Taking on the apps
Revolut, Simple, Wealthfront, Moven, Personal Capital, N26, Wealthsimple, Acorns, FutureAdvisor, SIGFIG, Chime, WiseBanyan, Simple, Mint, Hedgeable, Betterment – in the past decade the financial services market has opened up with the traditional, established giants joined by a host of new players in financial planning, budgeting, peer-to-peer payments, robo-advisors, and mobile-first platforms.
At the same time, big tech is moving into the category. Recent analysis of more than 20,000 banking and payments institutions across seven markets by Accenture revealed that 17% of players in the market have entered it since 2005. It concludes that this is posing a significant threat to existing financial services firms.
The threat is real, significant and imminent. How can big finance ready itself? It’s the question that big finance’s c-suite execs should be asking and it’s the question we started out with when
we recently audited the leading financial services brands. We discovered five substantial steps they can take right now to increase consumer engagement and start taking on the apps.
1: Leave fintech to do its thing
Fintech has presented a welcoming visual identity and a slick user interface. Just as 50 years ago you trusted your bank with its solid, imposing presence on main street, today you may choose to trust it because it looks like Uber, Instagram, Spotify.
However, while financial marketing would like to convince us that modern banking can be easy and time-saving, the fact remains that personal finance is still complex and difficult for most people to manage. Big finance has longevity, scale and gravitas. It needs to stop trying to replicate the look and feel of the apps, and instead find fresh ways to rebuild trust on its own terms.
2: It’s about the love
Money is a far more emotional issue for people than big finance appears to realise. An October 2018 study by the American Psychological Association highlighted that 81% of Gen Z (ages 18-21) and 41% of adults claim that personal debt is a leading source of stress.
Yet, most banks start conversations with people by deluging them with comparative data about their financial products. It often turns people off. While not removing the data, big finance should focus instead on the emotional side of the brand narrative through sharing, authentic customer stories and proof points of real impact in communities.
By establishing a differentiated brand voice that focuses on real people’s lives, not only on service differentiation, financial institutions can build long-term cross-generation brand affinity. Sharing personalised anecdotes and using language that describes an optimistic future are major contributing factors to building brand love.
3: Be interesting and useful
People are much more likely to engage with brands that reward them with useful information that they can put into practice and share with others in everyday life. Banks have no shortage of this information but need to find ways to share it with their customers.
They need to design systems that allow them to repurpose insights and facts into easily-shareable tips, infographics, visual stories, videos, and animations that drive engagement across all communication channels.
4: Reflect your audience
Mobile-first and digital banking relies on visual communication, but in most cases the photography and video used by these organisations is remarkably limited and uncreative. This is limiting financial brands’ ability to authentically attract diverse audiences with powerful narratives and emotions.
This is a meaningful opportunity for brands to consider how imagery can support different perspectives and stages of a client’s journey or help humanise an institution through a diversity of faces, opinions, and life stages.
5: Look beyond the visual
As one final insight, consider how strategic sonic branding can support a better brand experience across mobile, digital, phone, connected devices, and branches. There are huge opportunities to improve the customer experience, reduce friction and amplify brand love. Financial organisations are doing very little in this area and falling behind the advancements being made by other brands that span retail and digital touchpoints.
Time to act
This is not an issue for tomorrow; it is happening today. Fintech start-ups have shown what is possible and big tech is circling the opportunity. Look at Amazon starting to provide payment services and loans to merchants on its site. Facebook recently gained an electronic money license in Ireland. Last month Ant Financial, the Chinese financial services giant spun out of Alibaba, acquired London-based payments company WorldFirst.
At its core this is not a race for attention, but for trust. Last year, 45.3% of respondents to WEF’s Global Shapers Survey said they “disagree” with the statement that they trust banks to be fair and honest. Only 28 percent of the more than 30,000 millennials surveyed said they agree. For anyone working in those financial services firms that is a worrying statistic, and one they should take steps now to address.
By Alex Moulton, Chief Creative Officer, Trollbäck+Company