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The Best Way to Stand Out in Banking: Think Like an Account Holder

Earlier this week MX sponsored the inaugural Sundance Fintech Festival, with presentations from Mark Schwanhausser, John Best, Ryan Caldwell, Matt West, Dan Rosen and others.

A definite theme emerged during the conference, one that will help financial institutions stand out against the competition. That is, banks and credit unions need to see everything they do from the point of view of account holders.

It might sound obvious, but most financial institutions don’t follow this simple advice. As Matt West highlighted during his presentation, just look at the typical account opening process. Users have to visit a branch, wait for a representative to become available, sit through a series of up-selling pitches, sign paperwork, and so on. The whole experience can take 20 minutes or more — way too long in the digital age. Today’s users want to open an account in a few minutes (preferably all online) and be on their way.

Why don’t financial institutions already streamline interactions like this? Part of the reason is that they’re thinking primarily about gaining wallet share through practices like cross-selling and up-selling in the branch. But thinking that way fails to put users’ needs first.

Mark Schwanhausser put it best when he said, “the real battle is over consumer mindshare.” In other words, banks and credit unions need to realize that the only way to win the future is to lead with a solid user experience. For example, financial institutions should ask themselves if their digital offerings make users want to place their brand at the top of their mobile screen, next to Facebook and Instagram, or if they’re losing mindshare to a competitor that offers something more compelling.

Such questions might make financial institutions feel hopeless, but that’s not how it has to be. As Ryan Caldwell pointed out, the future looks bright for banks and credit unions who offer an experience that puts users first. Caldwell noted that there are huge opportunities for financial institutions when they look to fintech companies for innovation and design. Likewise, there are huge opportunities for fintech companies to glean from the wisdom and experience of financial institutions. It’s the combination that will create the very best experience for users, and banks and credit unions should be hopeful as a result.

John Best and Dan Rosen illustrated this point further when they talked about the state of the industry and how financial institutions can look to fintech players to improve the user experience. A few of the companies they talked about are shown below, with arrows that highlight the corresponding features in online banking:


Money_Summit_-_The_Best_Way_To_Stand_Out_in_Banking_-_1.png (Image from Tom Loverro)

By looking to fintech companies, banks and credit unions can get ideas on how to improve the user experience in each of these areas. For instance, Snapcash — the recent Snapchat product powered by Square Cash — showcases a fabulous payment experience. After users connect their debit card to their Snapchat account, all they have to do is type the amount, select the payee, and hit Send. That’s it. They don’t have to wade through jargon like ACH or wire or P2P, and they don’t get hit with fees. It’s simple and engaging. Most banks and credit unions can learn from that kind of attention to the user experience, and they can partner with fintech startups to provide it.

Like any other industry, the secret to standing out is putting the customer first. Google is fond of saying, “Focus on the user and all else will follow.” The same sentiment is true at banks and credit unions. If every decision is made with the end user in mind, then everything else — loan growth, revenue, expansion — will follow.

Topics: Design fintech