For a while now I have been tracking how banks and financial institutions are using social technologies to provide new services to their customers.
I thought that it would be useful to do a round-up of the products that have recently caught my eye for anyone who is interested in the intersection between the social web and banking innovation.
For each I’ll provide a brief description of the product or service and then outline why I think it is important.
I am indebted to the key bloggers in this area for alerting me to these developments, including;
Chris Skinner, Jim Bruene,
and Brett King.
These guys are covering this stuff on their sites in much more detail and providing more insight that I have here, so please look them up.
1. Amex Social Deals – merging loyalty and social on Facebook
This is a new service on the American Express Facebook page that lets users link their AmEx card to an app so they can select deals and experiences that are based on the likes and interests of themselves and their friends. They then use their AmEx cards
to redeem these offers.
This is interesting because there has been a lot of talk about how users’ social graph is key to the future of loyalty but as yet, there have been few examples of this in practice. What is additionally surprising is that a big player like AmEx has got there
2. Citibank’s iPad app – tablet personal finance management tool (PFM)
Citibank’s new app provides users with online banking services via their tablets.
The features on the app embrace the opportunities that the iPad’s touchscreen fluidity provides in order to offer interactive tools so that users can visualise their financial activity.
This is important for two reasons – firstly because it shows that touchscreen devices such as the iPad provide developers with new ways of presenting information to users. This means that any financial service that wants to create an app in this space needs
to really think about how they can make the most of the user experience, rather than simply seeing it as another channel to be on.
Secondly, it is interesting that Citibank is emphasising the personal finance management features of this tool – PFM systems are springing up all over the place at the moment and are a real theme in the banking innovation space (especially when they use
social features, such as Meniga).
Expect to see more and more popping up in the next 12 months.
3. Balance Bookkeeper - personal finance management tool with a human element
Balance Bookkeeper is a finance management service and PFM. In other words, it has all the usual PFM features: bill payment, budgeting and whizzy graphics but, in addition users also get their own bookkeeper
to manage this for them. A real, live human one.
These bookkeepers receive and pay user’s bills on time and provide custom reporting to help them track their financial goals.
I’m not aware of any services that have combined this level of personal service with a PFM and it’s a pretty interesting approach.
4. Standard Chartered Breeze - mobile PFM
Standard Chartered’s Breeze app has been mentioned on these pages
before and is often referenced as a neat example of mobile PFM. Why? Well, it offers mobile banking transactions, location based services (including an augmented reality deal scheme where users can catch kites to get coupons) and a neat Wishlist feature
that lets users link their saving goals to their social network.
Why is this interesting? Well firstly, Standard Chartered has a good reputation for offering value to customers, so when they release tools such as Breeze, their reputation precedes them. This is a lesson that most financial services would do well to learn.
Secondly, the app is useful, visually appealing but above all fun. It doesn’t use social technology for the sake of it; it does it to add value to the user.
5. ING Direct - phone-to-phone mobile payments
ING Direct in the US has launched phone-to-phone payment via Bump technology (meaning you can transfer funds by ‘bumping’ phones with another ‘Bump’ enabled phone)
Mobile payment has been a huge theme in banking futurology (think of the buzz around
Square or NFC mobile payments for example) and again, it is interesting to see such a big player embrace this new technology at a person-to-person level.
6. BNP Paribas - retail bank concept store
BNP launches a new concept store in Paris (photos here).
OK, this story is a little out of date (the branch opened a good few months ago now) but it does show that the branch is not dead (despite its many obituaries recently). It is changing though and there is a new theme developing around the branch as a retail
experience, as banks come to realise that customer engagement with the brand begins at the door (or even outside it). For more luscious examples of branch innovation, see
7. Webank’s WePadProject – crowdsourced apps
Italy’s Webank used the WePadProject industry experts (not employees of the bank) to innovate features for their iPad App. The ideas for the features were crowdsourced from the online community on the special
project microsite and then developed over a series of interactive brainstorms.
This is a great use of social to drive innovation and product development that meets user needs. In addition, Webank managed to create a network between themselves, key influencers in mobile, digital and creative spaces and their customers, with each providing
credibility to the other. A clever, clever idea that really shows how social collaboration can drive business in new ways.
9. First Direct Innovation Lab – co-creating products and services with customers
It will have been hard to miss the news this week that First Direct has launched a new crowdsourcing site to drive new product development.
Christophe Langlois has reviewed the new site in detail; so if you want to find out more about it, please check out his article for full details of how the
crowdsourcing element works.
What makes this important is that this is first major UK bank to launch a dedicated service that allows customers a voice in development and provides a nod towards co-creation of services.
This marks a sea change in customer relations and First Direct has really stolen a march on their competitors with this launch.
10. Banks and card issuers use consumer spending patterns to drive loyalty – raises key questions about data ownership
Leading banks and card issuers in the U.S have
begun selling customer data to retailers so that they can offer targeted discounts
Big names, including Wells Fargo and Citi are now providing spending information (what they buy and where they buy it) to retailers so that they can offer deals to those consumers. Every time a deal is cashed, the bank receives a commission from the retailer.
I really think that this is a key development and the use of customer data to provide relevant offers and drive retention is core to almost every banking innovation around the social web (think locational services,
gamification, PFM and loyalty developments).
What makes me uncomfortable with the approach of these banks is the sale of the data. Apparently customers have responded positively to this innovation so far and an opt out exists for those that do not want their data used in this way. However, as the
use of individual customer data becomes more prevalent, I think we will see the debate around who owns our data move to the mainstream. Institution selling this data will be seen to be making a claim to ownership and this will not sit well with consumers.
At the end of the day, those banks that maximise the value they provide to customers through judicious use of their data will be the ones that win, not those that think that this is simply another revenue stream in and of itself.
An interesting innovation but the commercial link between the retailers and the banks in this case rather misses the point of social innovation.
Please let me know if you have any other product launches and innovations for this list and if this format proves popular, I’ll make the round-up a regular feature.