Why do we do what we do in this incredible world of fintech?
What is the point of all our ideas? And the projects and programmes as we look
to transform the old into the new digital future? Why do we bother?
Sitting at the heart of the answer is: us. Us, as human
beings; we are why we do what we do. As people, we are users, employees,
managers, etc. But we are also sometimes customers or prospective customers.
But, so much of what we conceive, and discuss and celebrate
is about solutions and technology; bits and bytes. How often do we talk about
In this series, The heart of the matter, I am looking to
tell the customers’ story and start to bring their perspective. We will talk
about people, brands and insight. We will look at what is going on and start
connecting what we do with the human story.
But first, let me tell you a story. My job for the last 20
years has been to help finance companies deliver better online customer
experiences. Through fate, luck and having a perspective, I have found myself
working with some of the largest companies in the world. I had prided myself on
ensuring that customers could find, log into and use digital banking in the
fastest way possible. We also designed slick application processes. Our mantra
was always “don’t make me think”.
Working in the UK and Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle
East and the US, we worked with bank technologists and marketing teams to
deliver what we thought was right. We even went as far as testing output with
customers. It felt like we were on a mission to get people closer to their
One day we were usability testing a pension form; this
involved giving a user a task, i.e., completing the form, and then observing
them whilst doing that. One participant said “the form is great. But why would
I ever use it? Do I need a pension?” It begged the question; was what we were
doing solving actual customer problems?
I eventually figured out that much of what we were doing was
a fiscal play by our clients. Self-service was a mechanism for taking massive
costs out of a business. So, whilst we talked about the work we were doing
being user-centric, was it? How customer-focused had we been?
So, I did what I should have done, and I went and talked to
people about their total experience with money and the institutions that served
I quickly found that whilst users felt closer to their money
and more in control thanks to the new digital platforms (a big win), they felt
further away from the bank itself and did not know who to turn to with their
financial worries and concerns. One interesting finding is that it seemed that
they would rather talk to family members about death than money!
Money worries are a massive issue; according to research
carried out in 2019, over 9.5 million adults in the UK have suffered mental
health issues due to financial anxiety (N26 study 2019). The UK Government
estimates that money worries rob people of 46 minutes of sleep (the Money
In my research, undertaken informally and conversationally –
I call it Kitchen Table research, because, well, you guessed it, I found that
people were overwhelmed. Their impression was that banks wanted them only to
use the digital channels we had lovingly designed and developed, and not bother
them through call centres or branch visits. And yet, they could not see any
path through online or mobile to useful, helpful advice or support. Ouch! My
life’s work so far; creating problems rather than solving them.
Take a look across the banking industry, and you see that
yep, the industry has succeeded in delivering transactional experiences. The
sector is monochromatic, i.e. one bank’s mobile app looks pretty much the same
as any other one — colours and logos aside, of course.
And yet here we stand in 2021, and we have the opportunity
to lean into customers and tip the balance and address these genuine issues.
Technologies and platforms are emerging that can be focused on us and helping
to solve our problems.
My job is to tell the customer stories and connect them to
the world of fintech!
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