Banking on Disruption: What Banks Can Learn from a New Breed of Competitor

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The digital revolution is forever changing how customers choose and use financial services. In his new book, Bank 3.0, Brett King argues that banking is no longer a place you go, but something you do. As we examined in a post earlier this year, there is a fundamental shift taking place in how people view banking. Functionality and utility have become priorities as people look for banking to fit easily into their progressively mobile and digitally centered lives. This is something traditional financial institutions have been slow to accommodate, and their sluggish response has opened the door for a new breed of technology entrepreneurs more than happy to fill in the gaps.

Two recent articles from Forbes suggest that this financial technology revolution is just getting started. In one article, Brian Ascher, a partner at venture capital firm Venrock, lays out why the financial services industry is ripe for disruption. He also highlights some of the companies, such as Square, PayCyle and Bill.com, that are already changing the face of banking as we know it. In his follow-up to this article, Ascher examines ten traits of the most successful disruptive companies.

For financial marketers looking to gain a better understanding of the type of digital and mobile experience customers are coming to expect, it’s worth taking a look at what makes these companies stand out. Importantly, they have all been built around a new definition of customer service – everything from their branding and communications to product offerings and technology interfaces has been created with the digital and mobile customer in mind. This customer wants convenience, speed and ease of use and these companies have figured out how to deliver that.

But banks should not take the success of these disruptive online platforms as a straightforward blueprint for how they should evolve.  They first need to understand the specific needs and concerns of their customers.  Small business customers, while they might appreciate the convenience of moving money between accounts online, may still want to bring the day’s cash receipts into a branch.  Community banks have found that retirees, even those who are web savvy, appreciate a once-a-week visit to a bank – and interaction with a teller who remembers their name.  Gen-Xers and Gen Y’s, on the other hand, may have never set foot in a bank branch and view the prospect as akin to a visit to the dentist.

The new breed of internet-enabled banks are indeed disrupting the banking industry, and banks who want to retain and grow market share should carefully study how these disruptors create and maintain relationships with their clientele.  But they need to take a hard look at their own clientele to determine how and where they prefer to access banking services.

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