The banking industry is shifting into a new era thanks to disruptive forces such as fintech start-ups, and in response to new needs and expectations of emerging demographic groups, specifically millennials. This massive target group has come of age, but they want different things from a financial institution than their parents given that their life trajectories have moved away from the predictable car/marriage/house/kids paradigm. Financial institutions have attempted to keep pace with the introduction of “smart banking,” and the use of technology to address customer pain points, and these tools have now become the baseline in terms of customer expectations. In order to really stand above the competition, banks are going to need to dig deeper.
Many phrases are thrown around in an attempt to capture what needs to happen, and they often have relevance at a particular moment in time. “Smart banking” is such a term, and while we absolutely advocate for the use of technology in every industry, we also note that technology on its own is simply a tool. How you use it in conjunction with all the other consumer touchpoints is what has the potential to make an enormous difference, and here is where many financial institutions are getting lost.
Over the past 35 years, we have worked on numerous projects and applied various strategic approaches, but we keep coming back to a core belief we feel very strongly about: brands must build emotional connections with consumers. It starts with the brand position being communicated simply and powerfully, across every consumer touchpoint, creating an instant, lasting impression. From there it needs to resonate throughout the customer experience, whether a customer is making a payment through their mobile phone, addressing a customer service issue through a virtual banker, or sitting down in a bank manager’s office to apply for a small business loan. Technology has become a significant part of how we bank, but if it is not connected to this emotional journey, it is a missed opportunity.
An immersive customer experience is what we advocate, but even the phrase can sound daunting. The good news is that there are steps financial institutions can take to start the process of building this connection today. The first step is to address transactions, and in this regard North America can learn from China where they have adopted mobile technology that is superior to what we are currently using. The second step is to remove anxiety from the banking experience, and there are significant opportunities for banks to leverage technology in innovative ways both in the branch and online in this tier. The third phase is true immersion, which requires that banks reframe their relationship with customers and not only address their needs, but inspire them to reach for their dreams. We feel strongly that this new direction will be the way to success for financial institutions, as we are already seeing with clients who are embracing this philosophy. Banks can play critical roles in the lives of future generations if they are able to adapt, one step at a time.