Is your bank really into you?

Article by

Chanade Murphy-Johnson
Commercial Lead

Chanade Murphy-Johnson

Chanade Murphy-Johnson

Commercial Lead

Last Thursday, I listened to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report for 2016 and it made me think about the interactions I have with certain brands. Instantly my bank came to mind. I began to question everything they did, how they did it and all of the interactions that I could recall having with them over the last few years.

How well does your bank know you?

For 18 months, I had the same amount of money going out of my bank account and into another bank’s savings account. There was some context to the standing order description, ‘house deposit’, but did my bank ask me about my circumstances, lifestyle or financial planning during those months? No. There was me spending time with my financial advisor discussing options, telling him everything, sharing everything about my life and at the end I got three mortgage products to choose from — was one with my bank? No. It was with yet another bank.

So it’s 2016 and I’ve got three banking relationships:

  • Bank 1: Current & ISA account
  • Bank 2: Savings
  • Bank 3: Current

Imagine if Bank 1 had discussed my savings with me and got to know more about me and the next step on my journey; they’d have known that I was gearing up to buy a house and could’ve provided guidance and sold me one of their mortgage products, life insurance products and so on — but they didn’t, they missed out on everything.

One of my banks has two apps; one for general account management/overview and another called ‘SmartBank’, which helps customers to keep track of their spending and manage their finances better.

Today, with much better access to customers and technology, banks could easily help us save more efficiently and be more informative. Some banks are improving the way they share data with customers, and others just aren’t

Joining up the dots

My banks mainly interact with me through 3 primary channels:

  • Post: offering me a personal loan or sending me a new card.
  • SMS: when I forget my purse and need emergency cash with a unique code, or when there’s been an update to my account.
  • Phone: at 14:00 when I’m at work to discuss my account...

Let’s start with post. It’s a waste of time. I don’t know about you but I open the letter, glance at it and shred. When it comes to SMS, it’s genuinely useful (most of the time). Example; a month ago I snapped my card so I couldn’t withdraw money, use chip and pin or Contactless, and nowhere I wanted to shop accepted Apple Pay. However, all of a sudden it clicked, I could use the emergency cash option on the mobile app; I selected the amount I wanted, received an SMS, entered the unique code and received the money. Five minutes later there I was, £60 down, with a TopShop bag in my hand.

Phone calls always seem to arrive when I’m at work, and I have to tell them I can’t talk. Why don’t they record these interactions against my profile and ask for an alternative way to contact me? I can’t talk for 15 minutes, but I could have a two way conversation through a less intrusive channel, for instance, messaging.

A little more conversation, a little more action

It’s June 2016, so obviously I had to mention Chatbots. So, I’ve seen various examples of these in action and some haven’t been groundbreaking, they’ve been pretty unreliable actually. However, I read “K I Get Uber” and this example is awesome. Long story short, a man is chatting with his wife through Facebook Messenger and arranges to go for dinner. He replies with “K I get Uber” — Facebook then inserts a “Request a Ride” button and next thing you know the Uber has arrived and all information has been passed through Messenger, without him having to leave Messenger.

By having conversations with customers, you will get more useful information and be able to control your services, rather than just sending out alerts and updates

This may seem spooky to some of you, but how amazing is that — so simple, yet so useful. WhatsApp is one of my most used Apps. Imagine if I could use that or let’s say Messenger to find out my balance, without having to log into my one of many banking apps? Easy.

Bring people together and create smarter teams

Because I’ve been with my banks for so long, I feel a sense of loyalty but overall I just feel a bit sorry for them. The legacy systems they have in place, the traditional structure of the organisation and the little they know about me, is really holding them back from creating a seamless relationship between consumers and their brand. I want a bank that can act as a personal advisor, one that I can stay with throughout life, that can help me with all the jobs I need to get done over a lifetime.

Think about a traditional bank. What does their internal structure look like? Hierarchical, silo’d and probably a lot like this:

But what if the inside of my bank was structured in the same way as the likes of Spotify or even Auto Trader?

They’d be able to service me as a customer a lot better, a lot like how I described. They’d have blended teams working together that are centred around customers — all working towards a common goal.

By defining roles, the organisation can affect how people function, leading to an employee and customer focused business that’ll continue to thrive and be able to respond to the level of uncertainty that lies ahead

There are tonnes of traditional organisations operating within outdated structures, and banks are definitely guilty of this. For the most part, they either don’t know how to tackle this or simply don’t think it’s an issue.

Banks need to solve real problems and to figure out what those problems are, they need to get closer to customers and build smarter teams.

Here’s some further reading that you may find interesting:

  1. Chat Banking: The Path to Ubiquitous Mobile Banking by Sudhir Nain
  2. Do Your Banking With a Chatbot (MIT Technology Review article)
  3. Conversational Commerce by Chris Messina
  4. Augmented: Life in the Smart Lane (Chapter 9) by Brett King

How else can banks get closer to their customers' real problems? Read our 10 Minute Guide to Uncovering Customer Intent, focused solely on the financial services sector.