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The Bank of the Future doesn’t have to be a bank

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It needs to focus on its customers – more than ever.

 

About 6 months ago, I decided to switch to a different gym to cut unnecessary costs. Although it meant substituting fancy Netflix-equipped cross-trainers with barely digital cross-trainers, this loss seemed to be worth the 30 euros in monthly savings. Sadly, I recently found out that my expensive gym membership wasn’t actually cancelled and I was paying for both memberships, while going to the significantly less fancy gym. Whereas one would argue that this is just plain stupidity (which I partly tend to agree upon), others will see the business opportunity in my story. There are similar frictions that customers face in traditional banking, waiting to be resolved.

A wave of financial technology startups, such as Monzo, Simple, and Atom, have recognised these customer frictions in traditional banking and are redefining the future of banking. Though banking has historically been perceived as a robust industry, unlikely to face disruption, this notion is changing rapidly.

 

As Bill Gates once famously said: “Banking is essential, banks are not”. By removing the physical bank, these mobile-only banks’ core focus is on providing their customers with the best banking experience possible.

Though the landscape of so called “challenger banks” varies in proposition and approach, there is one strong common denominator: an undivided attention to understanding customer needs. Many traditional banks provide their customers with digital services that require them to actively manage their finances themselves. Oftentimes, the traditionally offered services (viewing your balance and transfers) have merely been translated from a physical into a digital format. The successful challenger banks however, proactively provide their users with insights about their finances. They have better visualisation capabilities that provide financial insights to help their customers save money, give smart suggestions, and information is updated in real-time. These capabilities address major frictions, as they remove a significant part of the required manual effort from the customer.

It is not only these independent FinTech startups that are pressuring banks to adapt. New regulations, such as the Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2), will require banks to share their customers’ data with third-party providers. These regulations around Open Data are creating new opportunities for innovative solutions in the banking industry. This may be perceived as a potential risk, as banks could potentially lose the ownership over the customer relationship if a third party provides a more desirable technological solution. However, traditional banks can also embrace these regulations as an opportunity to create better digital banking experiences for their customers themselves.

 

It is no news that financial organisations – or any organisation for that matter – should focus on its customers. The difference between many of these innovative mobile-only FinTech startups in comparison to traditional banks, is the methods they apply to quickly gather insights about their customers. Whereas larger institutions have the available funds to enter long research projects, the new kids on the block do not. This forces them to use short cycled trajectories to quickly validate value propositions.

Here at MOBGEN, we often work with large institutions looking to bring innovative mobile solutions to their customers. Applying design methodologies and frameworks frequently used by startups allows us to gather important learnings in a short period of time. This way, we can validate in advance whether the product we are building is the right one for our end-users. Additionally, running these short design trajectories throughout projects, allows us to shape the roadmap to decide where to focus next.

There is a large range of design methodologies and frameworks that can be applied to ideate and validate new value propositions. Some of our favourites are:

 

Design Sprints

The basics of a design sprint is to answer critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. It is a method in which a small team (consisting of business stakeholders, designers, developers and other subject matter experts) works closely together to shortcut the regular work processes and compress something that would have taken months into a single week.

Instead of waiting to launch a product to understand if an idea is worthwhile and sits well with customers, the team learns from a realistic prototype. The sprint can give the team insight into the solution the business would like to apply to the complex problem.

 

Personas

The purpose of personas is to create reliable and realistic representations of your key audience segments for reference.

A persona typically has a name, a picture, relevant characteristics such as age or income group, behavioural traits, common tasks, and a goal that describes the problem the persona wants to see solved or the benefit the character wants to achieve.

Personas are used to help to focus decisions surrounding a product’s components by adding a layer of real-world consideration for the team.

 

Applied User Story Mapping

Applied user story mapping is a great methodology introduced by AJ&Smart to use in ideation and discovery sessions. It is a collaborative way to go from understanding the different steps in a user journey, to uncovering a large bulk of ideas that address customer frictions.

 

Jobs to be Done

Popularised by Clayton Christensen, the Jobs to be Done framework helps you understand the “jobs” a customer “hires” a product for. Rather than focussing on the functionality to be delivered, the focus is on understanding underlying customer motivations. A mobile banking app does not per definition compete with another mobile banking app – it’s main competitor to “get the job done” could be a notebook. Understanding the job to be done provides you with the clarity needed to decide which attributes of a product will improve upon existing solutions.

 

A physical bank is not the customer need – banking is. Applying methodologies such as those described above, enables financial institutions to rapidly ideate and develop better value propositions for their customers.

After having my own bad experience with my bank, I, myself, am considering switching to a service that addresses the frictions I personally face when managing my finances. There are many activities I’d rather do than closely monitoring my financial expenditures. As those activities often require funds, a bank that will proactively prevent me from spending unnecessary money on fancy gyms sounds like a great fit.