The Customer Effect

What Hurricane Matthew taught us about banks and fintechs

  • Hurricane Matthew was the perfect storm to show how upstarts and incumbents differ when it comes to customer care.
  • Unsurprisingly, the institutions that have been at the business longest came out ahead - by a long shot.
close

Email a Friend

What Hurricane Matthew taught us about banks and fintechs

When Hurricane Matthew swept through Haiti, the Bermudas, and finally up the East Coast, the results were devastating: at least 900 people died in Haiti, and another 33 people lost their lives to the storm in the U.S. Alongside the tragic certainty of these deaths lies the economic uncertainties churned up in the storm’s wake. Haiti is expected to face up to a decade of economic recovery, while Matthew may have cost North Carolina billions in losses.

Unlike other natural disasters, however, the U.S. knew about Hurricane Matthew well in advance, so it provided the perfect opportunity for banks and fintechs to prove their customer care mettle. “An approaching storm puts people in a position of vulnerability,” said Jon Picoult, founder & principal of Watermark Consulting, a U.S.-based customer experience advisory firm. “As such, it affords a great opportunity for companies to proactively communicate with their customers and demonstrate advocacy – be it by sharing relevant information, providing reassurance, or offering some other type of assistance during the customer’s time of need.”

Some national banks grasped the importance of connecting with their frightened customers, and did so (community banks in the affected areas aren’t being counted for the purpose of this article, although, as community banks do, they were very communicative and supportive regarding all things Matthew).

Witness USAA’s epistle to customers in Matthew’s path (full disclosure: I bank with USAA):
screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-11-26-28-am

With this message, the insurance, banking, and investment company serving military personnel, veterans, and their families effectively ticked off everything on Picoult’s list. It shared relevant information to help customers protect their property, it provided reassurance, and it offered three different paths of assistance: online, digital, and phone.

The company also sent out three tweets about hurricane safety precautions:

Obviously, the more customers took steps to protect their property, the less USAA would have to pay out in claims. Yet the fact remains that the way in which the company communicated with customers in need was timely and on the mark. Not to mention that USAA followed up, by email

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-11-24-59-am

and front and center on its website:

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-11-37-47-am

Like USAA, JPMorgan Chase also understood the importance of connecting with customers as Hurricane Matthew fast approached. “On Wednesday afternoon, we posted a Weather Update ad (see bottom right) on the front page of chase.com that was visible only to people with IP addresses in Florida,” said Chase’s Tom Kelly. “That took them directly to the Branch Locator, which the bank updates in real time.”

Chase kept the severe weather ad up for 6 days.
Chase kept the severe weather ad up for 6 days.

The JPMC’s retail arm also tweeted about branch openings after Matthew passed through, showing not just its customers but the world that Chase was concerned about its customers on the east coast.

 

What of fintechs? At the time of publication, Credit Karma, Wealthfront, Square, and Quicken Loan’s Rocket Mortgage had not responded to Tradestreaming’s request for a comment. But PayPal did. “We aren’t doing anything specific on Venmo,” said Andy Lutzky, vp at Edelman. However, “in an effort to support relief efforts, Xoom is waiving fees for all services through October 15.”

So although PayPal graciously eased remittances for storm-struck Haitians, it didn’t treat the hurricane as a customer care issue. The fact that one of the more popular P2P money transfer apps didn’t see the need to address Hurricane Matthew suggests that fintechs might not be quite caught up with banks when it comes to customer care.

Of course, to be fair to fintechs, part of the reason that national banks seem to have outperformed fintechs in the emergency customer care category during the hurricane is because banks have been at the business longer. “As we’re in early days of our on-demand insurance product, and currently only available in Australia, we don’t do any proactive messaging around natural disasters,” Jeff Berezny, vp of marketing and communications at online insurer Trov.

The company is at least thinking about how natural disasters and customer care intersect. “A broader, proactive plan related to prevention is in the works that could include content-related to natural disasters, but it has not yet been activated,” Berezny said.

This is not to say that every national bank was on top of their customer care game as Hurricane Matthew stampeded towards Florida and North Carolina, nor that every fintech company was oblivious of the storm. But the above examples suggest that fintech companies, whether they want to go it solo, partner with banks, or become banks, could take a page or two from banks’ trusty customer care books.

 

0 comments on “What Hurricane Matthew taught us about banks and fintechs”

The Customer Effect

The pandemic may be receding, but its effects on consumer banking aren’t

  • Covid has changed the consumer’s relationship with cash, savings, and digital banking.
  • It’s becoming increasingly likely that these changes will far outlive the pandemic.
Ismail Umar | August 18, 2021
Member Exclusive, The Customer Effect

Inside ‘climate fintech’: The fintech firms using carbon offsets to address climate change

  • Financial institutions are increasingly rallying around environmentally friendly initiatives.
  • Startups are turning towards carbon offsets to build a carbon-neutral future.
Rimal Farrukh | June 07, 2021
The Customer Effect

‘It’s the unifying login layer for commerce’: Bolt’s new SSO product eliminates the need for guest checkout in online shopping

  • SSO Commerce by Bolt enables smooth checkout for shoppers and higher conversion for retailers.
  • Consumers can open a store account and save their payment credentials in a single click at checkout.
Ismail Umar | May 20, 2021
Member Exclusive, The Customer Effect

‘What gets measured gets done’: The steps B2B fintechs are taking to improve customer success

  • It looks like B2B fintech is booming this year.
  • To stay in the game, B2B fintechs need to keep their customers happy. Here’s how they’re doing that.
Rivka Abramson | April 15, 2021
Member Exclusive, The Customer Effect

‘Like sneaker culture’: Are gimmicky debit cards overplayed or a smart business decision?

  • Revolut’s glow-in-the-dark debit card is the latest in a series of flashy debit cards to hit the market.
  • Experts say it’s a smart, cost-effective strategy that builds customers, brand equity and culture.
Shehzil Zahid | April 13, 2021
More Articles