Like everyone else, I’ve been wading through plenty of predictions for financial services in the year ahead. But I can’t help wondering what those lists would look like if we took our own advice and focused on customer needs, not industry wants.
As a management consultant, I’m well aware of my clients’ goals and the trends that will help them get there. But as a consumer – and yes, I’m as much a financial consumer as I am a consultant – I wish more would try and see the world my way.
Like people everywhere, I’m looking for the fastest, easiest ways to pay my invoices, buy my morning coffee and give my wife and I the best insight into our finances. I juggle currencies, with my family living in Berlin, me working in London and constant business travel to places like Zurich or Doha.
Like most consumers, I expect more all the time, especially when it comes to digital transactions. And I’m well aware that faith in brands is still falling, and that people are rightfully suspicious of every new offer.
From that perspective, here are five things consumers want financial services to do right now:
1. Make sure Google behaves
I find it hard to imagine life without Google, and I love the seamless way it allows me to use everything from Drive to Photos to Waze. But as Google moves into banking, offering U.S. checking accounts – and as it pushes $1 trillion in valuation – the public’s blood pressure is rising.
We saw it in the intense backlash when it acquired Fitbit, with plenty of people calling it a “privacy apocalypse.” For every financial-services exec ready to cheer at the possibility of monetizing data, there are ten consumers prepared to freak out.
Google is mighty. It has the advantage of Android, the world’s biggest operating system. It wants to become the gateway to finances in the same way it is already the gateway to information. Google’s moves will have a major impact on banks: Will they be reduced to utilities, like your gas supplier, while someone else manages the consumer interaction? And it explains why companies like HSBC and ING are also trying this gateway approach, regardless of where they hold the underlying products.
As an already-active player in payments, Google wants to hold its own against Amazon, which has more credit-card details; Facebook, with its tremendous reach, and Apple, with its hardware advantage.
But it better take care: Facebook may never recover from the Cambridge Analytica scandal. As soon as people sense Google doing anything annoying, invasive or creepy with their financial data, it’s in trouble.
2. Stop bragging about online offers and do something meaningful
Now that most players have become (more or less) digitally competent, features like mobile deposit and 24-hour service aren’t innovations. They’re requirements. So yes, it’s important to keep sharpening digital skills like biometrics, new voice tools and blockchain.
But as mistrust of banks grows, consumers want tech that translates to more transparency. And they want companies to have a purpose. My favorite example is the Tomorrow Bank, a new fin-tech company that links customer activity to sustainability initiatives, including a card that protects the climate.
3. Translate old names into new products
For the last decade, start-ups like Lemonade, Monzo and Zopa have out-innovated legacy companies, which are typically hamstrung by decades of organizational baggage. Aware that internal agility is imperative, they’ve been working hard to speed up their internal processes.
But some have been almost apologetic about their history. They needn’t be. Consumers are enthusiastic when older companies shake off institutional blinders and make thoughtful moves. Knowing it would need to make the most of consumers’ willingness to use financial products online, Goldman Sachs entered the retail banking market with Marcus, a lending and saving platform, rather than launching a “digital-only” current account as many of its peers have done.
We’re happy to see companies like Tesco and Walmart sprinting toward new financial products, and consumers are pleased, too.
4. Build networks, not silos
With the rise of services like Venmo and Square Cash, it’s become clear that younger consumers are especially open to radically different financial service options, including peer-to-peer products, crowd-sourcing and crypto-currency. They think beyond borders, so new models enable global expansion, especially in China. Alipay and WeChat Pay are both now available to foreign travelers in China with no need for a bank account.
But customers don’t expect every company they use to be that innovative. They’re realists. They understand that it’s often easier to partner with others than be inventors. So they admire brands that create ecosystems. Younger consumers are especially fluid networkers, and they respect brands that do the same.
One of our favorite examples is BBVA. When it launched API Market in 2017, it became one of the first major banks to deliver open banking, intending to lead to increased products and services for customers and clients.
Widely considered to be one of the most advanced in the world, BBVA API Market allows companies, start-ups, and developers to build new products and services by accessing and integrating customer’s banking data – with their permission – into their applications.
5. Provide smart, smooth security
Fears about cyber risks can’t be overstated, as consumers and B2B customers demand ever-improving security features that go well beyond privacy concerns. Given the rise of anxiety around data and information management, people expect experiences with high transparency. And they want the ability to access, control and manage their information anytime, anywhere.
But they’re also growing frustrated with the explosion of multi-factored authentication methods. And they’re choosing brands that provide simple, personalized, connected and meaningful experiences.
Atom Bank, the UK’s first digital-only bank, works to remove millennial’s anxiety about money through its simple, secure and intuitive digital banking processes – including selfie ID verification.
The point is simple to understand, even if it’s hard to do: As people’s expectations rise and faith in brands falter, relevance relies on customer obsession. Looking at every offer from the consumer’s perspective provides the clearest roadmap for growth.
Connect here to learn more about how Prophet can help your financial services organization leverage digital transformation in 2020.