategic pivot in the pandemic

  • Welcome to the first edition of our new series called the Quarterly Review, where we discuss what executives from some of the best brands in financial services are focusing on in this quarter.
  • In this edition, Alyssa Schaefer, General Manager and Chief Experience Officer at KeyBank’s digital brand Laurel Road, dives into Laurel Road's major pivot to focusing on developing new offerings and partnerships.
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Quarterly Review: Laurel Road is drilling down on financial and educational offerings after a strategic pivot in the pandemic

Notes from the desk: Hello and welcome to the first edition of our new series called the Quarterly Review, where I dive into what executives from some of the best brands in financial services are focusing on in this quarter, as well as why and how they are planning to achieve their goals. It’s a chance for the industry to learn about what goes on behind the four walls of an FI and how leadership manages their priorities.

But that’s not all: a review implies no mandates, a check in. So stay tuned to learn whether the executive achieves her plans and goals, turning theory to reality, in the next quarter.


Alyssa Schaefer wearing a white blouse and smiling at the camera.

In this edition we focus on Alyssa Schaefer,
General Manager
and
Chief Experience Officer at KeyBank’s
digital brand
Laurel Road. 

Laurel Road is KeyBank’s digital banking platform and brand, focused on students and healthcare professionals. The firm started out in 2013 and was acquired by KeyBank in 2019. In this edition, Schaefer dives into how Laurel Road is extending beyond its student loan refinancing roots to offer financial products to healthcare professionals and businesses, as well as expanding upon how this pivot is impacting their focus on building more financial and education offerings and partnerships in this quarter.


The focus

Financial and educational offerings: Heading into Q2, the Laurel Road team is focused on the further development of our business through financial and educational offerings. When we first started out, our business was primarily centered around student loan refinancing. Since 2013, we’ve been able to assist thousands of healthcare and business professionals refinance their student loans, more than $9 billion in federal and private student loans.

As the payment pause on federal student loans and high interest rates continued to impact the growth of the industry in 2023, we pivoted the business model accordingly. Our objective became growing through deposits – an unusual strategy for a business with a fintech lending heritage. To pivot the business model and create a more balanced plan, we worked to shift the marketing mix, developed new partnerships and revamped our message while remaining on-mission to our member base. 

This significant pivot resulted in a 15X growth in deposits in 9 months and a record year in household growth – in an intensely competitive environment.

Consistent with our strategy, we’ve continued to focus on the integration and growth of our student loan counseling services. GradFin – a digital platform and team of highly specialized student loan counselors, which offers guidance and auditing of the on federal student loan forgiveness programs like Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) – became a part of the Laurel Road team 2022, enabling us to expand our student loan offerings and provide essential support and guidance to borrowers amid an ever-changing environment.

Partnering with hospitals: In addition to expanding our counseling services, we are also focusing on our hospital partnership strategy. This new area of growth allows us to support healthcare employees. Our focus on hospitals and health systems came to fruition as we realized the challenges these organizations faced with talent attraction, retention, and employee burnout post-pandemic. In just under 12 months, Laurel Road for Hospitals has partnered with 8 hospitals and health systems across the US. 

Improving segmentation: Lastly, we remain focused on our sizable member base. We’ve recently refreshed our segmentation which allows us to better understand our members’ evolving needs while helping us implement strategies to serve them throughout their lifecycle.

Growing consumer banking for KeyBank: Beyond student loan offerings, we have the tools in place to continue growing consumer banking for KeyBank. As a digital banking platform and brand of KeyBank, we have leveraged solutions such as savings, checking, deposit and credit card to be agile in shifting rate environments and can quickly bring the products members want and need to market.

Plan of action

We’ve set the foundation to achieve these goals and continue to work towards creating and enhancing new products and services for our members. Our plan is broken down into four parts: Mission, Brand, Member Value, and Team. I believe we’re on track to achieve the goals under each section of the plan.

a) Mission:  Through our deep understanding of healthcare professionals and their unique set of challenges, we’re committed to taking action through personalized financial advice, tailored products and perks, and savings. 

b) Brand: Maintaining our brand and amplifying awareness to increase customer loyalty will continue to be carried out through our strategic partnerships with the largest and most reputable healthcare professional organizations in the country, such as the American Medical Association, American Dental Association and American Nurse Practitioners Association, to name a few.

c) Member Value: In order to maintain our focus on innovating and evolving for our member base, our team is devoted to finding successful ways to collect feedback from member advocates. Their feedback will help us develop strategies and future offerings that address ongoing issues they face, and enable us to provide them with helpful tools and services as they progress through their financial journey.

d) Team & Culture: Finally, to achieve these goals we remain focused on retaining and developing talent. At Laurel Road, we’re constantly developing programs that not only recognize our employees but provide growth and development opportunities for them as well with an acute focus on our culture and cultural pillars which are our identity.

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