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By Lee Bolger, Account Director, Financial Services at OpenMarket

Lee Bolger
Lee Bolger

Yahoo!, Nokia and MySpace. All were once on top of their game and could seemingly do no wrong. All have suffered quite spectacular changes of fortune, victims of believing their own hype and not innovating quickly or readily enough.

Now you might say these examples are technology companies but as the mantra goes: today, every company is a technology company. Banks might consider themselves bullet proof institutions but that thinking is at best naïve, at worst negligent.

Mobile has changed the rules of the game

It is well and truly the age of mobile; there isn’t a part of our personal or professional lives it hasn’t touched. Banking is no exception. According to a report by the British Banker Association, UK customers had downloaded banking apps 22.9 million times by the end of March 2015 – a rise of 8.2 million in just one year. Meanwhile, in-branch banking transactions decreased year-on-year by 6% in 2014.

These facts are illustrative of what we as consumers value today: convenience, choice and control are all key deciding factors when we choose where to bank or shop. The greater reliance on apps and the disconnect from the local branch have completely reshaped the dynamic between banks and their customers.

An app though, is barely even table stakes today. It’s certainly a necessary tool but faced with Fintech innovators like Transferwise, a lot more needs to be done to prove that banks understand their customers and their needs. Here are three ways in which banks can prevent themselves going the way of Yahoo!

  1. Know your customers and how they will want to bank in the future

‘Know your customer’ has become almost a cliché in an age of customer-centricity but too often this knowledge of a customer doesn’t go far enough. Businesses need to know more than what their customers want today; they need to have one eye on the future. One of the biggest and most common mistakes made is to assume that once you have a winning formula that will still be the recipe for success in one, two or five years from now. It won’t.  Just ask MySpace. Financial institutions need to listen carefully to trends and patterns both inside and outside the industry to understand what customers will want in the future and make sure they prepare for that.

A recent infographic by OpenMarket and research and advisory firm Javelin, revealed that the two most important customer segments in the US that demonstrate how Americans will bank, pay, shop, save and invest in the future are demanding, risk-taking and have a mobile-first mindset. Both Moneyhawks® and Emergents are seen as tech-savvy, and keen to interact with financial institutions via mobile devices. This points to a technologically adept customer base, likely to change quickly. It’s clear that the mobile banking strategies of today won’t work tomorrow. New technologies, changing expectations and evolving financial needs will call for new approaches.

  1. ‘Mobile first’ doesn’t mean just mobile

As I said before, we live in the age of mobile. Consumers want fast, safe and convenient platforms which allow them to bank easily and on their own terms. They also want to stay connected with their accounts and assets, and be updated with sensitive information accurately and in real time. Mobile certainly fits the bill. However, a common misconception is that, as new means of communication constantly change the rules of the game, they render old channels obsolete.

But it isn’t a case of putting all your eggs in one basket. Each channel has its strengths and weaknesses making them well suited to different tasks. With 90% of text messages being read within three minutes of receipt, SMS is a powerful tool when it comes to keeping a continuous handle on finances. It can support everything from making payments to alerts around potentially fraudulent transactions and anything in between.

Phone, on the other hand, can be important when it comes to resolving complex problems with the customer care department or discussing financial solutions with an expert. Email is cost effective and can provide less critical or sensitive updates, but 80% goes unread. Twitter, IM and app activity is instant, but only reaches a portion of consumers. Financial institutions need to get the right mix; different tools, for different tasks.

  1. Expect change and embrace it

In a fast-paced financial and digital landscape the only certainty is change. This means that financial institutions need to be agile enough to respond to these changes quickly, which is admittedly difficult for such large businesses. Nonetheless, as mobile and consumption habits change, banks will have to embrace the new banking culture. Hyperabandonment is a reality and  people will readily switch banks if they believe they can get a better service elsewhere. Instead of sticking to the status quo out of fear of losing customers they should build strategies around disruption and offer great customer engagement.

By offering personalised communications channels that cover present needs and agile enough to be able to adopt to future needs, financial institutions can engage with customers with the right message, at the right times and on the right channel. It is important to remember that, regardless of how the demographics and habits change, customers will always value great experiences.