Making Financial Services More Human : Spotless Roundtable Event Summary

19 November 2019
Caroline Ingman

Caroline Ingman

Spotless Alum

Bringing you all things marketing at Spotless

At Spotless, we’d been discussing how, in an age increasingly driven by data, algorithms and artificial intelligence, customers remain at the heart of financial innovation.  We wanted to speak to those are the forefront of business design in the Financial Services sector to see how different organisation of differing sizes and specialities were keeping the human touch.

On Tuesday 12 November, people from around a dozen different financial services organisations covering global organisations to disruptor brands, retail and investment banking to insurance and personal financial management, met in a round table discussion over breakfast.  A lively discussion ensued, with some surprising realisations about the behaviours of customers and how they perceive their relationship with financial products and providers.  One thing was apparent; There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the needs of a customer and their money.

The event operated under the Chatham House rule, (so get in touch if you’d like to come to a roundtable in the future!)  but we’ve distilled down the key points that came out of the event for everyone below:


Customer centricity

  • People don’t care about a mortgage itself – they care about the new home, the extension, the new kitchen it can give them.  
  • Our products are lifestyle enablers.
  • Need to show that you care.
  • Design has to be more than just ‘a plaster on a wound’.  It has now become fundamental to organisations. 
  • Design now has a seat on the Executive Board – the Chief Design Officer, in some organisations.  This is a good thing.


Simplicity and clarity

  • Monzo is often seen by customers as being more human, and easier to engage with.
  • It has focused on simplifying the experience.  As an example, at the start it was able to ask fewer questions than a traditional bank.   It has adopted a progressive question approach, initially focused on just the credit card offering.
  • However, Start ups start off with a simple proposition and then their offering becomes more complex. Monzo Plus and example of this, tried to offer lounges, premium service etc.. but now pulled back to rethink
  • Large banks, bring along their legacy technology.  They are now able to simplify their offerings – offering the benefits of a larger organisations with a track record of trust.  Some of the start-ups are struggling with generating a higher level of trust.

Social responsibility

  • Being customer centric is at the heart of what banks have always done. Banks want to ensure customers are managing their finances well.
  • Fin services want to do more around financial wellbeing but regulation restricts ability to give advice, and therefore need to take care in providing guidance.  This has an impact on the role that a Fin Services organisation can take.
  • Some of the more innovative approaches may have unintended consequences e.g. Monzo paying salary a day early and Klarna offering buy now pay later approach, can lead to cycles of debt where people can’t manage outgoings e.g. living beyond means (this is another, potentially unfortunate, form of lifestyle enabler)
  • What is the ethical/moral responsibility for fin services to alert people to their bad spending behaviour?  Again, regulation constraints.
  • Should financial education be the role of the banks?  Or should they retain a simpler proposition. Should financial well being lie with others, eg schools.


Data ethics

  • GDPR has generated a common design pattern of pop-ups, leading to a behavioural tendency of many users to provide consent without thinking.
  • This can be cynically employed (a dark design pattern?) to gather personal financial information by some online retailers.
  • This challenges the old design principle of ‘Don’t Make Me Think’ .  In fact, a bit of friction is good, if it ensures that customers are thinking more carefully about the financial decisions they are making.
  • Orgs have tried to put in restrictions around gambling – but got feedback that some customers said it was unethical to stop them.


Designing to prevent fraud

  • Adding friction to try and prevent fraud.
  • Organisations are removing links from emails, to avoid repeat behaviours that could lead to phishing.
  • Can now identify behavioural archetypes – who is more susceptible to fraud, phishing and scams
  • Needs greater recognition of ‘bad users’.  Valuable to run internal experiments to prove to stakeholders/design teams who is susceptible to fraud (eg internal phishing emails)
  • Victims of fraud can be anyone – need to get over the incorrect assumption that it is only older more vulnerable and less technically competent people who can be a victim of fraud.  The scale of fraud is increasingly very rapidly.


Behavioural economics + data evidence is powerful

  • Personas can be useful as shortcuts in a design process – to communicate to stakeholders who are unfamiliar to design.
  • But they are often produced in a poor, stereotypical way – similar to simple marketing segments that don’t reflect true behaviour.
  • Behavioural archetypes are more useful – particularly as the same person may adopt a different behavioural archetype in different circumstances.
  • Becomes powerful when factually informed by data.


Chatbots are not always the answer

  • Chatbots generally used to reduce volume on frequent interactions.
  • The human call agent has to become better at dealing with difficult queries/issues, chat bot will take care of the simple requests.
  • Important to map out and understand when to handoff from a digital touchpoint to a human.
  • Interesting experiments in going beyond simple text chat into emojis.  Appropriate in the serious world of finance?, eg 


Beyond Chatbots to Virtual Agents

  • Virtual Agents are now becoming increasingly sophisticated. 
  • Sometimes difficult to identify that the agent is virtual, not a real person eg Lil Miquela is a virtual social media influencer.  Interesting article here in Vox (Thanks Silas Rooney!)
  • But need to take care.  Some user testing has shown that if a customer finds out later that the agent that have been speaking to, believing it to be human, is in fact, not – then they can become angry at being misled.


Digital is not always the answer

  • Digital channels are best suited for transactional services.
  • For global organisations, finding that there are huge cultural differences in different locations.  Can design at a group level, but always need allowance for localisation to fit different cultural behaviours.
  • Sometimes great customer services in other channels can compete against digital channels.
  • Choose the right channels best for your brand.  Premium services are often provided by concierge services / white glove services.   The knowledge that the agent/account person has of the customer can go very deep.
  • Real people engagement can be best in some insurance scenarios –  best suited for emotional and vulnerable states, missed flights etc..

But wait, Digital is sometimes better than a real person!

  • Digital can often be best suited for sensitive subject matter, such as talking about investments, earnings, etc, when people are reluctant to disclose this personal information to a real person



Got questions about your own organisation or products?  Get in touch and we’ll see how we can help.

Ben Logan - Director

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