Like so many nations around the world, the United States is in pain. Over the past 8 weeks, 36 million people have filed for unemployment, a level unseen since the Great Depression. Tragically, 40% of low-earning households have lost a breadwinner, and nearly 20% of adults say they can’t pay their current bills in full. People are in dire need of financial assistance.
To the degree that households are struggling financially, this situation conjures memories of the 2008 crash. However, there’s one monumental difference, among many. Unlike the last crash, where financial services companies were the bad guys, this crisis didn’t originate in the financial industry. As such, it gives banks the chance to be the good guys —the heroes —in this story.
If you work in financial services, how do you become the hero of this crisis?
It requires you to evolve from being a financial intermediary to being a true financial advocate. The process entails helping your customers transition to the next level of financial strength no matter where they are today. You might help one customer get a loan to keep their business afloat while helping another customer quickly visualize their finances while offering help about how to improve —all depending on their needs.
More than anything, it’s about changing your mindset from thinking about transactions and tasks to focusing on outcomes for your customers.
To fully explore what this means, we created the Ultimate Guide to Financial Advocacy, an in-depth playbook that covers everything you need to know to make this leap, including extensive original research about what people say they want most from financial services companies.
We’ve also built on the framework established by the Financial Health Network to define seven steps of financial strength: earn, spend, save, borrow, plan, protect, and grow.
Here’s a taste of what we cover:
7 Steps to Guide Your Customers to Financial Strength
1. Earn. Create content and tools to guide your customers on how they can earn more money. Teach them how to ask for a raise, give them details about the tradeoffs between various college decisions related to potential income, provide insight on which career choices pay the most over the long term, hook them up with a local side hustle with one of your business clients, etc.
2. Spend. Shape your customers’ spending habits. In his presentation at an MX Fintech Festival, behavioral economist Dan Ariely advised banks to help people avoid being driven by short-term desires by guiding them to focus on positive, long-term directional shifts. He said, “I want a banking app that says, ‘You're headed in the right direction, but be careful: You're spending a little bit too much.’”
3. Save. Show customers that you’re invested in their long-term financial interests, and spark the motivation they need to stay committed to their financial goals. For instance, say that you offer tools that show your customers a list of all their subscriptions, helping them discover how many they no longer use and can therefore cancel. They can then free up this money and put it to use elsewhere, building loyalty for your brand in the process.
4. Borrow. Help customers consolidate their debt while working down their payments by showing them a personalized debt payment plan. You can couple this approach with personalized guidance on maintaining a healthy credit score and build more creditworthy borrowers in the process.
5. Plan. Offer digital financial planning. Until recently, financial planning was something only the wealthiest could pay for. But with the right digital tools at hand, it’s now possible for everyone to get automated guidance. These tools enable customers to see real-time, relevant recommendations directly from you.
6. Protect. Let customers know how to protect themselves from a catastrophe. Everyone needs some form of protection against unwanted disasters,but not everyone knows the details of the protection they have and the protection they lack. By providing a checklist of what ideal protection looks like depending on life stage and financial situation, you can give your customers the peace of mind they need.
7. Grow. Offer a premier concierge service for customers who reach this stage of true financial strength, helping them to amass capital to put to use as they see fit. You might even start thinking beyond customer lifetime value to consider intergenerational value since those born into wealth are more likely to enjoy higher returns over their lifetimes (4x larger, according to a report from the Federal Reserve).
Be an Advocate, Be a Hero
With 36 million people filing for unemployment, the time to be a financial advocate is now. People need financial guidance and support, and you can be there to give it. You might read about these 16 companies that stepped up in the wake of Covid-19 to be true advocates, which is part of our ongoing series on the coronavirus crisis that includes an infographic full of original data. Above all, take the steps needed to move from being an intermediary to being an advocate.