Banking – does it have to be boring?

By Mike Kernot

It’s unsurprising that consumers find banking boring. After all, how many of us get as excited about current accounts and credit cards as we do about iPhones and computer games?

However, much as we might not like to admit it, our personal finances are hugely important to us. The financial decisions we make – from the choice of provider to the choice of product – have a massive impact on our futures. After all, good money management allows us to have fun, go on holidays, look after our families and plan for our future.

So why do we treat choosing a financial product as a chore? For me, the answer lies in the fact that the benefits of a well-chosen financial product are not immediately available. Or to put it another way, the difference between the current account and the iPhone is that the benefits are delayed. iPhones can be played with immediately (and are great fun), but the benefits of a well-chosen current account come much later. In fact, we might not realise them at all.

And here lies the problem. Financial products are great enablers for us but ‘unlocking’ them can be terrifyingly boring. When taking out a Cash ISA for instance, it’s littered with pro-forma, such as proving your identity and listening to terms and conditions.

We know that financial services is among the most regulated of industries. As a result, banks and insurers are preoccupied with remaining compliant and have perhaps focused less on how they innovate in the marketplace.

So what’s the answer? Banks are struggling to break out of the regulatory ‘straightjacket’ but keeping their solutions simple and focused on the customer is key. The big players have a long way to go compared to other industries in delighting their customers, but they should look at other companies for inspiration. Apple, for instance, is famed for the outstanding usability and customer-centric design of its products – how can the principles they abide by be adapted to fit a bank’s business model?

New entrants such as Metro Bank, and more recently Atom bank, have borrowed from other industries to great effect. Both put the customer at heart of their proposition and their success tells us that it is possible to deliver banking that is both effective and engaging – provided the customer is placed at the forefront. It is this fundamental guiding principle that snaps customers out of their bored reverie.

You may be interested in our NPS benchmarking programme for financial services, Moments of Truth. This programme measures around 20 key customer experiences in banking.

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