What happened to really useful banking?

Author: Kevin Phillips

It seems that a month cannot go by without one or other of the major providers releasing a new digital banking feature: everything from taking a photo of your ID and reading the data from it, to the latest biometric security measure designed to both decrease fraud and make it easier for us to get access to our accounts.

As innovative as all of this may seem, is this really what the day to day customer wants and needs, and does it really make a difference to our financial well-being?  I don’t think so.  How does this help us better manage our money, keep track of where it all seems to go so quickly, and assist us in making the best choices for our financial heath?  The answer is simple, it doesn’t.

So, what do we really want from our banks?  I think the answer is rather simple: apart from giving us a great rate on our savings, a good deal for our borrowing needs, and of course keeping it all safe and highly secure, we want our banks to tell us what is going on, as and when it happens.

Looking at it from an evolutionary perspective, were the service we get from banks up against any meaningful competition, they would have been extinct by now.  About the only time we get any information from banks regarding our accounts is when something has gone wrong (missed a payment or gone overdrawn), when T&Cs have changed, or when it is time to send a statement.  So, in other words, only when they are legally required to do so or when they want something from us.

It is time for banks to start working for their customers; that is they should be working hard to attract and then keep them.  The technology is right here, today, to do this, but despite claiming that ‘billions will be spent’ in the next few years there is no sign of it being used in a way that is really three-dimensional, informative, intuitive and innovative.

OK, so what is it that we want then?  Here are four categories of features to get us started:

Parameters and alerts

Start by keeping me up to date with what is going on, such as allowing me to set upper and lower ranges for my current account, then send me a notification if one has been reached.  Spot when I might go overdrawn before it happens, and give me a chance to at least make an arrangement to cover it for a short period of time.  Give me the option to receive a notification when cash is withdrawn from my account, even better if I can set an upper limit at which this alert is sent, and tell me when and where this took place.

Then and now

Let me see a record of when I logged in to my on-line and mobile account, and even better what I did when I was there.  Let me slice and dice my current and historic transactions by type: simple stuff like DDs, payments to known payees, and general purchases.  Let me split it by currency and exchange fees if I so choose.  Collate all my activity on a weekly or monthly basis and then let me see this summary on-line as well as be able to download it.

Better deals for me

Keep a watch for long-term credit card balances that don’t get paid off, and offer the cardholder some options:  maybe a fixed-rate loan would be better, or a debt consolidation plan.  Current accounts with high balances or stagnant savings accounts are literally a waste of money; get in touch with the customer and present some alternatives that help their money grow at a better rate.

Fitness test

It’s time to take a bite from the fitness-tech out there.  Let me set benchmarks and targets, then track how I am doing: savings growth rate, paying down mortgage, credit card spending, amount of overall interest I am paying, have I missed a payment and/or incurred any charges, and give me tips on how I can adjust my position to produce a better financial result.

Sure, there are plenty of other features I could add, but I’d like to think this is not a bad list to get us started.

06 Apr 2016

Author: Kevin Phillips

It seems that a month cannot go by without one or other of the major providers releasing a new digital banking feature: everything from taking a photo of your ID and reading the data from it, to the latest biometric security measure designed to both decrease fraud and make it easier for us to get access to our accounts.

As innovative as all of this may seem, is this really what the day to day customer wants and needs, and does it really make a difference to our financial well-being?  I don’t think so.  How does this help us better manage our money, keep track of where it all seems to go so quickly, and assist us in making the best choices for our financial heath?  The answer is simple, it doesn’t.

So, what do we really want from our banks?  I think the answer is rather simple: apart from giving us a great rate on our savings, a good deal for our borrowing needs, and of course keeping it all safe and highly secure, we want our banks to tell us what is going on, as and when it happens.

Looking at it from an evolutionary perspective, were the service we get from banks up against any meaningful competition, they would have been extinct by now.  About the only time we get any information from banks regarding our accounts is when something has gone wrong (missed a payment or gone overdrawn), when T&Cs have changed, or when it is time to send a statement.  So, in other words, only when they are legally required to do so or when they want something from us.

It is time for banks to start working for their customers; that is they should be working hard to attract and then keep them.  The technology is right here, today, to do this, but despite claiming that ‘billions will be spent’ in the next few years there is no sign of it being used in a way that is really three-dimensional, informative, intuitive and innovative.

OK, so what is it that we want then?  Here are four categories of features to get us started:

Parameters and alerts

Start by keeping me up to date with what is going on, such as allowing me to set upper and lower ranges for my current account, then send me a notification if one has been reached.  Spot when I might go overdrawn before it happens, and give me a chance to at least make an arrangement to cover it for a short period of time.  Give me the option to receive a notification when cash is withdrawn from my account, even better if I can set an upper limit at which this alert is sent, and tell me when and where this took place.

Then and now

Let me see a record of when I logged in to my on-line and mobile account, and even better what I did when I was there.  Let me slice and dice my current and historic transactions by type: simple stuff like DDs, payments to known payees, and general purchases.  Let me split it by currency and exchange fees if I so choose.  Collate all my activity on a weekly or monthly basis and then let me see this summary on-line as well as be able to download it.

Better deals for me

Keep a watch for long-term credit card balances that don’t get paid off, and offer the cardholder some options:  maybe a fixed-rate loan would be better, or a debt consolidation plan.  Current accounts with high balances or stagnant savings accounts are literally a waste of money; get in touch with the customer and present some alternatives that help their money grow at a better rate.

Fitness test

It’s time to take a bite from the fitness-tech out there.  Let me set benchmarks and targets, then track how I am doing: savings growth rate, paying down mortgage, credit card spending, amount of overall interest I am paying, have I missed a payment and/or incurred any charges, and give me tips on how I can adjust my position to produce a better financial result.

Sure, there are plenty of other features I could add, but I’d like to think this is not a bad list to get us started.