What Do You Want Your Bank to Solve?

A couple of years ago I attended a Bank Innovation afternoon, run by the lovely JP Nichols, where I encountered my first ‘persona’ exercise. The room was full of design people, FinTech folks and bankers. My group were the bankers.

We were assigned to create a person. A real-life person, with wants and desires, flaws and problems — and then create a banking relationship for that ‘person’. I was amazed by the variety of different people created by each group.

A group of designers created an old age pensioner, who lived in a rural community and was a widower. Some consultants outlined a single mother of two, who lived in the Northeast in the UK, and was going back to school to continue her education. Yet another group constructed a former addict in London, who had served in Iraq.

My group, the bankers? This was our guy:

· A man (I think we ended up calling him Trevor)

· 28 years old. University and above education.

· Works for a large corporate, but wants to start his own business eventually.

· Small pension plan established.

· Owns his own home … in London. <==WTF?

I had to stop them. (They were all getting collective hard-ons about the type of small business loans their bank would sell to this future Steve Jobs of the UK.) I had to ask — ‘Does this perfect human being have any flaws? Any problems?’

They stared at me blankly.

Ok, guys — is he married, does he have a girlfriend?’

No, girlfriend as of yet — but definitely wants to get married some day

I wrote — ‘Uses Tinder’ on a Post-It

Really, online dating? Would our guy do that?

YES!’ I screamed. (The room got a bit quiet then) ‘Your perfect, 28 year old Oxbridge grad, with an endless disposable income — given that he has a pension AND owns his own home in London — cannot actually magic up the perfect trophy wife at will. He uses Tinder just like all the rest of you.’

The group started discussing what type of cool, hip tech startup this guy would start before his 30th birthday.

Gentlemen! (I can get loud when I’m not being heard ;-) ) Focus — before you start selling ‘Trevor’ a wide range of banking products, we have to discuss his flaws, his quirks — the stuff that makes him a real human being. Does he have a gambling problem, for example?’

At that point one of the men in the group took my pink Post-It pad and Sharpie and wrote ‘Buys scratch cards’ on a sheet and triumphantly stuck it on the flip board.

Why am I telling you this story?

This week I was asked to think about some stories that addressed customer facing problems that banks can try and solve. My brain went into action. Account opening! KYC! Identity!

I was no different from those ‘bankers’ two years ago. I started thinking about bank products — granted I was thinking about how these bank products aren’t fit for many individual people’s purposes — but I was being product-centric nevertheless.

I decided to walk through my life.

· I want a way that I can get from my house in the morning to my desk in my office in the cheapest and most efficient way possible. <==Southeastern Rail is not delivering

· I want to be able to get a taxi anytime and anywhere, without going to an ATM first <==Oh ya, Uber solved that

· I want to be able to walk around a conference centre, in my dress with no pockets, and still hold onto — my bank card, my phone, a lipstick and a tampon — without carrying a huge bag <==My ‘tiny, pretty, purse’ startup company is looking for funds now

· I want a summer house at the bottom of my garden.

· I want my son to have guitar lessons

· I want to know I can buy a ticket to the US at a moment notice if my family needs me

· I want to be able to work at something until I have more grey hair than I have now

· I want my son to go to university where the only thing he has to worry about is studying and having enough weekly beer money — like I did.

Can a bank look at all of that and think — What are the services we have now that can help you achieve some of that and if not, what can we develop that can?

Or would they try and sell me a ‘loan’?

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