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Are you game enough?

I was at a Mobile event recently when the topic of gamification in banking came up.  It’s a term that has come to polarise so many opinions.  I happened to be on the panel when a member of the audience asked for our thoughts.  One of the panel ‘experts’ proceeded to talk and they had absolutely no idea… He touched on using his Xbox to bank and he even mentioned Monopoly in there. In case you have lived under a rock for the last 12 months, gamification is the use of game techniques such as challenges, rewards and rankings to influence desired user behaviour.  It’s digital equivalent of dangling a carrot on a stick…


Even though the term is relatively new, gamification has actually existed since the dawn of civilisation.  Our economy, culture and sports are all driven by the desire to win, beat, and compete.  Over the last three decades we have applied these themes to the act of video gaming.  We don’t play video games because of the quirky characters.  Even though an Italian plumber in blue overalls and a bad accent has a certain appeal - it is not our main motivator.  We play video games because of the trials and tribulations.  We love a good challenge and a happy ending.  The harder and more complex the game is the more we strive to clock it. 


In a banking context, gamification understanding and its application is at its very infancy.  The ‘suits’ are finally getting their heads around mobile and social let alone gamification.  This will change soon enough.  So what does gamification offer to the industry? Banking, in itself, is something that no person wants to do.  It’s tedious and for most people quite stressful.  For most, it results in them having to shift around the little money they have.  It’s the reason Personal Financial Management (PFM) hasn’t really taken off.  No one really wants to work to understand their financial situation in more detail.  This is the very reason why gamification is perfect for banking. 


If done correctly gamification is a great way for banks to make banking a little bit more enticing.  It can be used to encourage people to adopt a service or to influence how those services are used.  Banks can take advantage of their customer’s psychological predisposition to engage in challenges to change the status quo.  It can be used to drive, encourage or promote end user behaviours that either benefit the user themselves, or achieve strategic business objectives.  Through the application of appropriate persuasive design principles banks can actually help customers make a difference. Gamification can be a key component of the future of banking. 


Banks need to move away from offering tools that allow customers to manage their money, and instead offer capabilities that help customers maximise their money.  Manage to maximise.  A slightly different word and a brave new world.   At the moment most banking services are relatively dumb.  They don’t really do anything for you.  Unless you are in trouble, or the bank wants to sell you something, you never really hear from them.  They don’t help you save or spend appropriately.  They give you some (average) tools so you can manage it yourself.  It’s like going to a restaurant that allows you to use their kitchen to cook dinner for yourself.


Gamification is a great opportunity to make banking more engaging, by encouraging users to engage in desired behaviours, recognising achievements, and by helping to solve problems.  Through this banks can begin to engage with customers at a different level.  Beyond servicing customer needs it can deliver a lot of benefits to the bank.  It can influence cost reduction by rewarding customers for using low cost channels.  It can reward customers who adopt mobile payments and stop withdrawing cash.  It can also encourage customer acquisition.  Referral is a great way to deliver new customers by rewarding your existing base for registering their friends.  Gamification should be applied throughout all elements of the service proposition from the underlying product configuration to the marketing strategy.


For banks who don’t know where to begin there are a few good examples already out there.  The Smarty Pig concept has been around for a number of years.  It encourages users to reach savings goals through rewards and then socialise them with their peers. is a new financial website that rewards customers with credits for big money prize draws based on their online activity. It really is only beginning though and there will be plenty of activity over the next 24 months.  For most start-ups and new entrants gamification is a core feature of their service because it can create the loyal usage and virality that will drive success.  Banks need to think similar and act as if they don’t have a base.  The build it and they will come mentality isn’t sustainable.


The final question is, are they game enough?


Comments: (7)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 07 September, 2012, 15:28Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I agree that "Banking, in itself, is something that no person wants to do.  It’s tedious and for most people quite stressful." To that extent, gamification of banking products and services seems to be the right way to go. 

However, it might face the same challenge as bank-sponsored PFMs have viz. reluctance of customers to divulge to one bank (the game- or PFM-sponsoring one) details of their overall financial holdings across multiple banks (e.g. checking accounts, term deposits), financial institutions (e.g. mutual funds) and insurance companies (e.g. life insurance). IMO, the key is to select the appropriate scope of coverage for a gamified offering that sidesteps this challenge. 

On a lighter note, banks adopting gamification would have to do something to ensure that customers don't make the transition from "gamification of banking" to "playing with money" too seamlessly!

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 07 September, 2012, 19:44Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Good points regarding selection of the right features and journeys to gamify. 

In terms of the play side I think often people think of gamification as just that.  In effect it is so much more sophisticated that that.  For gamification to be succesful it it just as important to get the branding, tone of voice, design and user journey spot on before you even think about the game and rewards elements.

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 08 September, 2012, 13:27Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

With recent events like Google renaming "Android Market" to "Play Store", the term "play" itself might begin to have serious connotations, which is good for "gamification of banking".

The MyMoneyAppUp contest being run by US Treasury has surfaced many gamified financial apps. While some of them seem like glorified calculators, apps like BankUp, Buying Happiness and MOOLAH certainly illustrate the power of gamification to alter consumer behavior. 

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 10 September, 2012, 20:12Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I think we are going to see a significant change in banking soon.  Customers are asking themselves 'what do banks actually do for me?'...Banks that do the banking for the customer and help the customer develop better financial habits will succeed.  Gamification can be a big part of this transition and customers need an instigator to help them overcome their aversion to something new.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 11 September, 2012, 06:07Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I absoultely agree with you that banking is boring. And not
just boring but time consuming. PFM is a great tool indeed, but it requires profound financial awareness and  a prudent way of thinking. However, I think only few of us think like that. On the one hand gamification makes banking more fun and less boring, but on the other hand  it can motivate end-customers to use more and more services - it is more important from the banks' point of view. And from that point there is just a small step to evolve gamification to a sales boosting tool on the online channels. That is one of the main ideas behind our online banking gamification concept.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 11 September, 2012, 10:42Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Hi Adrienn, I think you’re spot on.  The great thing about gamification is that if it’s used effectively it can support any business no matter the size.  We have seen some great examples of persuasive design and gamification driving growth in apps with little to no advertising. With Foursquare the idea of checking in alone is not that fun.  The enjoyment comes from sharing, getting rewarded and receiving recognition.

I have previously seen the Finovate video of your concept and it looks impressive.  Are banks starting to listen?

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 11 September, 2012, 12:59Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Yes, banks are definitely keen on finding new ways to retain their clients and also to upsell to them as much as possible. During the last couple of years the main reason of shifting clients to online channels was cost-efficiency, and banks managed to do it very well. The channel costs of online distribution are much lower, but now banks are realizing that with lower costs they lose the power of personal selling, the “human interface” they had in the branch. And those clients already educated to use online channels won’t return to the branches, so banks have to find new ways to sell. Gamification can be one of the tools for this purpose. To conclude, banks have started to realize this progress and to look for solutions. And thankfully we can help them :).

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