• Transform magazine
  • June 14, 2021


Insights: Using your brand to stay ahead, five lessons banks can learn from fintech disruptors

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The fintech sector offers opportunities for traditional banks to embrace a creative, digital-first future, writes Julien Humbrecht. Futurebrand was one of the winners at the 2020 Transform Awards Europe

The last decade has seen unprecedented disruption in banking. Just as the banking crisis receded, digital disruptors gained the traction and infrastructure to compete. Fintech was born, capitalising on weakened consumer trust, but also providing experiences that reframed banking conventions.

Despite this disruption, legacy institutions still exist – and have immense clout. Because universal banks have something disruptors can’t match: lifetime relationships and a view of the whole customer. The key is to make this expansive knowledge count, transforming it into a compelling customer experience.

Here’s a few opportunities for universal banks to do just that.

Move from transactional to interactional

Fintech disruptors have shaved off revenue-driving services from universal banks. If we are to learn anything from them, it’s how they’ve tapped into a demand to move away from the formalities of traditional banking. Theirs is a brand philosophy that favours flexibility over rigidity; interaction over transaction. Beyond a coral card, a ‘talkable’ aspect of Monzo’s experience is being able to see payments straightaway. This flexible simplicity is on the money for today’s customers.

Solve for the branch dilemma

With footfall and returns from branch locations diminishing, a major question is what to do with these locations. Many have already closed. But there’s an opportunity to make more of the branch before writing it off completely.

If we are to imagine the branch of the future, it may operate in much the same way that a great digital experience does. Connected. Seamless. Customised. The question all banks should be asking is, what will make customers come, and linger, in a location?

Use voice to stand out

At the centre of a connected brand experience is tone of voice. It’s a key tool in expressing how a brand is living up to its vision and mission.

If we look to Atom, we see that a clear and often casual voice is just as valuable as visual identity. Voice simplifies complex processes and lives up to a promise of ‘the bank that works for you.’ As universal banks continue to adapt to the changing market, voice will play a more important role in their toolkits

See the whole customer, and act accordingly

In many sectors, we’ve seen the growth of ‘pure play’ brands – often at the expense of full-service offers. These brands start out by doing one thing really well. Take Revolut, which made its name in the travel segment. Pure players then go for growth by going fuller service – which is where universal banks have the advantage.

A universal bank knows more about its customers than a competitor that does one thing only. The opportunity is to use that full-scale knowledge and offer a full-service approach that adds meaningful value to customers’ lives.

Recognise the moments that matter

There are moments when a bank really matters, but these moments are changing. Younger customers face a different set of financial challenges from their parents.

Before saving for a first home, they are digging themselves out of debt. What if a bank was a consumer’s first choice in navigating that need? And what if, instead of going to a branch to troubleshoot, you went to discuss your ambitions, no matter how unconventional they might be?

As the UK exit of N26 shows, disruptors are not having it all their own way. By learning lessons from what they do well and fusing them with their greater customer knowledge, universal banks can forge a future that goes way beyond legacy.

Julien Humbrecht is an account director at Futurebrand