Why Customers Aren’t Asking for Your Financial Advice

One of the top five things people want from their banks is advice on how to better handle their money. But although banks offer such services, consumers, especially Millennials, are not actually asking for this advice. This CGI report puts banks at the bottom of the list people turn to for consultation when making a financial decision, with only seven percent coming to banks for advice. And yet, 55 percent of respondents in this Accenture study say they want financial advice and wealth building resources. See a gap here? We do too. The services are there, clients want it, but they’re still not buying.

We think it’s about perception. Millennials grew up amidst the financial crisis of 2008 and tend to view bank brands rather negatively. Although many of them bank with large institutions, they see the relationship as impersonal and transactional. Based on numerous research studies on Millennials and banking, Millennials feel a range of responses to banks, from indifferent to mistrusting to intimidated. We believe emotion drives decision making, even when it comes to money, and science backs this up. So if your customers don’t have a positive association towards your bank brand, it’s no wonder that they aren’t asking for your advice. On the other hand, if they were to feel understood, at ease, and cared for, the door would open.

Design can offer more than just a pretty backdrop for filling in loan applications. It can provide an emotional impact that speaks volumes before a customer even enters a branch. Right now most banks are behind, leaving the door open for challengers like Tangerine, which is hitting the sweet spot with consumers with their “You work hard for your money. Does your bank?” slogan, bright, unexpected brand color and ads like this one. Tangerine branches, (though there are few, since it is mainly an online bank), feel more like a Starbucks than a bank, and if approachable is the new buzzword, they are hitting the mark better than most of their competitors.

How can your bank break away from the cold, austere, Grinch-like stereotype that keeps clients from asking for services they want? Here are some design strategies that are working for banks right now:

Start a personal relationship online

Your landing page is often the first impression a customer has of your bank – yet so many financial institutions are missing the opportunity to create an emotional impact. Evocative images such as families caught mid-moment, engaging in everyday activities like Chrome Bank does on this simple but effective home page, or skylines or nature scenes of the locale if it is a regional bank like Chase Kenya, will create a landing page that feels personal and real. Add some simple calls to action and make it easy for customers to find what they want.

Remember that bright and light say youthful, open, and optimistic

No longer do banks have to play it safe when it comes to color. There are two color palette trends happening right now in bank design: first is to use natural materials such as wood and stone with neutral colours and one accent color. This creates a light, airy feeling. The second trend is to go bold. Red, purple, canary yellow, and lime green are all being used in exciting new bank designs, commanding attention and signalling a youthful, vibrant energy that challenges our conception of banks as old and stuffy institutions. To update a traditional color palette for an established bank, adding a new colour can change everything. We introduced white to CZ Bank’s predominantly red, black, and gold design, uplifting the conservative, traditional colors but still remaining recognizable.

Be open and transparent

Certain banking matters do require an element of privacy, but an entire branch broken up by cubicles and other physical barriers can make customers feel as though they are not allowed in. An open concept design can create a much less intimidating experience. Breaking down barriers between employees and customers by placing them at tables looking at tablets together, rather than behind counters, can help to build a more familiar relationship. Natural light, depending on the location, can also enhance this feeling of openness – for Regions Bank, we wanted to make as much use of the windows as possible to bring in the light and let customers feel that everything that goes on in the bank is out in the open.

Use a visual timeline rather than account spreadsheet

What if mobile banking apps felt like a social media feed rather than a spreadsheet? Some of the best new apps, like those profiled by the Financial Brand, take a holistic look at a customer’s banking activity with an intuitive timeline that is more visual than cerebral. Charts to monitor spending, suggestions for predictive budgeting, and easy financial goal setting based on the individual’s spending habits are all offerings that consumers expect and demand.

Improve your new positioning

There’s no point creating a new design and marketing material and hoping it will stick if you are still operating with a 15-year-old positioning statement. The industry has changed radically and banks need to change their focus. Creating a strong position that fits with a modern bank customer who wants advice, a personal approach, and to know that their bank does indeed, as Tangerine promises, work hard for their money, is not optional if banks want to command a space in the market.

As banks look to find growth, it will be critical to consider whether the customers you have now are comfortable enough to ask you the questions they’d like to ask. If banks can become more approachable through all their key touch points, the emotional impact will do more than bring new customers into your network – it will help the customers you have now to trust you with managing their money.