FinTech: An Industry Built on CX Design
FinTech, a buzzword that has roamed around in recent years, refers to companies that work in the financial sector, but innovate with technology, business models and engaging customer experience to build competitive advantage.
When the finance industry took a huge hit during the 2008 crisis, which resulted in a massive drop of trust towards it, a new breed of company started to gain traction — companies that are free from complicated, interconnected traditional systems; companies focused on their customers.
“Despite all the efforts at reform that have been initiated and are currently in train, trust in banking is still at a very low level.”
Sir David Walker, former Barclays Chairman.
Startups innovate faster than big financial institutions and can win market share with innovative products. In 2015 there was $13.8 bn in VC backed FinTech investments.
As technology costs are going down and financial services are easy to replicate, innovation needs to emerge from other areas outside of the traditional products or services, such as customer experience. Design becomes one of the crucial areas of any business, and we all know that it’s easier to build a design culture from the ground up, rather than adjusting corporate structures to suddenly shift from tech- or system-orientation to design-centricity.
Many disruptive companies have put users at the centre of their interest and have become successful as a result. Instead of imposing major systemic constraints on their customers to maximise profits, they solve genuine problems and focus their efforts on their users. Here are a few examples:
Solving a real problem that the founders experienced themselves — enormous costs of transferring money abroad when done through high street banks. They managed to ruffle the feathers of the big banks with their proposition, which is always considered a bold move.
Great interface, built from the ground up. Empowering its users to open an account online, set up saving goals and easily manage accounts via the mobile interfaces etc.
Transparency and control is something many consumers lack in their finances. This creates major problems, such as credit loops, inertia of breaking even and lack of savings. Mint helps consumers manage their finances in a structured and seamless way.
Empowering anybody to receive card payments. It tapped into an unexplored, thriving area of pop-up sales and flea markets, allowing merchants to accept card payments.
Even big, established companies innovate in the technology sphere. Visa has recently set up an internal design agency, Visa Design. They are creating new, disruptive products for Visa and have made user-centricity their motto:
“Our end user is at the heart of everything we do. By taking a human-centered design approach, we stay focused on creating meaningful experiences that meet the needs of the people around us.”
Ideo, a world-leading experience design agency working for organisations such as HyundaiCard, GE Money Bank, BBVA Group or Bank of America, have been commissioned by big players to redefine either their entire customer experience or specific touch points that create new ways for customers to engage with finance. Apart from the growing business opportunities for design agencies in this area, more and more companies are setting up in-house design and customer experience teams.
As the design industry grows substantially year to year, FinTech companies are tapping into this source of creativity to drive growth of their own. User-centricity is what drives value, and this is something that is being noticed by the big players too. However, if they take too long to react they could wake up in a world where they’re no longer market leaders and it’s too late to pivot. Agility and iterative design is the way forward for financial companies, even though it may seem like an oxymoron.
“Retail banking is suffering from customer inertia and oligopoly. Communities are not being served, and the covenant of trust has been broken between banks and customers”
Nigel Gilbert, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for TSB Bank
These trends are recognised and addressed at conferences such as WIRED Money, where speakers from around the industry talk about their products. The last one, which took place last month, hosted speakers from BBVA, Deutsche Bank, Azimo, Uphold, Atom Bank, Colu and many more. Accelerated by events like this which generate widespread interest, hundreds of FinTech companies are sprouting up around the world in search of a redefinition of the financial world.
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