Five lessons US banks can learn from fintech disruptors
The financial crisis o...
Veronique Bergeron, Director, Verbal Identity, FutureBrand, shares five key lessons that US banks need to learn from fintechs.
The financial crisis of 2008 levelled the legacy banking industry quickly and decisively in North America. And rebuilding has been a long process — culturally, operationally and technologically.
With the market once again in a state of volatility in part due to the spread of COVID-19, we’re facing the question once again: what does it take for financial institutions to weather the storm?
In 2008, the banking industry was dismantled at much the same time that digital disruptors gained the traction and infrastructure they needed to compete. FinTech was born to capitalise on a broken system and chronically-low consumer trust, but also to provide services and experiences that finally reframed stale banking conventions.
But despite massive FinTech disruption over the course of a decade, legacy institutions still exist — and they still have immense clout. And yet, the experience they provide to consumers is fragmented at best, despite massive investments in technology.
Today, as in 2008, the question we should all be asking is, what is the role of a legacy bank brand in the life of a consumer — and what will it be in the future?
Thinking beyond traditional banking paradigms means becoming (and behaving like) a consumer-first brand. One that serves rather than sells. One that truly understands its customers. It’s through this lens that we offer up a few opportunities for legacy banks to compete with FinTech disruptors — and forge a new space that’s theirs to own.
1. Move from transactional to interactional
Up until 2008, it was believed that banks were a foundational utility with a dominant (and unchanging) model for engaging consumers. From their hours of operation to the types of services they provided, it was clear that the approach was bank-led, rather than consumer-focused.
For decades, there was no reason to change: the belief was that banks were as necessary to adult life as home ownership or a 9-to-5 and that inconvenience was just part of the deal. But just as the very idea of ownership has changed, banking institutions must change too.
No one is more familiar with this revolution then the FinTech disruptors shaving off elemental services from the larger banks. If we are to learn anything from these disruptors, it’s the way they’ve tapped into a need — indeed a demand — to move away from the formalities of traditional, 19th century banking towards an industry that is truly 21st century.
And at the heart of that is a brand philosophy that favors flexibility over rigidity; interaction over transaction. One guided by a consumer-first purpose that has the resilience to see an institution through both good times and bad.
A great example is SoFi, a lending company that made its name with student loan refinancing services but now includes mortgage and personal loans, wealth management and checking and savings services.
SoFi’s consumer engagement is deeply interactional and transparent, behaving almost as a community credit union in the digital age. Bringing the warmth and expertise of a face-to-face service into a digital realm has fueled SoFi’s growth — and it is a major opportunity for larger banks seeking the consumer intimacy branch services once offered.
Banks be warned: there is no moving forward without deeper customer intimacy.
2. Solve for the branch dilemma
A seamless brand experience online is undoubtedly a priority for many banks, but it doesn’t solve for the branch dilemma. Bank of America recently reported that 76% of all transactions are done via ATM or mobile application, begging the question: what is the value of a fully-staffed branch?
With real-estate prices mounting in many markets and returns from branch locations diminishing, many have rightfully closed. And while these closures have significantly reduced overhead costs for legacy organisations, they’ve created greater strain on some locations, adding lines and wait times. By diminishing their branch footprint, many banks may have also unintentionally diminished their overall customer experience.
But what if there’s an opportunity to create a more connected and valuable consumer experience in the branches that remain?
If we are to imagine the branch of the future, it may operate in much the same way that a great digital experience does. Connected. Seamless. Customised. And friendly, of course.
Whether that means simply changing branch hours to accommodate for work schedules or radically deconstructing the environment, the opportunity is ripe. Some banks have taken the café angle with mixed results (in part because, why go to a bank to get coffee?). The question all banks should be asking is, what will make consumers come, and linger, in a location?
3. Use voice to stand out
At the center of a connected brand experience is tone of voice — a meaningful, relevant and stand-out way to communicate with a consumer verbally. Over the past decade, corporate brands have taken a significantly more consumer approach to voice, and indeed, the line is still blurring for many sectors.
Voice is also a key tool in expressing how a brand is living up to its vision and mission. Virgin has long been known for its casual and cheeky, highly-disruptive brand voice. Virgin Money brings this same approach to the banking sector, with a level of informality and clarity that other organisations would do well to mimic.
4. Think big, act small
Inside and outside of the banking category, there’s been immense growth around “pure play” brands — often at the expense of smaller full-service banks. These brands stay ahead by doing one thing really well and in a highly engaging way. Brands like Mint and Venmo, which respectfully offer user-driven financial analytics and seamless mobile payments, are beloved by consumers.
No one has felt the impact of “pure play” disruptors as much as small, full-service regional banks. According to a recent piece in the Economist, before 2008 the FDIC approved hundreds of new bank charters annually. But in the past ten years, there have been only a dozen in total.
For do-it-all organisations, it begs the question: what’s the value in doing everything well enough when someone else can do one thing, much better, and gain enormous market share in the process?
Considering this, bigger banks should lean into their sse and offer a full-service approach that actually adds value to a consumer’s life with local activations and service experiences. They should stay big, but act small. That means rethinking promotional strategies to engage with local communities rather than global entities exclusively.
5. Recognise the moments where you matter
For every big bank there will be a moment, sooner than we all may realise, when it’s time to contend with massive changes in lifestyle and financial planning. From a rise in the gig economy to mounting student loan debt, consumers today are facing a different set of financial challenges from their parents and grandparents.
And frankly, consumers today simply want different things. Instead of home ownership, they crave experiences. Instead of contributing to a traditional 401k, they are digging themselves out of debt. So, what if a bank was a consumer’s first choice in navigating these needs? What if, instead of going to a branch to troubleshoot, you went to discuss your ambitions and dreams, no matter how unconventional they may be?
The banking space is full of branding opportunities that are both exciting and daunting. As with all industries seeking to evolve, brand offers one venue for change that can lift an entire experience — and change the way consumers view legacy institutions.
For more information on all topics for FinTech, please take a look at the latest edition of FinTech magazine.
TrueLayer launches new verification API
TrueLayer, the leading, London-based open banking solution fintech, has announced the launch of its new Open Banking API verification solution.
According to reports, the technology combines open banking with machine learning (ML) to make the onboarding process seamless and fast.
Fast processing in Open Banking
Results show its success rate is currently 20% higher than credit bureaus because it generates reports in seconds rather than the traditional manual, bank statement checks that can take days to complete.
TrueLayer also says the technology simplifies the payment setup and transactions by pre-verifying customer’s details.
Another advantage is that existing providers have access to raw data that requires businesses to build and maintain their own logic to verify that the customer’s name matches their name on file at the bank.
The verification logic sits on top of open banking rails and matches the name given via the onboarding, along with the name held at the bank. It, therefore, offers a single feed that provides an immediate and highly accurate response regarding whether their user’s account has been verified.
Open Banking in the UK
Open Banking has seen a surge in popularity since March 2020. Data shows that the technology is being used 12-fold more than it was two years ago. Banks in the UK are now handling more open banking payments volume in a single month than the amounts measured in the whole of 2019.
TrueLayer says many of its clients are using the Verification API, including Authologic, a Y Combinator-backed provider of identity verification solutions.
Ossama Soliman, Chief Product Officer at TrueLayer, said the verification breakthrough makes a huge difference to both businesses and customers because verification is the first step to onboarding a new user and yet it can often take days to verify an account owner using traditional methods.
He explained, “Their security is questionable, they’re prone to errors and they take forever. It doesn’t need to be that way. With the verification API, we’ve built on top of open banking to create a faster, more secure, and more accurate approach to verifying a user’s account. It serves businesses across multiple industries, including financial services, PSPs, wealth management and trading, marketplaces, property, and iGaming.”
Speaking about the new technology, Jarek Sygitowicz, co-founder of Authologic explained, “Whether you are a fintech, a marketplace, or an ecommerce platform you want to deliver the best possible onboarding experience.
He added; “We are aggregating different identity verification methods and we are big supporters of using open banking thanks to its ability to make the entire process more intuitive.”
The TrueLayer verification API delivers:
• A faster onboarding process, cutting time from three days to three clicks.
• The API coverage spans all major banks, resulting in a 22.5% higher success rate compared to other credit check methods.
• Prevents fraud through its embedded strong customer authentication (SCA) within the bank verification process.
• Offers a better user experience for customers using biometric technology to confirm identity and ownership.
• Lowers payment failures through its pre-verified account details.
• Lowers burden on compliance teams through automated verification via a single API call.
• Lowers maintenance issues because engineers can focus on solving core business problems, rather than building and maintaining name-check logic.
Image credit: TrueLayer offices from TrueLayer