Getting ahead of the game in banking
My last article, “Kids are banking’s future” was not about providing child friendly banking services, it focused on understanding how kids engage with technology and that most of that interaction is through gaming. Game developers are well ahead of banks in understanding behavioural science and how to use this to drive player engagement.
The goal therefore is not to create a banking interface that is fun to use, that has colourful branding and animated characters, but to understand and motivate better banking engagement.
Games must have “goals” and for banking this has to be more than “make it easy to do banking”. Other goals banks could have are: “educate the user”, “help achieve financial goals”, “optimise their money management to avoid fees”. We are not all driven by the same set of “goals”, so the banking platform needs to support a broad range. With such a range, the next job of the platform is to understand the goals of the user and how they prefer to manage them effectively. This is creating a gaming user profile. Some people are organised about their finances, some have to live “paycheck to paycheck”, some live for today and spend what they can until the next paycheck, others save for bigger goals.
Understanding a person’s behaviour and motivations are key to personalising the game as this is what drives engagement and loyalty. In banking “winning” could come in many forms: being at the top of a leader board for reaching savings goals, attaining recognition for quizzes on financial products/management, being adept at not paying penalty fees etc. Rewards are also a key feature and these can be intrinsic, such as leader boards and badges, or extrinsic, such as money off coupons, enhanced financial products, or reduced fees.
So, what are the key elements of a gamifications platform? The first key part is the developer portal to create games. Typically, a gaming platform will provide application programming interfaces (API) access to the gaming system, so that gaming features can be built into apps. Initially the focus will be on mobile and internet apps, but increasingly, I can see that chat/voice assistants will adopt gamification. Of course, a developer portal not only provides documentation, training and support, but it also provides a sandbox environment and development tools to build and test the gaming features.
Next the runtime needs to have the following key elements: identity and user profiling, sensors, gaming (engagement) engine, social media integration, content management and data/analytics/machine learning platform.
Identity can be tied to a bank’s existing user management solution and a new grouping capability would be required for creating teams (by the user or by the bank). The key capability here is the ability to store user profiles such as player motivation (likes to win, wants popularity, is an investment maven etc.). Part of the game design is to “test and learn” what the user is motivated by. For example, if the user doesn’t get involved in quizzes or participate in forums to answer other users questions, they are less likely to have a maven profile.
Sensors can be channels (internet/mobile/chat banking), internal systems or external systems/data. Initially banks may focus on a single channel but overtime a more omnichannel approach should be taken. Essentially, these generate events that the gaming platform can respond to. As a games developer you will subscribe to and respond to these events by either providing some feedback or actioning something. Feedback for example could be “with that last payment, you saved £5.25 in fee’s because…”, “with your known outgoings and current spending pattern you could be saving £125 this month which will be your top month for saving this year !”.
Actions could be a multitude of things like rewards – both intrinsic or extrinsic – or “you make this payment regularly, would you like me to add it to your favourites?”, or “ your pay has come in, and you still have £175.26, if you transfer half of this you will meet your savings goal for a holiday”. Again, initially games can be designed with rules defining the game behaviour. Data/analytics platforms will provide useful feedback and assist with decisions in the game’s platform. Overtime machine learning models can be introduced to specialise decisioning based on increased behavioural data across all players. Finally, a content management system (CMS) is key to storing content for quizzes, assets like badges and images used in the gaming responses.
This is a very high-level view of a gaming platform, but those that are familiar with digital engagement platforms will see a strong overlap, and understand that these two separate platforms will eventually become one. Initially this could just focus on improving digital banking engagement and then overtime be embedded into life-stage management services like buying a new house, or preparing for a family.
Gamifying banking is not easy, and other than mBank and Fidor’s attempts several years ago (back in 2013), there are no other examples that I can cite. Very basic gaming principles have been used by a number of savings apps like Marcus and Bank of America’s Erica, but there is a long way to go. However this doesn’t mean that “gamification” shouldn’t be used, or that technology support is not there (for example Moroku).
What is needed is greater creativity and innovation, so it won’t be surprising if a fintech masters this first. Gamification will take time and an iterative process will be required to test what works and what doesn’t. This is why the journey to creating gamified banking has to start now. Banks will need to dispel visions of cartoon characters and playstations, to understand that gamification is about driving user engagement and building loyalty, and then for sure your bank will be the winners. Being direct as I prefer to be, I’m just saying that the plethora of digital engagement platforms out there are really just very basic or first-generation gamification platforms. The time is now to move up a level with gamification.
About the author
Dharmesh Mistry has been in banking for 30 years and has been at the forefront of banking technology and innovation. From the very first internet and mobile banking apps to artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR).
He has been on both sides of the fence and he’s not afraid to share his opinions.