An expert panel of speakers gathered at Dreamforce last week to discuss the future of financial services. That future is digital, of course, but what is still ultimately critical is knowing your customers and gaining their trust.
The current state of affairs
Financial services is an area that affects nearly everyone, at least everyone who uses a bank or credit union to manage their money. Even consumers who don’t invest online, for example, or transfer funds on a bank’s mobile app are still likely to be paid by their employers via direct deposit or have monthly payments automatically taken out of their accounts.
Which makes it so important for financial institutions to understand what customers want and to ensure those customers feel safe and comfortable using their services. Barry McCarthy, CEO of Deluxe Corporation, stressed that a fundamental piece of digital transformation in commerce and how consumers are affected relies on “the delivery of financial services, everything from how payments are processed, how they get access to capital, and the relationship they have with their financial institution.”
A problem in this area, said Sallie Krawcheck, founder and CEO of Ellevest, is the industry’s very high barriers to exit and “a lack of transparency around fees and around your own information, which of course technology is going to disrupt at some point.”
Baron Davis, founder of Business Inside the Game, added that the information side “has a lot of room to be disrupted. And that information needs to start traveling, across the city to the people in the inner city, to young millennials that are trying to figure out how to invest, when to invest, what to invest in.”
What consumers want: Choice and a platform they can trust
There's already a lot of alternatives in consumer payments today, but McCarthy noted “a huge opportunity that we're going to be harnessing at Deluxe to transform B2B payments.” He further stated that people want to know a financial transaction is “trusted and transparent so they understand what it's going to cost, and it's easy and convenient, so it doesn't take a lot of hassle.”
Krawcheck agreed, stating that consumers, from an investment standpoint, think, “What I really want is someone I can trust, who will practically get me from where I am today to where I want to be.” This is where really knowing your customer comes into play. At Ellevest, for example, they focus on each investor’s journey — her specific goals for retirement — and they’ve created algorithms that take those specifics into account to create that unique investment portfolio for that customer.
Panel moderator Andrew Nusca, Digital Editor of Fortune Magazine, commented on the effect of bringing automation and artificial intelligence (like a robo investment advisor) into the mix, “We're asking consumers to make a big leap when we're introducing these new services.” That’s about more than someone they can trust but a whole new process that, from the user’s perspective, has no human involvement. So, Nusca added, “How are we thinking about trust as it pertains to data?”
The thing is, you can’t separate the digital part from the human part, at least not entirely. And it’s probably unwise to even try. Davis said, “Trust is a feeling. You have to have consistency and routine” to build it. That consistency, he explained, leads to a level of comfortability — it’s about being there for the customers, on social media or wherever they are, talking to them on their terms, answering their questions, and building that trust.
A level of safety and security is needed for the data, McCarthy said, “but it’s really much more than just policies or procedures. It’s a culture.” Creating that culture of safety and trust starts with employees, who according to McCarthy, “have to feel a sense of commitment to the security of the enterprise.” And then hopefully spreads to the customer base.
The panel wrapped up the conversation by agreeing that, as Nusca summed it up, “It's not really the technologies that are the problem; it's really just understanding your customers better.”
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