Technologies taking care of their users, new ways of dealing with traditional business like insurance, and improving tiresome, annoying everyday routines in ways we don’t expect and can’t imagine today. I've tried to summarize my thoughts about the upcoming years.
Europe is ahead of the game
Let me start by saying this: I believe Europe is more technologically advanced than the US. And paradoxically, I think that Central Europe is — at least in certain areas — ahead of the West in terms of the latest tech.
Take banks, for example.
Historically, we’ve always been late bloomers, and technological advancement here came a bit later than in the western part of the continent. Which turned out to be an advantage: the region didn’t have to go the hard way of step-by-step development. When we ‘woke up’, we simply adopted the latest and best that was available.
So, today the region’s payment card coverage is much higher than in the US. And Czechia is the European leader in terms of NFC terminals and contactless payments (over 90%).
Or cheques — do you know anyone who actually uses them today? Yet they remain hardwired in the US payment ecosystem.
We are used to the fact that innovation comes from the West. But this is changing. Radically, in fact: TikTok, WeChat Pay, AliPay, AliExpress, and many other companies from Asia are leading the way today.
I believe this trend will continue and can be a huge benefit for FinTech companies from Europe (like Twisto). We strive to innovate and it's much more natural and necessary than what the US banks are used to. Even when I look at my Bank of America account, it’s a sad story in terms of UI & UX.
Delight, surprise, entertain
When was the last time your bank entertained or delighted you? Or has it ever?
I believe it’s all in the details. A few examples of how we at Twisto have tried to push things forward and fiddled with minor yet important stuff:
- Push notifications about new transactions — why have them the traditional and boring way of a simple statement and a bunch of numbers? Our notification tells you, “Twisto saved you 102 CZK, next lunch is on us 🍔”. And people do notice, we get loads of positive reactions to this.
- ‘Not found’ landing pages — it’s obvious that what you’re looking for isn’t there. But again, why do it the old-fashioned way? Give people something unexpected. Something that will entertain them — just like our 404 where you can play a space game.
- Blocking your card — typically, you have to call your bank. What we did was add a simple checkbox in our app. And people go: wow! You can simply lock and unlock your card over and over again! To go even further, imagine you could block and unblock payments in specific countries, or particular types of transactions in just a couple of taps. Interested?
Another example of taking that one little step forward even if you don’t have to is Wolt, the food delivery app. Tapping several times on the delivery time takes you to a game — try to beat the Wolt team’s highscores or even win a free delivery!
There’s no doubt: the future is definitely in apps and functions like these. And in finances being more secure and at hand. And fun. Because when you give people something they don’t expect and a few laughs on top of that, it will stick with them. They will remember. And talk about you.
I believe it’s crucial to incorporate this thinking into the things we do every day. I know that there is always pressure to ship things as soon as possible, but give it that finishing touch that it needs.
And if I can feel the importance of this approach now, imagine what it’s gonna be in the next 5–10 years when the competition is getting ahead of the banks and is pushing boundaries every day. In a couple of years, this approach won’t just be nice to have, it will be a key differentiator — and of course, you have to have a solid working core product under all of this, UX alone gimmicks won’t win it for you.
Banking beyond transactions
The crucial issue is: what’s the customer’s journey? What do they need? What’s relevant to their story?
It’s no longer about ‘banks wanting to cross-sell more mortgages or investments’.
What matters is what the customers see as pain points. And this has changed so much! What the 1970s generation considers fine and acceptable may be a bothersome and deterring experience for millennials.
Even today, with smooth online shopping and paying with a touch of the thumb, there seems to be too much friction. There are areas that are still living in the past.
Returns, for example.
They’re painful. Something you try to avoid. Filling out a complicated form for an e-shop. Filling out a post office slip. Neatly packing the parcel. Waiting in a queue to send it.
This can — should! — be tackled and solved.
Target groups? Forget them. The way things are moving is towards a ‘segment of one’ — where a specific information or touchpoint is relevant only to one single customer. Something like Spotify’s Daily mix and Discover weekly playlists.
So what will the future of financial products look like? Maybe a virtual assistant? I can easily imagine the next interface for my money: coming home from work and Siri telling me that she’s looked at my mortgage and found a way to save twenty dollars every month. A simple confirmation and she can take care of the switch.
Yes, the future: technology taking care of us.
I have another example. Imagine you’re making a transaction on Amazon or paying at a hotel abroad in your home currency — because that gives you a better picture than the amount in the local money, right?
What you might not realize is that the merchant is about to rip you off because of something called dynamic currency conversion (which takes a lovely 5 percent out of your pocket even on PayPal).
Now imagine your phone warns you about this — before the transaction comes through. ‘Hey, do you really want to authorize this? This merchant might be ripping you off by 5 per cent, should I stop it right now?”
And how about this: technology understanding my personal finances and helping me make the right decisions, based on what I prefer. Here’s an example. Investments — I don’t want to ponder over which specific stock to buy. I envision an app telling me I have a particular amount available every month that I don’t use. Would I like a piece of advice on what to do with it — based on my preferences: savings, investments, risk-appetite and so on? I’d love that!
Or take a look at a completely different area. Insurance. The future is what Lemonade.com does, not an insurance guy in a cheap suit drafting forms and papers. One tap, one place, no unnecessary commitment. Why should I call my bank or insurer at all?
Even when going through Apple’s patents, you can see where they think personal finance is going (like sending money directly to someone through an iMessage, an idea they introduced some time ago that is a great example of how they think about pushing things further and further). And I’m not even talking about the experience of Apple Pay (on mobile or desktop).
Just realise how far we’ve come in a couple of years — and think about how far we can go! Just ~12 years ago there was no:
How can we take relevant data and create value out of it? How can we better understand your economic situation to save you time and money?
How to keep up with growth?
There’s one huge advantage I see in technological startups: their minimal technical debt.
They can stay competitive and launch new products in record times because they don’t have to sync six different systems written in Haskell (nothing against Haskell, though).
But there’s even more to it.
How to keep up with growth? Traditional banks move along at their steady, sluggish pace. No big deal.
For us, though, things change almost every month. There’s always something to do better. There are new challenges that come up from fast growth.
How can you keep up the ownership, responsibility, purpose? How do you have fun while rapidly growing? We’ve gone from 4 to 140+ — but what happens when we grow from 140 to a thousand? Are we ready for it? Our mindset?
Can our people — and their skillset — scale fast enough to keep up with the scaling of the company?
We believe we can do it.
There’s one thing we at Twisto do well in my opinion. We’re based around small teams that act almost like small companies. Everyone can understand why and how we do what we do. It’s easier for these teams to deliver their vision to the market.
I believe it’s a different — and better — approach than the traditional one where big ideas only come from senior management. I’m convinced that this stakeholder-driven approach won’t work anymore to stay competitive.
Our teams understand customers and data in the best possible way. Thus they have everything they need to drive innovation.
What do you think about the future in this field? What are your thoughts on FinTech and finance in general? What are the biggest pain points you see as customers right now? I’d love to hear what you think.
A note from AI in Plain English
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