Is Your Bank Really Into You?


Retail Banking

Chanade Murphy-Johnson

Commercial Lead


Last Thursday, I listened to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report for 2016 and it made me think about the interactions I have with certain brands. Instantly my bank came to mind. I began to question everything they did, how they did it and all of the interactions that I could recall having with them over the last few years.

How well does your bank know you?

For 18 months I had the same amount of money going out of my bank account and into another bank’s savings account. There was some context to the standing order description, ‘house deposit’, but did my bank ask me about my circumstances, lifestyle or financial planning during those months? No. There was me spending time with my financial advisor discussing options, telling him everything, sharing everything about my life and at the end I got three mortgage products to choose from — was one with my bank? No. It was with yet another bank. And then there was life insurance, and that wasn’t with any of them, that was with an insurance firm — another financial service provider in my life.

So it’s 2016 and I’ve got three banking relationships:

Bank 1: Current & ISA account
Bank 2: Savings
Bank 3: Current

Having been with Bank 1 for around 11 years, they still don’t really understand me as a single customer. To them, I’m just another silver account holder. In fact, Bank 2 and 3 probably know a similar amount about me and I’ve been a customer of theirs for much less time.

Imagine if Bank 1 had discussed my savings with me and got to know more about me and the next step on my journey; they’d have known that I was gearing up to buy a house and could’ve provided guidance and sold me one of their mortgage products, life insurance products and so on — but they didn’t, they missed out on everything.

With much better access to customers and technology, today, banks could help us save better and be more informative. Some banks are improving the way they share data with customers, and others just aren’t. One of my banks has two apps; one for general account management/overview and another called ‘SmartBank’.

SmartBank will enable customers to keep track of their finances and spending. Clear and easy to use personal financial management tool.

I don’t want to access two different apps to find out about a single account. I want one experience that enables me to do multiple things; such as pay someone new, know my balance and see what’s coming up this month.

It’s early days yet, but Mondo have done a super job of presenting information and constantly educating its customers with useful data.

Another thing that’s a bit of a minefield are credit ratings. At 18 years old when you’re going to take out something as simple as a mobile phone contract your rating is ‘checked’, and when you do something even more complicated like buying a house, your rating is ‘checked’ again — all eyes on you and it’s pretty daunting. Who knows much about their credit rating?

Well, you probably do now, but before you had to you didn’t have a clue. Banks could form more useful partnerships with the likes of Experian to provide this information to its customers, rather than less useful partnerships (mentioned a little later on) and educate them.

Banks complicate things. They need to understand their customers better, and provide information clearly and simply.

Joining up the dots

My banks interact with me through 3 primary channels:

Post: offering me a personal loan or sending me a new card.
SMS: when I forget my purse and need emergency cash with a unique code, or when there’s been an update to my account.
Phone: at 14:00 when I’m at work to discuss my account.

There are other channels like email and social but for the purpose of this I’ll focus on these three as that’s where they’re most active.

Let’s start with post. It’s a waste of time. I don’t know about you but I open the letter glance at it and shred. Tell a lie, one time Bank 1 sent me a tastecard for being a loyal customer — I was actually impressed by this little gesture, but it’s about to expire and I’ve used it once (not useful). So the feeling I had when I received that is a lot different to the feeling now.

When it comes to SMS, it’s genuinely useful (most of the time). Example; a month ago I snapped my card so I couldn’t withdraw money, use chip and pin or Contactless. So there I am shopping, thinking that I’ll definitely be able to use Apple Pay… but no, none of the stores I wanted to buy from accepted it. However, all of a sudden it clicked, I could use the emergency cash option on the mobile app, but there has to be an RBS machine here somewhere… I took the chance, headed over to the machine and bingo, it was an RBS machine. So I selected the amount I wanted, received an SMS, entered the unique code, money in hand and 5 minutes later there I was £60 down with a TopShop bag in my hand.

With regards to phone calls, I’m not good with those. Every time the branch calls me, it’s the same story — “sorry I can’t talk right now as I’m at work”. Why don’t they record these interactions against my profile and ask for an alternative way to contact me? I’m busy, I can’t spend 15 minutes chatting about my account, but I could have a two way conversation through a less intrusive channel, for instance, messaging. I’d be way more up for sharing insights with my bank through this channel to better inform them, so they personalise my experience with them.

By having conversations with customers you will get more useful information and be able to control your services, rather than just sending out alerts and updates.

A little more conversation, a little more action

It’s June 2016, obviously I had to mention Chatbots. So, I’ve seen various examples of these in action and some haven’t been groundbreaking, they’ve been pretty unreliable actually. However, I read “K I Get Uber” and this example is awesome. Long story short, a man chatting with his wife through Facebook Messenger and arranges to go for dinner. He replies with “K I get Uber” — Facebook then inserts a “Request a Ride” button and next thing you know the Uber has arrived and all information has been passed through Messenger, without him having to leave Messenger. This may seem spooky to some of you, but how amazing is that — so simple, yet so useful.

WhatsApp is one of my most used Apps. Imagine if I could use that or let’s say Messenger to find out my balance, without having to log into my one of many banking apps? Easy.

Bring people together and create smarter teams

Because I’ve been with them for so long, I feel a sense of loyalty but overall I just feel a bit sorry for them. The legacy systems they have in place, the traditional structure of the organisation and the little they know about me, is really holding them back from creating a seamless relationship between consumers and their brand. I want a bank that can act as a personal advisor, one that I can stay with throughout life, that can help me with all the jobs I need to get done over a lifetime. I think it’s ace that the likes of Mondo have launched, but at this moment in time it’s unlikely that I’ll ever take a mortgage from them or a personal loan.

Think about a traditional bank. What does their internal structure look like? Hierarchical, silo’d and probably a lot like this:


But what if the inside of my bank was structured in the same way as the likes of Spotify or even Auto Trader? They’d be able to service me as a customer a lot better, a lot like how I described. They’d have blended teams working together that are centred around customers — all working towards a common goal.


There are tonnes of traditional organisations operating within outdated structures, and banks are definitely guilty of this. For most, they either don’t know how to tackle this or simply don’t think it’s an issue. By defining roles, the organisation can affect how people function, leading to an employee and customer focused business that’ll continue to strive and be able to respond to the level of uncertainty that lies ahead.

There’s a need for traditional organisations to change and some are in that process, while others, well they’ve decided to not do anything just yet. I understand that every bank has a beast (legacy systems) to tackle, but if they’re serious about competing then they must adapt.

Banks need to solve real problems and to figure out what those problems are, they need to get closer to customers and build smarter teams.

This article was originally published on Medium.