At this year’s MobeyDay event in Barcelona we got a little sand, a lot of sun and a whole lot more social media. Even though discussions were had over a wide range of mobile banking topics, it still felt like there was a general preoccupation with two things:
privacy and social media.
"Who's friends with their bank on Facebook?" asked Consult Hyperion founding director Dave Birch to a crowd of almost 200.
A few nervous hands rose as if Birch just asked who’s recently wet the bed.
A room full of financial professionals, discussing the future of social media in banking, and just one per cent, or thereabouts, actually connecting with their bank on Facebook. Bizarre?
In Birch's experience, that percentage is lot lower when surveying those not in the financial industry.
And I can see why too. A quick check on the NatWest page and you'll find promos of its contactless service, its mobile app, its pay-your-contacts service and a few polls. So a lot of marketing but not much interaction. Doesn't seem very social for social
media, does it?
The same goes for most of the big branches too; countless promotions, adverts and the rehashing of old news.
Maybe if banks started offering more real-world value through social media, they might find the one per cent figure pick up. Less marketing copy and more customer interaction would be a good start.
But it’s wrong to say banks haven’t been innovating with Facebook. India’s ICICI, Malaysia’s CIMB and ING Canada are all institutions that genuinely open up the platform in new ways to deliver a better banking experience:
By befriending your bank on Facebook, you open yourself up to having personal details potentially scrutinised by your bank.
"If you're on Facebook, you don't care about your privacy," Birch claimed with tongue-in-cheek confidence.
An inflammatory remark with almost no basis in truth, these days. If it was bait to get people talking, it worked.
During the Q&A the divide was clear - some of us are precious about our data (and wouldn't let banks near it) and the rest of us would happily give banks our data, in exchange for tailored marketing and offers.
Lots of potential applications: You walk in to your local coffee vendor of choice. You open up the Facebook app and 'check-in'. Your bank acknowledges the data and because they have a partnership with the outlet, provides you a loyalty discount (it's your
fifth Americano of the week). Sounds good to me.
And how about being geo-tagged in a few photos from a recent holiday to Croatia.
Your bank’s system recognises the check-in and offers you its latest travel insurance deal tailored specifically for your next trip to the Balkans. Not bad either, right?
Then there's the flipside. The example of cigarettes was used. You go to the shop and buy a pack of 20 B&H. Next thing you know, your health insurance premium shoots up (as you'd expect it to if you filed yourself as a non-smoker).
But you weren’t buying them for yourself - no, you bought them for a smoker friend.
Banks need to toe the line of gathering data accurately, selectively and with confidence, before using it for the benefit or drawback of its customers.
We've a long way to go with social media, big data and banking and with how all of them can be married together harmoniously.
It's a no from me. I want my data to be mine and mine only – why?
Not because I’m a tin-foil-hat wearing conspiracy theorist or because I have anything (well, much) to hide. Simply because targeted marketing and tailored deals have never appealed to me. Google AdWords have proven themselves time and time again to be unsuitable
for my needs. I rarely (maybe, never) click on banner ads, which I know only appeared because of tracking cookies (ads for EasyJet appearing straight after Googling ‘cheap flights’. How strange!)
I’ve always found that a little digging around revealed better offers anyway. And if I do miss out on a nifty deal or two, then at least I did without putting the safety of my personal information on the line.