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Crowdsourcing in banking: Realising the potential

Crowdsourcing is a powerful thing. So powerful it's starting to make some waves in the banking world, but it isn't new. 

I've always been an advocate of it as a method of highlighting and organising quality content, ever since I first logged on to the Digg.com news site (now shoved out the door by the more popular aggregator, Reddit). 

For the uninitiated, it's a system that allows a crowd (users, members, customers) to make votes on content, ideas, links, etc. so the best content rises to the top.

The Wiki sites give everyone editing power so a large pool of proof-readers can weed out inaccuracies. Groupon uses it for bargain-hunters looking to get the best deal possible. And Reddit lets its members vote for the best content to make it to its homepage (a site now so popular, it claims itself to be the 'Front page of the Internet'). 

So what's this got to do with banking? 

Well, I have an eye firmly fixed on the innovation side of banking and it's time institutions used 'the power of the crowd' to push themselves to innovate further.

I recently interviewed the head of transaction banking for Swedish relationship bank, SEB, Lars Millberg.  The more we spoke, the more I realised what an exciting project he was undertaking. SEB has set up an internal forum for employees to submit suggestions and improvements for the business. The best are voted to the top to (hopefully) be executed. 

RBS are doing a similar thing right now with their 'RBS Ideas Bank' - an online portal for retail banking customers to submit ideas for the banks to improve. So are Barclays with the ‘Your Bank’ project. Call it a glorified suggestions box if you will, but I can’t help but feel this is just the first step for banks on the crowdsourcing journey.

It doesn’t just have to be about voting though. P2P social-lending site Zopa has been running for the last eight years matching those needing a loan with those who want a decent return on their savings.

It’s clear that heads of marketing and communication are under fire for not ‘engaging’ enough with customers. Is branch footfall down because they’ve failed to ‘engage’? Could be. It’s a hard word to define, but to do it, crowdsourcing is a good place to start.  

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