Banking on the customer experience: The future of connectivity in financial services

As everyday devices are connected, the notion of banking stands to change radically. That future might look something like this. Let’s say we have a customer – let’s call her Patty. Patty starts her daily routine – she may be watching a morning show and can view financial information such as market data as part of her TV viewing experience; she might want to keep her eyes on a specific stock and gestures to the TV to keep track of it.

mobilize-2013-essayAs she commutes to work, she may be stuck in traffic and decides to get some tasks out of the way. In her connected car, she’s able to pay her bills and check her balances without taking her eyes off the road. As far as the stocks she’s interested in potentially buying – she can learn more about them by listening to how they are trending while in the car. At work she receives an alert from her son. He’s not great at budgeting and needs more money for college, so she transfers the money upon getting the request with a tap of her watch.

On her way home, she stops by the grocery store and fills her shopping cart with items from her shopping list – which she pulls down from her refrigerator data while being reminded of her food budget. Upon checkout, she receives discounts on her phone and is rewarded for staying within her food budget for the week. When she gets home, she realizes it’s a good time to buy the stocks that she was tracking earlier in the day – so she places the order while in the comfort of her living room in front of her TV.

Through this scenario, digital technology and connected devices facilitate Patty’s experiences throughout the day. It’s important to notice she didn’t set foot into a banking store; she didn’t call a banker; she didn’t log into online banking. Most of these financial tasks were done on non-traditional devices, but nevertheless she was able to accomplish the same financial tasks she used to do within the confines of a traditional bank branch or web site.

eyes free Siri connected carOf course this is an extreme scenario for illustrative purposes, but in the financial industry, it’s one we are using to challenge ourselves. From legacy systems to siloed databases, the traditional infrastructure for most financial service industries serves as an anchor that slows down product development. Much like our cohorts in IT, we must adapt to make all of our infrastructure and policies much more agile to adapt to a new reality where everything is connected. We also need to re-imagine experiences for our customers and encourage creativity from all employees, so we can make the customer experience more seamless. Here’s how we’re thinking about it:

  • Define the motivations behind your buying your product or service: In the case of banking, customer tasks and financial motivations will likely stay the same over the years, but the way customers interact with financial services and financial data will need to be re-envisioned. However, institutions must not bring in technology for technology’s sake, but rather incorporate the right digital solutions to improve and enhance the customer’s financial journey throughout the day, enabling a frictionless experience with their financial tasks. Identifying the relevant use cases is a critical exercise in this exploration.
  • Find the technology enablers to let you develop quickly and deliver secure experiences: What technology and infrastructure is required to enable a more connected experience for customers? What new technology solutions will help us build (or buy) faster? What security mechanisms need to be in place to keep customer data secure and confidential? Without a doubt, new financial startups have an advantage over larger institutions, given they are free from the shackles of legacy technology that can slow down development time. To compete with more agile startups, banks are looking at enabling technologies that can serve as catalysts for faster development – open stack architecture, software as a service, cloud computing, and APIs. From a security standpoint, next gen fraud and authentication mechanisms will need to continually evolve to safeguard customer and bank data as devices proliferate.
  • Design is just as important as technology: We are asking ourselves, how do you provide meaningful, relevant, contextualized financial information? Providing a personalized experience across a customer’s financial journey requires a confluence of data, analytics and visualization in a way that enables customers to strategize, make decisions and take action. A customer like Patty can connect with a device at any given point in a journey, but if that connection is not meaningful, relevant, and contextualized for what she needs at that moment in time on that device, it’s not likely a critical enough connection to become habit for her.
  • Keep the traditional channels available: Traditional channels are and will remain important cornerstones of the banking relationship for customers – but there’s the potential for these new interactions to be supported in retail locations via bank apps if customers find it valuable and relevant to their lives.

A connected world is already a reality and will only become more immersive in the future. How well companies evolve their capabilities to correspond with customer needs will determine its edge.

Miranda Hill is Vice President and Manager for Wells Fargo Labs in the Digital Channels Group at Wells Fargo. This essay is part of a package for our Mobilize conference Oct 16th and 17th in San Francisco.