On the frontline of fintech: Building a personalised digital platform catering to a global audience

By Sally Crimes, Chief Product OfficerTen Lifestyle Group

The financial service industry is unremittingly global. For both bankers and clients, their tech travels with them. Tech is undoubtedly the biggest driver for globalisation. It speaks multiple languages, understands currency conversions and h makes landing in a foreign country and culture feel a lot less foreign.

Uber is a great example of this, same app, same language and same process across multiple cities worldwide – providing that familiarity that makes travelling so seamless.

Our challenge was to build an online travel and concierge service that would be white-labelled for numerous global banking clients. The purpose, to give their clients access to the world’s best restaurants, shows, hotels and whatever else they may decide they need as they travel the world, allowing them to trust in their banks to help them beyond just their financial needs. 

Global-first 

Sally Crimes
Sally Crimes

For years, the digital industry has been focused on the mobile-first approach, building for every device and making life more portable. This is standard practice now, it goes without saying that your application must work for all modern devices, large and small. For us, our focus is global-first. 

Every good personalised digital service platform must use location as its starting point. The financial services world and their clients are notoriously globe-trotting, whether travelling for pleasure, business or setting up a new life in a new country. What makes their lives easier is if the services that they rely on can travel with them seamlessly.

When I go to a new city or country I want my tech to know that I am there and to cater to me based on my location. There is no point receiving recommendations for restaurants in Kings Cross in London, if I am working in Singapore for a week. I want to see what I am near, as I move around.

Of course, as we travel, we expect to access our bank accounts as usual, we expect that our credit cards will work and that we can get hold of someone at our bank whenever the time of day.

However, building a digital platform that goes beyond the day to day expectations of a bank and into a differential offering requires harnessing local knowledge, the local language and cultures and having a footprint in each new place.

If you build a digital platform for one market, and then attempt to scale that out globally further down the line, it will be harder to re-architect and re-factor to provide a meaningful local experience, and many organisations will need to invest far more than expected compared with taking a global-first approach. If you have global ambition for your digital platforms, build this into the initial architectural design from the get-go, and consider every local angle.

Harnessing the power of local knowledge 

Local knowledge is incredibly helpful. When we began building our platform, we did so for 35 locations around the globe simultaneously. While we did this, we made sure that anyone accessing the platform could also have access to a phone number and email address that went straight to an expert who could do the job of the platform practically in parallel.

For example, launching in Hong Kong, the digital platform appeared in Chinese, operated in HKD, and knew the most trending restaurants and the hottest shows.

We were keen to make sure that we built a platform that can create parity with our high touch service, with a holistic approach at every opportunity possible. And, from a business perspective that meant providing and, in some instances, promoting the option to speak to an expert directly.

 Biggest challenges and lessons learned 

There are of course a multitude of challenges, large and small. Unsurprisingly, sometimes the smaller ones can be where you learn some of the biggest lessons. For example, we learned pretty far into our build that in the USA, consumers are not used to seeing a separate ‘house number/name’ input field when submitting addresses. It felt alien to them and we had no idea. If we wanted this digital experience to feel natural for Americans, this is something we now needed to consider.

Small mistakes like this that often require local knowledge that your team may not possess and can often result in additional hours reworking and unpicking parts of the platform, that with specific local insight could have been avoided. Learning this lesson has been invaluable in our planning ever since.

Bigger challenges when building and launching a global digital platform could fill several volumes. But, I can give an example that is quite typical of the issues that we come across.

Each area of our Platform gives the user numerous options to choose from. Rental cars are a useful example. Each car rental company has its own unique offering – its own pricing, availability, car types, descriptions, inclusions, depot opening hours, naming conventions and much more. We needed to translate all these data differences into one global, consistent experience in multiple languages and currencies for 35 different markets.

The relationship between Financial Services and Travel & Lifestyle Concierge is a very natural one. After all, what to people do with their money? They use it to travel, to dine out, to see their favourite shows, their favourite sports – to create memories.

Giving financial services the ability to help their clients and accompany them at home and on the move, is no easy feat. But, with the right mix of insight, local knowledge and working in a flexible and agile manner it is more than achievable. It gives both those working in Financial Services and their clients a great advantage as they travel the globe, while at the same time helping banks to offer a really valuable addition for their members that differentiates their business.