Banking in a User-centric World
Varsha Sugesh /
Growing up, most of us received some pocket money every day, in some cases as little as a few coins. You would put those in your piggy bank every day & were more than happy to see it get heavier as time passed by. You would count the money in it, time and again just to check if it has grown from the last time. You were always advised by parents to save the money & guided as to when & where to spend your saved pennies. The day you had to break the piggy bank, the excitement of seeing the money you saved over months was unimaginable & very rewarding. The entire process of earning – saving – spending is what motivated the children to start the process again. This is how we were introduced to the art of money management.
The first pocket money you received & the first time you saved a coin in your piggy bank is no different than your first salary & your own bank account. The only difference is that we live in the age of an interactive piggy bank. But things are not this simple anymore. Let’s be honest, for most of us anything related to money, be it opening an account or starting an investment, has a heavy amount of inertia clinging to it. We are lucky enough if we have all our documents in place, have an active bank account & are aware that we need to save money. Anything beyond this that needs our involvement needs a strong push. Does that mean we are being irresponsible? Not really. Being financially literate can be very demanding & it requires at least a working knowledge of key financial concepts such as:
1. Budgeting: It is the ability to strike a balance between your needs & wants, taking account of the uncertain circumstances & your future.
2. Investing: As stated by the legendary investor Warren Buffett, it’s the process of laying out money now to receive more money in the future.
3. Borrowing (Debt): Knowing when & how much to borrow, whom to borrow from, interest rates, compound interest, EMIs, living with debt & most importantly understanding the risk involved in borrowing.
4. Protecting: The idea is to stay protected at all levels in your life; on personal, health, and social levels. You need to understand risk management with proper insurance coverage etc. This also includes protecting your family, being ready for uncertain circumstances.
5. Taxation: Every individual who qualifies as a resident of a country is required to pay a mandatory fee levied by the government, on their income, services they use & the products they buy. This fee/tax is our financial contribution for running the country. Since it is an unavoidable component that has a huge effect on your net income as well as your day-to-day spends, it becomes necessary for us to find ways to reduce its impact.
Once you are barely getting there, there are other aspects of finance like floating interest rates, service taxes, inflation, hidden charges & changes in your consumption pattern nibbling away at your pie when you are not looking. At this moment, you wish that financial planning was as easy as putting coins in your piggy bank & the rest would be taken care of.
Traditionally, banks have relied on making its users aware of their core products, to drive growth. UPI transactions, payments, offers, credit & debit card services have all become part of a standard banking feature set and are now hygiene. So, what can be done to differentiate and stay ahead of the competition? With some additional effort, banks can turn out to be the perfect guide for customer’s financial growth, considering they have the right kind of tech support, can legally access customer data & the money & most importantly have the trust of the customer. Below are four areas that need some attention:
1. Be more human: Most users are in a certain combination of life stages that dominates their financial situation. For Eg: A user could be a salaried employee paying off his education loan while his parents are retiring. In such a situation, assess if he really needs another loan or a credit card & does he have the capacity of repaying another loan? At a stage like this, banks need to understand that the user wishes to be debt free as soon as possible & start saving. Also, if he is the sole breadwinner, he needs to have his life insurance in place & then plan the same for his family. Hence, promoting a product which plays a role of a financial advisor like PFM or selling life/term insurance could be possible selling options. But at the same time, the way you sell it also matters. You need to use user’s personal statistics to prove it to him that he needs a product.
2. Reward sensibly: Most of us have scrolled endlessly & scanned thoroughly on our shopping apps & overloaded the wish lists section by liking almost everything in the app & waited for almost 3-4 months for the right kind of discounts. Finally, the time arrives to get them home & there goes almost half of your salary. But wait…you have been credited just 8 points in your bank account after a transaction of Rs. 8000?!
You feel cheated at this moment & the motivation to use your card for future payments goes down & you begin to use other payments app as you get instant rewards. Is a sensible reward system too much to ask from a bank that you have a relationship with for almost 10+ years? It’s time to shake up the reward system & make it more genuine.
3. Forecast intelligently: With the help of real-time forecasts, nudge the user at the right time with customized advice so customers can take informed decisions to keep their cash flow in good shape. For e.g: Mint by Intuit, informs the user if he’s being charged fees, going over budget, if something seems suspicious and more. Plus, a summary that shows you how you’re doing week to week is also sent.
This basically helps the user to trust the app with their money & be rest assured that he will not miss out on key payments/activities.
4. Aggregate all offers: Most apps reward users with various coupons of their favourite brands post successful transactions. But the catch is that you need to use them on other apps. It is hard for the user to recollect & use the right coupon at the right time, rendering those coupons almost useless. If banks can ensure that its customer has a complete picture of all the offers across all apps & helps the user use the coupons during the payments, then this will surely inculcate a lot of trust & will push the user to transact via net banking.
At the end of the day, users wish to be empowered & guided with the financial expertise that banks provide but also want to feel in control of their finances. Banking is essentially a balance between providing financial counsel and giving financial control. In general, banks tend to spend a disproportionate amount of time and resources on chasing the next new technology trend, instead of focusing on answering the most basic questions for their customers. Small incremental improvements towards offering a simpler and more meaningful banking experience are just as important as innovating on the next big technology disruption.