Recently we were pleased to welcome Jennifer Casanova, B2B marketing director for UMB Bank, to our office for a lunch ‘n’ learn discussion about effective agency-corporate collaboration. Following is a recap of that discussion, including career path highlights, how her background influences her work today, and key traits she looks for in an agency relationship.  

Background and Career path 

Jen Casanova                            Director of Marketing & Sponsorships

Jen was a fine arts major at University of Wisconsin-Madison before starting her career with Capital Newspapers in Madison as a graphic designer. She later moved to Milwaukee to take a design job with architecture firm Kahler Slater and then served as a designer and project director at THEIL Design, also in Milwaukee. Jen joined UMB Bank’s Fund Services division in 2012, starting as a marketing manager.  

During the past 11 years, she has steadily assumed more responsibilities and been consistently promoted, leading to her current position of B2B marketing director. In her newest role, Jen manages teams in both Milwaukee and at UMB’s headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. Her work spans a wide spectrum of marketing initiatives, including advertising, sponsorships, events, and sales support for UMB’s commercial and institutional banking businesses.  

Echoes of design 

When asked if Jen misses hands-on design work, she says she does—but has found a designer’s way of thinking highly relevant to her broader marketing work. “Thinking like a designer” requires close attention to format and structure to create the approach best suited to communicate critical ideas to the intended audience. She’s also highly attuned to the final fit and finish of any communication.  

Jen’s ability to zero in on what matters most also serves her well in internal communication. One of the items we talked about was internal reporting—naturally an ongoing focus in our agency setting—and the need to highlight what matters most … and find visual ways to do so. When asked how she uses data, Jen replied, “I use background data to speak the truth, but my job is to tell the story of the data.”  


This week we’re featuring interviews from an occasional speaker series we hold for Lowe Group associates (see Monday’s interview with Calamos Investments’ Chief Distribution Officer Bob Behan). Today’s interview is with B2B marketing director Jennifer Casanova for UMB Bank.  

Career advice  

“Do what you say you are going to do,” she said. “That feels basic, but it can’t be overstated how important it is to follow through. Become a reliable partner. Even if the task at hand doesn’t exactly fit within your role, take the opportunity to check the box for someone that you are someone they can trust.”  

Corporate-agency collaboration  

Given Jen’s background in both agency and corporate settings, we asked her thoughts on how we, as an agency, can best align our work with not only UMB’s but all our corporate partners’ needs.  

Here are some highlights she provided:  

  • Check in regularly about priorities. “Make sure you agree with the partner about what actually is the priority; secure alignment before you agree to take action.”  
  • Revisit plans. “Check in on the annual plan at least mid-year. Discuss what’s working and why.”  
  • Set the stage. “Know that subject-matter experts are coming into a meeting having been thinking about something completely different minutes before. Start a call or meeting by establishing ‘why we’re taking about the topic’ and ‘what’s the objective?’  

Setting the stage and expectations with SMEs and line-of-business leaders can help avoid their approaching Marketing with less than helpful ‘I have an idea’ suggestions that may already be captured in a plan. 

  • Ask for business updates. “Start meetings by asking ‘what’s new since we last talked?’ Don’t be tactical at the expense of being strategic. Give people an opportunity to share.”  
  • Bring the nuance. “In our institutional business, the focus is less about exposure for leaders and more about expertise and positioning on trends, regulations, what’s going on in the business. Understand your clients and what they view as meaningful to moving their business forward.” 
 “I use background data to speak the truth, but my job is to tell the story of the data.”

Selecting agencies 

“It’s difficult,” said Jen. She makes sure to focus on the practical … will the agency team deliver—not in a generic sense, but specifically “what is needed to fill the internal team’s gaps?”  

She shared her appreciation for agencies that are willing to start with a project—to make an impact—and then grow from there. Be aware that in corporate settings it can be hard to expand headcount, but budget for outsourced project-based work may be available.  

“Be willing to start small and grow the relationship. Partnership doesn’t always need to be about a big campaign. Do specific things well, and it leads to more and more—until you are indispensable.”