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EX for Banks' Sake!

Anyone who's read from me or spoken to me before, knows I am obstinately passionate about the concept of "Emotional Banking"/"Emotions and Banking" - just "Money and Feelings".

EX stands for Emotional Experience (thank you David Milligan from for the idea of the name). It is the only type of User Experience we should care about. Money is one of the core concepts in any customer's emotional well being and it naturally elicits very strong emotions. Therefore, it stands to reason that banks, the institutions who are currently the enablers of people's relationship with money, would spend inordinate amounts of time and effort deciphering how their consumers truly feel about it.

Unfortunately this is not the case.

I believe it is time we roll up our sleeves and change that if we are to ever arrive at "Invisible Banking" that is finally integrated into the consumer's life in an emotionally connected way. We have so much we need to do that we're behind on. We need to talk about the emotions behind savings, investments and day-to-day money. We need to learn about Emotional ML and how different segments react. We have to think about what is anxiety ridden, what is giving us joy, what are we looking forward to, how do we push consumers into good habits and get them out of bad ones, how do we make them richer and more connected to us? Why do they irrationally trust us, what's stopping them from leaving us? How can we delight them, how can we answer all their needs and most importantly, how can we vanish out of their exasperated eye and become invisible empowerers of MoneyMoments(TM)?

When I started in banking, I had expected to encounter strong teams of behavioural psychologists in every serious bank stopping the IT people from doing anything at all before they ensured it was in line with what they had determined the consumer genuinely needs.  They wouldn't be there to worry if Millenials spend 20 or 22 minutes on average per every half an hour using a mobile device but to decipher how we all really feel about our money. It seemed only natural. And yet, in the past few years in which I've sat down with most of the banks of everywhere I never met any. 

Ironically perchance, I met instead companies wondering about how the consumer feels when building product and through some of them, this has trickled down to banks if they are their suppliers. They do this by employing a lot of common sense and using empathic design whether they call it that or not. Same methods would work stupendously well if bankers employed them for the same goal of truly understanding their customers but they do not.

One thing is clear to me: bankers simply must not feel entitled to think about themselves as a consumer and I’d like to change that. I need them analysing how they feel themselves and to translate that to a desire of digging into others' relationship with their money as well. It's why I've put together my workshop "EX - the next step after UX" that I offer to banks - two days of nothing but thinking feelings or better yet, feeling feelings.

As I said in the article on, I feel it's high time we dissect what we mean with the overused term of "needs". It's a case of going back to the beginning where Maslow identified real needs and then mapping out which of them involve money, in what fashion and what are the emotions associated with each when they are met or not. 

When I've put together the first versions of my workshop, I was fortunate enough to get a lot of ideas, amazing dialogue and invaluable feedback from the industry but two questions came through that puzzled me at first and then borderline outraged me: "Who is this for? Which side of the bank? Which job titles should attend?" and "What is the business benefit of thinking of EX? Where's the ROI?"

"Maybe you're right and this is needed but since we don't have these teams of behaviourists whose job is it to do this mapping and analyse emotions? Who should be the ones to think of how to build Emotionally Significant Moments in the customer's life and how to seamlessly fit into existent ones?" Everyone.

First of all - which side of the bank? Presumably every one of them that ever has contact with other humans. Retail may have more homework to do but SME has plenty of Money Moments and Wealth Management does too. With the exception of maybe Institutional banking no one is exempt from having to think of feelings.

Which departments should sit down for two days and learn Psychology 101, attempt to recognise and justify emotions, learn about Irrational Bank Loyalty, understand empathy design, dissect what is context and relevancy and what are valuable Facts of Life for each segment? Everyone. Yes those in charge of UX and product are the one that should become, in the words of Louise Long from NAB, "Value Managers" instead of "Product Managers" and they should care intensely but the Strategy people should do nothing unless they think under these terms, the Innovation people should be able to answer any need for new with the way it would make consumers keep feeling or stop feeling and everyone else whether hired by the bank to be a Thinker or a Doer should first and foremost ask themselves "how does my customer feel?".

Which brings me to the second question. The "What's in it for them?" age old benefits question. I first instinctively rebelled against the idea that every thought we have in banking needs to be quantifiable and directly traceable to a number increasing or decreasing - be it attrition rates or bonuses, and wondered what happened with our neo-hippie call to arms to "Stop asking for the ROI of digital" combined with an instinctive "Do we need a dollar sign on customer's delight?!?" but soon had to conceal that bankers have been spoiled with real or imaginary case studies and investment models and they expect it now so I set out to research.  

Leafing through studies on the ROI of CX, Loyalty, Life Time Value of the Relationship and Digital is a sobering exercise and of course, of them the easiest answer containing spectacular numbers is in the evident correlation between the Net Promoter Score and EX. Needless to say the banks that don't use NPS and the ones who've only vaguely thought of it, need to change their entire perspective and think of consumers' actual feelings more than anyone else. 

The good news is that thinking of how people feel is not a pointless, fluffy, hippie exercise just because it's their God/Buddha/Nihilism given rights of having their money-feelings be amplified or diminished by their service provider but it will translate into bigger bottom lines for those who do it right. The easiest argument in favour of that is how the most beloved brand in the world that accomplished the most in delighting their customers by thinking of the way they experience emotions is now worth double what any other brand is.

 For all the words we've said in banking about change and revolutions and disruption we all instinctively know our children will experience "banking" in a very different way. To them providers and pipes won't matter. What products we sell won't matter. Whether the branch has a drone waiting with their favourite coffee at the door won't matter. How successful we are in sliding in and our of their lives at the right time with a highlighter for their positive emotions and an eraser for their negative ones is the only thing that will matter and empowering their Money Moments in that deeply emotionally connected way is not something we'll be able to do by moving a tab or changing the background colours. 

In product design it's said you have to have "religion" to succeed - where "religion" is complete philosophical lockstep in believing in what the essence and the mission of what you bring to the world is. To me it's glaringly obvious EX should have already been our religion in banking and we can still make it so in a fashion that will make bankers and consumers alike much richer and happier if we start today.


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