Bridging the Customer Experience Gap

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The prevailing view of most financial industry leaders over the past decade has been that internal innovation was optional at best, and probably harmful to the way they’ve been used to doing things for so long. Meanwhile innovation bloomed on the edges and outside of the industry, bringing a surge in customer adoption in fintech, which has brought a flood of investor equity in turn. Financial leaders are finally starting to pay attention.

Sort of.

It’s certainly not a moment too soon, as today’s consumers who live their life in a world defined by the customized and engaging customer experiences of Apple, Uber, Google, Netflix, Starbucks, Amazon and others sense a major disconnect when interacting with their financial institution. Back to the future, indeed.

I spent last week in Singapore at the massive global banking conference Sibos, and while I was surprised at the number of bankers who insisted on wearing suits and ties at a luxury resort in the tropical heat and humidity, I was encouraged by the throngs of suits who overwhelmed the Innotribe sessions.

Innotribe has been the embedded rebel camp at Sibos since 2009, but this year a large swarm of new faces joined the familiar bunch of casually-clad denizens, which included a veritable who’s who of fintech entrepreneurs, innovators and influencers far too numerous to mention here (check Twitter).

From Big Data to Value Data

One of the Innotribe sessions showed how artificial intelligence, crowd-intelligence, graph intelligence and human intelligence are all converging, and how that convergence can be harnessed to create truly personalized and relevant customer experiences.

Looking into the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau consumer complaint database on banking services, there are some interesting geographic differences in the data that could be used to paint a vivid picture of evolving customer wants and needs.

There is a treasure trove of information available there and it is amazing that we continue to talk to senior banking leaders who have never spent time with the data. It seems that many consider it the domain of the compliance department, or maybe customer service, but not enough are using it to help tailor their products and services to improve the customer experience.

There is an overwhelming amount of data out there— big data, little data, structured data, unstructured data, transactional data, social data— but the key is making sense of it in the context of your business plans and in the markets in which you are operating. That’s what we call Value Data.

Fintech Becoming Mainstream?

Besides all the new faces at the Innotribe sessions, I’ve experienced similar new interest in my own talks on the rise of fintech and the need for more innovation in banking. I attended a banking industry conference a couple years where I experienced mostly ignorance and indifference to the topic, so I stopped attending. This year the group’s new CEO invited me to keynote in a featured slot on their main stage.

Earlier this year I was also invited to teach the first class ever on innovation and fintech at the Pacific Coast Banking School at the University of Washington. The class was fully booked in short order, so a second section was offered and it too was fully booked. The students were largely unaware of many fintech developments over the past few years, but they were deeply engaged in learning more and figuring out how to apply the lessons in their own banks.

This widening interest is not just in my imagination. Look at the trend line of Google searches on the topic “Fintech”:

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Next week I’ll join 10,000 of my closest friends in Las Vegas for Money 20/20, where fintech and innovation in financial services are certainly not new words. I will also be working in partnership with  Capital One and Capital One Growth Ventures, to take an inside look at how they’re investing in fintech and innovation in banking. Stay tuned for more details on that.

The good news for now is that more and more banking leaders are recognizing that the world is changing around them, the bad news is that most are not prepared to move quickly enough to close the ever-widening gap.

As General Eric Shinsecki, former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army said, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”