The Customer Effect

How banks are adapting to a digital-first customer

  • The bank of the future will be more of a data-driven curated experience that will zero in on customer needs
  • As branches change and digital-only platforms grow, banks and financial startups are looking to new ways to grow a sense of community and trust among customers
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How banks are adapting to a digital-first customer

Google, Amazon and Uber have raised customer expectations, and they’re demanding the same level of service from other providers. Banks are rushing to innovate quickly while updating legacy technology and business processes. Meanwhile, financial startups are increasingly looking like banks, with branchless digital finance startups capturing market share and building loyalty with younger customers.

Questions around user experience, design and the relevance of brick-and-mortar branches were key themes discussed at Tearsheet’s Bank of the Future forum in New York on June 21. Here are five things we learned.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good
Understanding the customer is as much as about researching them as letting them try things and building their feedback into the product.

“Done is better than perfect — the notion of being perfect needs to go. Do something well enough to get in the hands of customers so they can react and give feedback,” said Matt Gromada, chief product owner for Finn, JPMorgan Chase’s digital banking product currently in beta.

Banking in the future will be data-driven and personalized, regardless of whether it’s digital-only or at a physical branch
Instead of focusing on one-time transactions, the bank of the future will provide an experience based on what it knows about the customer’s financial data. The challenge is to personalize the experience without being intrusive.

“We have a lot of [customer] data, but we don’t want to be creepy,” said Wesley Wright, chief operating officer at Varo Money.

When customers are dealing with something as personal as money, many want a human touch
As digital-only banking models become more common, customers still want the human element. For Purepoint Financial, community involves offering digital services but letting customers meet with bankers in a relaxed, open setting. For digital-only financial providers like MoneyLion, the notion of community comes through customers who vouch for their friends by recognizing positive financial behavior like paying down debt. Other digital financial providers like SoFi give customers ways to connect with each other to discuss tough financial situations, either in person or on Facebook discussion forums.

“On our Facebook community, some [posts] will talk about, ‘Hey, I’m going through a divorce and this is my financial situation,” said SoFi vp of design Faith Bollinger. “There’s a lot of feedback and emotional support and there’s always this positive and trusted element of [the] advice around this idea that [customers] share a similar value set.”

Digital banking platforms are becoming comprehensive bundles of services, in-house or with partners
Many fintech platforms that began as single-product offerings are increasingly adding products and services similar to what traditional banks offer — a “rebundling” of the bank, said BankMobile co-founder and chief strategy officer Luvleen Sidhu.

The challenge is to keep your product unique when other rivals are doing the same thing. As digital-only banks evolve, there will be greater differentiation in products and user experience, predicted N26 U.S. CEO Nicholas Kopp.

There’s a lot of talk about millennials, but it’s time to look at Gen Z
Financial services companies are trying to reach millennials, but these customers may start to emulate their parents as they get older, said Eric Byunn, partner at Centana Growth Partners. Banks should pay attention to digital-native Gen Z, whose lives will increasingly be shaped by new forces in finance like crypto and augmented reality, said Current CEO Stuart Sopp. Customers’ shopping habits will be increasingly affected by influencers, which will have follow-on effects in financial services.

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