Game of loans: Fun and finance in the world of fintech
Traditionally, financial services have been the stomping ground of the rich and dull. Grey-faced accountants in cookie-cutter suits, alongside endless columns of numbers, are the caricatures of the industry.
Thankfully a new wave of fun financiers has injected some colour into the monochrome world of finserv - finally making it colourful, competitive, and goal-orientated for users.
Gamification is taking off and is on a mission to improve user enjoyment, engagement and services. The data suggests the ploy is working, with more fintechs seeing take-up of their services by an increasingly hip and lively generation of customers.
Q: When did gamification enter the fintech space - and in what form?
Gamification has been a feature of the financial services industry since day one. There’s always been an element of key game-like characteristics, such as point-scoring (collecting money) and competition (taking money from others and competing for the most money), combined with rules of play (regulation and monetary frameworks). Money has, in some sense, always been a game.
Games are effective in two key concepts: control and creativity. On the one hand, games reinforce our feeling of control. There are rules, structure, and a clear premise. On the other hand, they engage our imaginations and spur us to think creatively.
In the world of fintech, there are a number of examples where gamification has been adopted effectively. The combined energy of Reddit and Robin Hood has taken individuals who may never have invested in financial markets otherwise and are now engaged and participating in a ‘game’ they wouldn’t previously have thought about playing.
Another example is eToro, a platform dedicated to improving accessibility to new investors, helping them learn from others by following investors and copying trades. These mechanics fundamentally pull from the world of games, where cooperation and taking onboard learning experiences are vital for improved performance in the future.
Q: How different is this approach to traditional finance?
Essentially, it's a world away from traditional financial products, where the outcome of a given decision is often perceived as being pre-set in advance. People feel little control over the results of their decisions, so they grow disengaged from vital financial services.
Q: What benefits does gamification bring to the table in terms of customer service satisfaction/data collection etc?
Gamification has led to a paradigm shift in how users relate to financial products. With online banking, the focus had always been on efficiency, delivering value through cutting away old-fashioned ways of operating. But early fintech didn’t seek to redefine people’s relationships with banks or financial services. Gamification opens up entirely new avenues, enabling people – for the first time – to actually enjoy their experience of using financial services. We owe this change to the games industry, which has never thrived when generating functional or efficient products but rather has aimed to create enjoyable experiences.
The end result is a win-win for vendors and customers alike. Customers suddenly gain ongoing value from an industry they might previously have considered excessively complex, bureaucratic, or inaccessible. Meanwhile, fintech providers reap the rewards from increased user engagement.
Q: Which demographics has gamification proven most popular with and why? Are older customers also embracing it?
Gaming is accessible for everyone! It’s simply the level of depth we create at the outset; if we assume everyone has grown up playing World of Warcraft and League of Legends, we will find ourselves struggling to get the older generations participating in games.
Not everyone is a game buff, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t benefit from gamification. One of the things we’ve learned as a company whose goal is to improve our users’ physical wellbeing is that not everyone needs to spend hours in the gym every day in order to develop healthy habits – sometimes simple, straightforward steps are the most useful, and the same is true in the world of gaming.
If we keep the diversity of users’ backgrounds in mind when designing our financial products, we will create something truly accessible and engaging to all.
Q: What elements are trending in this space right now?
A lot of emphases is being placed on functional components of a gaming experience such as badges, achievements, leaderboards, and challenges. In my view, what creates a truly unique and bespoke gaming experience is a combination of these statistical or empirical pointers together with an engaging, emotion-led experience.
This shift will help businesses understand the potential of gamification in making a difference outside the space of the game arena. Ultimately, gamification for its own sake is not the end goal for financial service providers with a social mission, such as increasing their users’ financial wellbeing– a tangible impact is essential for a deeper, game-based mission.
Q: What new technologies are driving the movement?
Perhaps uncharacteristically, for a CTO, I see psychology, rather than technology, as the main driver towards gamification. The more sophisticated our understanding of what truly motivates individuals, the more effectively we’ll be able to build gaming techniques that address the needs of different personality types – or, in our world, ‘player types’. Understanding human psychology better helps us make our products accessible and engaging across all demographics.
Q: What will the future look like in terms of gamification and fintech?
Gamification in fintech will become the norm. Functional financial experiences with optimised design and customer journeys aren’t enough to be considered transformational in fintech. Companies will have to go above and beyond and set a new standard for innovation in the industry.
Businesses have to constantly prove that they are effectively challenging the perception of the financial industry as elitist, complex, or dishonest; instead, they now have to build an emotional connection to their customers, and gamification can be a key tool in helping them do so. In sum, the person who understands why Fortnite, Minecraft, World of Warcraft, Candy Crush and Farmville changed the tech world will win the fintech race.
The mechanics of gamification are more serious than they seem, endeavouring to;
- Create challenge accompanied by feelings of accomplishment - a natural high
- Prevent boredom setting in - which destroys focus
- Change behaviours by rewarding certain actions
- Educate by introducing new concepts through gaming mediums
Play to win
Fintechs use gamification principles to encourage customers to develop good saving habits, establish goals and to better monitor their spending habits by;
- Holding contests and incentivising actions with rewards
- Keeping game tactics simple and engaging
- Widening the playing field through social media
- Promoting new services through a gaming interface