Finopotamus‘ special edition celebrating Women’s History Month 2024!

In what is a recurring feature, Finopotamus spotlights innovative women who are positively impacting technology applications in the credit union industry, and beyond.

For this issue, Finopotamus visited with Pulsate’s CEO Sarah Martin. The Dublin, Ireland-based company offers a mobile-first, personalized member engagement platform designed to enable customers to optimize revenue and engagement through their digital channels with data-driven, personalized, localized and relevant mobile marketing communications.

By W.B. King

The problem-solving component of technology is the driving force behind Sarah Martin’s interest in fintech, but initially she had designs on a different career trajectory.

“As a female in Ireland graduating high school in 1996, I wanted to be an architect, but was dismissed by the nuns and directed towards a career in nursing or teaching,” Martin told Finopotamus. “There wasn’t much emphasis on technology, and it certainly wasn’t a career path geared towards women. So, I set out on a career in international marketing.”

After earning a master’s in marketing practice from the MDP Smurfit School of Business at University College Dublin, Martin began a five-year run at Unilever, where she served as its European marketing manager. She would go on to hold a number of senior positions in the marketing industry before having an “aha” tech moment.

“My initial interest in technology spawned when I first saw an iPhone,” she shared. “But truthfully, it’s not the technology itself that draws me in as much as the problems it solves, the opportunities it creates, and how small it can make the world by seamlessly connecting us with one another.”

During this period she also witnessed in real-time how the field of marketing was evolving due to other innovative technologies.

“Since my first job as brand manager for Unilever, I’ve witnessed the entire world of marketing transform from traditional marketing to personalized, one-to-one communications at scale, all on a screen we carry around in our pockets,” Martin said, adding related insights on fintechs and credit unions.

“From an ideological perspective, there has been an increased emphasis on creating products that are accessible to all credit unions to better serve their communities, not just the ‘big guys,’” she continued. “Across the industry, we are seeing a shared vision to create products that raise the impact of all credit unions and allow them to compete in the market.”

Entrepreneurial Spirit

In Martin’s view, the role of women in technology has increased significantly in recent years. “Some of the most innovative credit unions today are led by incredibly strong female leaders,” she said. “Each of them knows that digital is not just a strategy, but the future of the industry and what they are now.”

Before assuming the role of CEO at Pulsate in 2018, Martin was the founder and CEO of Mamabud, a market access platform that allowed companies to sell directly to Chinese consumers. This entrepreneurial spirit, she explained, is embedded deep within her DNA.

“I come from a family of travelers and explorers, with family on both sides sprawled across the world. My grandmother visited Africa every year for most of her adult life right up until her later years,” she noted. “These adventurer family members are what inspire me the most as an entrepreneur as I am driven much more by my own sense of adventure than any one role model.

Serving more than 270 community financial institutions, Pulsate supports 23 employees, 15 of which are tech facing. The Pulsate team, she explained, is continuously focused on investigating and embracing next generation technologies.

“The pandemic accelerated the prioritization and modernization of digital banking across the entire financial services landscape, with the biggest impact being the shift from traditional branch to mobile banking,” she said. “Today, only 10% of consumers prefer to bank at the branch as digital channels allow for far greater convenience especially for simple transactions.”

Whereas Martin said credit unions have diligently “spent large amounts of time, money and resources implementing a wide range of digital products and services to better serve their members,” many credit unions only achieved minimal adoption rates. This is due, in large part, to the member mindset—the credit union is not always “top of mind” when they are in need of certain financial services, she offered.

“This realization has led more and more credit unions to truly embrace digital transformation strategies with mobile channels at their core, winning greater share of mind and ultimately greater share of wallet,” Martin added.

To this end, the Pulsate team is following tech trends that that “seize the opportunities presented by the significant shift in consumer behavior towards digital banking,” she said. And what’s encouraging to her is that more and more credit unions are “increasingly leveraging solutions that create personalized and meaningful interactions.”

Credit unions adopting this digital-first member experience mindset differentiate themselves from other financial institutions, Martin shared.

“Mobile messaging presents unique opportunities for credit unions to maintain a level of high-touch, high-value, intimate communication as face-to-face interactions become much scarcer in banking,” she continued. “By keeping members informed and providing personalized offers based on their unique, individual needs, credit unions can establish deeper relationships with members, keeping them informed, while turning their ubiquitous smartphone into a new point of contact and, for many, the new preferred branch.”

Fintechs that share this philosophy standout in an otherwise crowded field, Martin said. This allows for the possibility of fortuitous, longstanding partnerships with like-minded credit unions.

“Finding the right partners to provide the right technology and approaches will be imperative,” she said. “By leveraging mobile-first engagement solutions, credit unions can ensure they are providing timely and relevant outreach to their members in their time of need, leading to those deeper relationships as well as positioning themselves as members’ primary institution.

Martin added: “This will be especially relevant in credit unions’ ongoing efforts to attract and retain deposits as they leverage data and their ability to have personalized engagement with members via the digital channels.”


Source: Finopotamus