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The Attraction Game: How Reward Programs are a bank’s secret weapon in an age of disruption.

By Peter Shackleton VP of Commercial Upgrade Pack.

Attracting new customers and retaining the ones you have, is at the top of every bank’s Head of Rewards and Performance priority list, and in 2018 it’s never been harder to do. Something is happening in the sector. Whilst the word disruption has become cliché, it’s hard to think of a more appropriate term when you truly understand what’s happening in banking.

Peter Shackleton
Peter Shackleton

Firstly there are a wealth of new market entrants, when for generations banking of all shapes and sizes has felt like a closed shop. A new generation of challenger banks are signing up customers at pace that is unparalleled for most traditional financial service providers. Revolut has achieved unicorn status with help from its nearly two million users, and Monzo with its hot coral cards and one million users dominates the headlines. But how are these new banks on the block so good at attracting new customers? And what can traditional banks learn from them?

In short, the answer is that the likes of Monzo, Starling, Revolut and Atom are all approaching banking differently.  They are purely digital, they have no high street branches, and whilst what they are offering isn’t fundamentally different to what’s on the high street, it feels deeply different to their customers. Each one of them harnesses technology to make them infinitely more user friendly than what the market has offered before. They are more personable and communicate with their customers in a way that resonates. It comes as no surprise to see Monzo and Starling listed as the top two banks in the UK for customer satisfaction – it means everything to them.

The challenger banks are winning because they put the customer at the heart of everything they do. It’s not as if legacy banks don’t know how important this is. In a PWC global survey 61% of bankers said a customer-centric business model was ‘vital’, but just 17% were ‘prepared for it’.

So how can the incumbents win the attraction game?

Traditional banks as we know them, must play to their strengths.

You are trusted

Although challenger banks are enjoying their moment in the sun,they’re still nowhere near as trusted as the traditional banks. Trust is said to be vital in any relationship, but it’s probably the factor that most influences where you bank. And because you trust your old bank, you’ll readily give them your personal data. Accenture in a 2017 survey found that 67% of consumers would be okay giving their bank more access to their personal data and in a survey by TopLine Comms more than eight out of ten people in Britain (83 percent) said they were ‘unsure’ of fintech.

Use that trust 

It’s so important for banks to utilise the data they have on their customers and reward them as an incentive to join or stay. They need to use the information they have on their customers to delight and retain them. Reward programs are not new in the banking world. Offering discounts, special rates on savings and mortgages, you name it, banks have done it. Why? Because rewards work. Year on year rewards rank as one of the most attractive features on accounts or cards. Banks need to use the wealth of data that they are trusted with on behalf of their customers, to give them something they truly want. They should be creating reward programs worthy of the name.

 Bring exclusivity back

Existing reward programs just don’t feel exclusive anymore. Bond Insights in its Loyalty Report found that just 19% of loyalty program members say that brand representatives make them feel ‘special and recognised’.We all want to feel special. The reward programs that legacy banks offer should take a leaf out of the challenger’s play book. They need to be simple, easy to access and mean something.


Ultimately if banks want to attract they must truly innovate and to innovate they must maximise the benefits of technology. Many have spoken about traditional banks being shackled by core platforms built on legacy systems, hence why the digital challengers are operating faster and moving at the speed of culture. Banks need a reward system that does the same.

At UpgradePack we’ve developed a pureplay loyalty technology solution – one that integrates with banks’ existing systems. Our new platform can scale and grow in line with the banks’ ambitions, to continuously embrace new technologies.

In an age where the consumer is king an effective reward programme can not only help retain your best customers but also attain new ones . If the established banks want to be successful in this new era then they need to play the attraction game – and win.