It has been 25 years since I started Zoot in the basement of my home. Back then some of the most innovative banks were looking for unconventional solutions that would make their businesses stronger and their customers happier. Fast forward to 2015 and our clients’ needs haven’t really changed; automated processes, realtime transactions and tools and services that help them adapt quickly as the market fluctuates are still top priorities. But, they are applying them in new ways. The change bankers face today comes as a result of digital channels. This is a really exciting time for our industry and banks aren’t missing a beat.
It is rare for the financial industry to have such a novel chance to innovate. In the 1960s ATMs were introduced, in the 80s it was online banking (just for clarification, in those days that meant by telephone) and in the 90s we had Web (Internet) banking. Today we are seeing cardless ATM technology, video chat customer service and the ability to bank in the palm of our hand. Digital channels are truly pushing banks away from being simply a transaction processor to something much more powerful for their customers.
Companies like Google and Amazon have changed consumer expectations and the most successful banks are learning from them, if not partnering with them, to transform banking to be part of each customer’s lifestyle. Banks understand that the pressure to be more than an undifferentiated commodity has never been higher. For some, that means stepping out of their comfort zone significantly. The days of providing transactions and ledger accounting just aren’t enough. Customers want more.
In the face of non-bank competitors, banks hold a big advantage. The continuing and increasingly grand scale of retailer data breaches lends credibility to banks for their ability to protect personal consumer information. Consumers recognize that data protection is harder than most companies believe it is and trust their financial institution, more than anyone else, to keep their money secure. The challenge banks must overcome is that they have yet to provide the personalized, self-service, real-time support that their customers are looking for.
The key is not to add a mobile app for the masses looking for a digital solution to their banking needs, but to take that one step further and plan for the next decade and beyond. The bank of the future is going to be one that travels with you in your purse, pocket or briefcase. Much like asking Apple’s Siri for directions to the nearest five star restaurant or IBM’s Watson for recipes that incorporate kale, consumers will one day ask their digital financial advisor if they can afford to buy that boat, while they are standing on the lot dreaming about summer days on the lake.
The challenge banks face is meeting consumer demand, not for banking products or security, but for support of their financial lifestyle. Think about the State Farm commercials where an agent appears out of nowhere to inform their customer they saved enough on auto insurance to make a binge purchase. Banks must discover how to deliver that quality and value of a personal interaction through an automated digital experience. Digital channels are opening this door and creating a financial advisor who is available to everyone, not just the rich and famous.
Tools like a checkbook register and monthly statements have become artifacts of forgotten processes. Many banks are focused on improving their mobile experience, while the leaders are working on the necessary infrastructure to provide a digital financial advisor for their customers. 2015 is the year banks will take back banking by breaking away from archaic practices and begin integrating banking into their customers’ lifestyles.