Why the future of banks does not solely rely on bankers

By Gustavo Burnier | 1 February 2018

By Gustavo Burnier, Managing Director UK, Designit


To succeed in today’s financial landscape, banks must look at how they can best meet the demands of consumers, while at the same time ensuring they are keeping up with digital transformation. Today’s customers want a banking experience that is easy and seamless across services and products. To do this it is essential that banks work closely with designers and technologists to create the best possible experience for customers. Banks need to ensure they adopt a mobile first approach and make the best of data they can access to create a ‘human shaped’ banking experience.

Adopt a mobile-first approach

To appeal to today’s ‘always-on’ customers, banks must take steps to interact with their customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. One bank that has successful managed the transition from physical to digital-only is Bancolombia, the largest bank in Colombia and one of the largest in Latin America. Nequi, the first mobile-only bank in the country, has taken a conscious step to deliver what today's customers’ really need for their everyday banking needs. By completely rethinking basic financial products from the customer’s perspective, Nequi has built an entirely new, multi-service, multi-platform application model that allows customers to manage their money on the go - anytime and anywhere. There is no paper and no need to enter a branch. As an organisation, Nequi thinks, works and acts as a start-up, with a separate brand, new technology, new offices, new team, and new culture fit to the way people want to bank today. Nequi promotes forward thinking and is dedicated to transforming the company’s services from the inside-out.

Adopting a mobile mindset can be done in different ways, but remember: mobile first doesn’t mean that users come second. Mobile is not a channel or a technology. Mobile is about people. People are mobile, not their devices. Mobile first is about enabling people to have an experience that is seamless across devices, applications or tools, wherever they are.

Make something people want

But it’s not just about going mobile; this is about building the right it before you build it right. Many companies will launch apps or services that put technology development before design, assuming their customers will follow and adapt later. Ignoring usability affects everyone; however, customers end up facing difficulties and feel annoyed. It might be tempting, but squeezing an old bank into a new application is not the way to go. Instead, banks want to keep a mobile context in mind, and use any limitations and obstacles to drive innovation - simplifying both interaction and content. Mobile is not just about limited screen size or touch; it is also about new contextual information that can enhance the interactions with the bank.

For example, this past year, Bank Leumi, one of the two largest banks in Israel, successfully launched Pepper. It is Israel’s first 100% digital bank, with no brick and mortar branches. With Pepper, Bank Leumi has radically redefined banking with design. Pepper provides all banking services through mobile which are all accessible at any time. Customers can do everything from their device with a few clicks, no paperwork needed, further challenging traditional banking models, Pepper’s mobile-centric offering includes videos and interactive AI features that study customer behaviour and customise content and banking services for the individual, not the masses. Pepper gives customers a fresh perspective on their money and future financial decisions that is relevant, and personalised.

To differentiate from competitors, the solution is definitely not to throw more technology at the problem. Working with designers and technologists, banks can make better use of technology to create desirable experiences to users and viable solutions to the banks.

Leverage data-driven insights

Customer behaviour is changing faster than ever, driven by an abundance of choices. A human-centred approach is imperative to understanding users’ needs - and connecting with those needs on a deeper personal level. Through the use of AI and automated technology, big banks can act with the same agility as start-ups, offering highly personalised recommendations based on the data available from an individual’s bank account, spending history, and billing statements.

Leveraging data is all about creating trustful relationships with customers. Like any other relationship, it’s not only about what you get, but what you give back. From the research our teams have carried across several markets, segments and industries, we know customers don’t want to give away data without getting something meaningful in return. Data is a resource, a raw material, with which you build better customer experiences. We also know bank customers are more prone to allow data usage if their banks ‘pay back’ by delivering services that improve their experience. Leveraging data means using data in a way that delivers value back to delight customers.

For banks to stay ahead of both customer’s needs and new challengers entering the market, it is essential they create services and experiences that are centred on customers’ needs. Banks need to use data they have available, adopt a mobile first approach and embrace experience-led design to ensure their customers will remain their customers. Like Pepper and Nequi, some large banks are building services from data insights based on what customers want, and creating ‘human shaped’ services that are unique to a particular audience or person.  Given their early results, it is safe to assume they will succeed in the future of banking.

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