I recently posted this re-cap from the #NetFinance conference in Miami on how Digital is Rocking the Financial Services world. Let me know what you think!
We just returned from wonderfully warm Miami and the Net.Finance conference – a gathering of 500 banking, financial services, credit union and technology vendors discussing the challenges of understanding and leveraging digital in one of the oldest industries known to mankind.
In listening to the dozens of presentations and having some great conversations with folks in the industry, I came away with the following major themes:
1) Established companies require visionary and bold leadership to make bets on integrating digital into their organization. Decades of relying solely on traditional marketing tactics, local business relationships and physical bank branches result in an entrenched “prove it to me before I try it” mentality. I spoke to people who expended a lot of effort just to get a website built and have presidents who believe mobile is “not quite there yet.” I also spoke to leaders who embrace digital as a way to understand the customer better.
It’s 2014. It’s time to get in front of the digital wave. Data leads to customer insights. Customer insights lead to ideas for communicating with customers. Relevant communication leads to loyalty. It’s not that hard to comprehend.
2) Incrementalism vs revolution. Incrementalists try to integrate digital in a way that enhances the branch experience while piling on technology to improve the customer experience IF they have forward thinking leadership (see point one). Revolutionaries are banks like Simple and Moven with digital as the ONLY option. These types of new banks are clearly aiming at the mobile-centric Millenials and tech-forward Gen X and Y’s with a completely new way of providing financial services.
We need to find a way for incrementalists to be more revolutionary. I get that you can’t erase the past, get rid of all your current customers and start over – but to keep patching things here and there with a bit of digital won’t work forever.
3) Legal and compliance is a drag on innovation. Any organization needs to be concerned about legal exposure and industries like financial services and insurance have a higher burden than ever, after the financial crisis of 2008.
However, companies that are proactive about working with legal and compliancy teams in a cooperative environment are able to stay within the law and innovate. I spoke to one person who has an agreement with their legal/compliance team on social media communication that has clear outlines on what can/can’t be said in different situations (standard social governance best practice) but ALSO has a two-hour SLA on turnaround time for unforeseen issues. Internal partnerships can solve problems.
4) It’s a service, not a product business. The financial industry thinks in terms of products which drives siloes within an organization. The rise of social media and the shifting of power to the consumer have brought brand communication and interaction back to the forefront of the customer engagement.
Collaboration is absolutely essential. Consumers expect you to be consistent in your communications. Tear down those walls!
5) Everyone struggles with data. Whether you are trying to connect marketing engagements across devices, harness the unbelievable amount of data available or figure out what the right KPIs are to put in a dashboard to your CMO – data is hard. Big, small, smart – whatever. I heard a lot of different models on how to think about data and I met some vendors with ways to harness data, but unless you’re a pretty data/tech savvy person, it’s going to go over your head. I feel sorry for the smaller organizations that have a digital vision but not the funds or personnel to dig into the data issues.
Not to sell ourselves too hard here, but you can buy expertise. We work as partners with our clients. And our counsel and strategy more than pays for itself.
6) The importance of good design and UI can’t be overstated. Consumers expect their interactions with brands to look good, be intuitive and just work. It is just as important in the banking and financial services business as it is in the telecom or entertainment business.
Again, if you don’t have in-house expertise, get a marketing partner. Make sure that your partner understands both design and strategy, though. A beautiful mobile site that doesn’t sell or a pretty app that no one wants is a waste of your resources.
Presenting a unified customer experience across all touch points is hard work, but pays off handsomely with increased loyalty, greater share of wallet and more advocates promoting your brand. Building an environment of collaboration and innovation – starting with leadership – is critical in making this happen.
The financial services sector has similar challenges to everyone else with an industry history longer than 10 years. Digital is here, social is changing the nature of customer interaction and mobile is driving vast behavior change in the millennial and Gen X-Y demographics. The opportunities are huge and the companies that put customer centricity and innovation at the front of the conversation will be the ones who survive.