By Theodora Lau & Bradley Leimer of Unconventional Ventures 

In a year where physical relationships have been completely eclipsed by the necessity for more digital means. This has created a renewed sense of urgency toward revamping experiences designed to improve customer engagement, reduce friction, add transparency, and retain critical connectivity — especially as we all sought out added reassurance during this time of crisis.   

But there are additional concerns for financial service providers that have only become exacerbated since March. Our recent post on open finance discusses new forms of embedded banking, and how we see the utility of banking being separated from the value of banking by both fintech startups and technology platforms focused on ingesting these relationships into their own digital experiences. 

Consider the following trends away from the traditional banking model: 

As more traditional banking activities become lines of code or calls to external APIs delivered by non-bank providers — from identity to payments to credit to investments — the relationships that financial institutions have developed over time could become less relevant. Our relationship does not have to end this way. 

We must not remain idle as banking’s primary purpose slowly erodes to become a feature in non-bank value propositions. While the industry should remain apprehensive about their future role in the heart of their customers, it’s still their relationship to lose. Banks and credit unions — especially community and regional focused players — still have some defenses they have less often deployed. 

Trust, loyalty, and purpose 

How are relationships built over years suddenly lost? It could be a simple one-time fee, it could be moving a branch location, being turned down for a loan, or even a bad service experience. Loyalty and trust go hand in hand, and simply being there during times of need is a critical — one that financial institutions must focus on in order to demonstrate genuine empathy. When a consumer or small business has a want or a need that may lead to a financial product or service, where do they start? 

Traditionally, they might have reached out to one of their existing financial relationships, either in person or through some form that included human interaction, one that helped decipher the labyrinth of services the industry offers. As our business model evolved, digital tools connected these needs to more streamlined onboarding and self-service tools. 

But the move toward more digital resolution has muddled the direct relationship that banking providers once had, as search engines, digital product reviews, and social platforms developed greater resonance as customers ponder financial decisions. The relationship we have is a tenuous one that needs to be further nurtured and requires deeper exploration to unearth the roots of our real needs.  

Yet, compared to large technology providers — despite surveys to the contrary — the trust and loyalty banks and credit unions have attained continues to endure. One way to ensure this trust remains, is by focusing on helping consumers and businesses attain greater degrees of financial wellness — and the financial services industry should rally around this as the focal point of their purpose in order to compete.  

To do this will require leveraging our greatest and most underemployed asset — personal financial data — as well as developing new forms of partnerships that drive unique value that will be hard to replicate. 

It will also require thinking much more long-term about our customer relationships. 

This is the heart of the money experience.   

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For more information on this topic of extended finance, we suggest you look at MX’s Ultimate Guide to Money Experience, Ultimate Guide to Open Banking and Ultimate Guide to Bank APIs. This article is the result of a paid partnership with MX.

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Unconventional Ventures helps drive innovation to improve systematic financial wellness. We connect founders to funders, provide mentorship to entrepreneurs, strategic advisory services to a broad set of corporates, and broaden opportunities for diversity within the ecosystem. Our belief is that anyone with great ideas should have a chance to succeed and every voice should be heard. Visit unconventionalventures.com to learn how you can partner with us today.

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Theodora Lau is the Founder of Unconventional Ventures. She is a speaker, writer and innovator, whose work seeks to spark innovation to improve consumer financial well-being and health. She focuses on developing and growing an ecosystem of financial institutions, corporates, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to better address the unmet needs of consumers, with a focus on women and minority founders. As part of her work, she regularly mentors FinTech and HealthTech startups and fosters a growing partnered portfolio. She was recognized as LinkedIn Top Voice for Economy and Finance, top FinTech, Digital Transformation and artificial intelligence (AI) influencer by Onalytica.  

Bradley Leimer is Co-Founder of Unconventional Ventures. He writes and speaks about banking and technology trends, and advises startups, accelerators and major industry conferences in the financial services space. As the former Head of Innovation and FinTech Strategy at Santander US, he led his team to connect the bank to the FinTech ecosystem and served as an observatory for the Santander global organization for trends originating in the US with potential to accelerate globally. He lends additional perspective, leading marketing and technology efforts within regional banks and community credit unions, and from a decade of driving database marketing and analytic programs.