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BAI Beacon 2018 Announces Prominent Featured Speaker Roster; Influencers from Tesla, Former Amazon Executive and More

CHICAGO, Sept. 6, 2018 – BAI announced its featured speakers for BAI Beacon 2018: JB Straubel, chief technical officer at Tesla Inc.; Luke Williams, founder of the W.R. Berkley Innovation Labs; Kat Cole, president and COO of FOCUS Brands; Dr. Andreas Weigend, founder of the Social Data Lab and former Amazon executive; and Tom Wujec, world-renowned expert on innovation and business visualization. BAI Beacon, a unique financial services conference designed to teach leaders how to tackle key challenges facing their organizations and learn new ways to leverage innovative ideas and solutions, takes place in Orlando, Fla., Oct. 9 – 11.

This year’s featured speakers will share perspectives from both inside and outside of the financial services industry. In a fireside chat, Straubel will share his personal lessons and successes using innovation to create technology-driven experiences for consumers and create high performing teams internally. In his role at Tesla, Straubel oversees the technical and engineering design of the vehicles. He is also responsible for new technology evaluation, research and development and systems validation testing.

Williams will share how new technology is forcing leaders to rethink the habits that have led to success in the past and challenge conventional wisdom. In addition to his position at the W.R. Berkley Innovation Labs, Williams is a professor of innovation at NYU’s Stern School of Business, the inventor of more than 30 U.S. patents and has designed more than 100 products. Notably, he is one of the world’s leading management thinkers on innovation strategy and leadership.

Cole will provide insights on driving change in a complex environment, leveraging a blend of physical and digital experiences, and engaging talent for long-term growth. At FOCUS Brands, Cole is the president and COO, North America, leading the six franchised restaurant and snack businesses and global channels division which includes consumer packaged goods, food service licensing, global licensed platforms and e-commerce. FOCUS, which owns Moe’s, Schlotzsky’s, Auntie Anne’s, Carvel, McAllister’s Deli, Seattle’s Best Coffee International and Cinnabon, is one of the world’s largest franchisors and licensors with over 5,000 locations of ice cream shops, bakeries, restaurants and cafés in the United States and 60 countries and over 30,000 points of retail product distribution.

Weigend will explain how key trends in data use, management and technology can help leaders make better, more effective decisions and how to use data to build trust with customers. As founder of the Social Data Lab, Weigend is an expert on big data, consumer behavior and social-mobile technologies, the combination of which he calls the Social Data Revolution. As the former chief scientist at Amazon, he helped create the company’s data strategy and culture of innovation. Weigend is also the author of Data for the People.

To close out the conference, Wujec will provide practical insights to help leaders take advantage of rapidly advancing technology to deliver better customer value, experiences, and achieve sustainable growth. As a leader in 3-D design, engineering and entertainment software, Wujec is recognized globally for helping leadership teams tackle tough industry challenges. He has brought several award-winning products to market and is the author and editor of five books.

“BAI Beacon’s five featured speakers are known for and excel in bringing innovation to life, influencing various industries and overseeing initiatives that have led to positive changes around the world,” said Holly Hughes, chief marketing officer of BAI. “Their unique insights and personal success stories will not only inspire, but help financial services leaders think differently about the challenges they are facing.”

In addition to the outside-industry perspectives, BAI Beacon also has a strong roster of financial services leaders who will share insights and best practices from various organizations, including Arlington Community Federal Credit Union, Bank of America, Capital One Financial, First Citizens National Bank, First Internet Bank, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and more.

To learn more about the 75 sessions and 150 speakers and register to attend the conference, visit

About BAI

As a nonprofit, independent organization, BAI delivers the financial services industry’s most actionable insights, enabling leaders to make smart business decisions every day. We’re passionate about the trusted information and powerful tools that provide leaders with the clarity and confidence needed to drive positive change and move the financial services industry forward. For more information, visit

For Further Information

Joelle Chiasson
William Mills Agency, Atlanta
[email protected]
+1 (678) 781-3074

Jennifer Divelbiss
BAI, Chicago
[email protected]
+1 (312) 683-2346