Recent events have shown how the online world is awash with data, most of it readily available for commercial purposes. Consumers, who perceive little downside in allowing companies to capture information about them as they go about their online activities, have shared much of this data freely and largely obliviously. As we now understand with increased clarity, even the tastes and opinions they express on Facebook allows observers to infer extremely personal details about their lives with great accuracy.
How then will people react when presented with the opportunity to share highly confidential banking data in return for access to new or better services – data that might reveal much about their personal lives and habits? And how effectively will financial service providers meet the challenge of creating data-driven solutions that build consumers’ trust in their organization rather than eroding it?
Financial services providers – banks, credit unions, insurers, pension funds and wealth managers – must ask themselves whether they have the type of trust and level of permission from individual customers that will allow them to feel comfortable about building solutions and sharing those personal hopes and aspirations. But, what if we take this notion a stage further. In a data-first, open API world, this could ultimately mean the end of entire brands and sectors, as we know them. A grandiose statement, sure, but think about how the future is already shaping up.
If financial services providers are to succeed in winning consumers’ trust for personalized services that depend on access to their private data, consumers must clearly understand the value they gain in return for sharing highly personal information. The signs are already here that those providers may not be ‘banks’ in the traditional sense. They may be part of the equation, likely in partnership, but seemingly in the background and not as the go-to-market brand.
The ‘Amazon Bank’ Effect
A consumer today can use Amazon Balance to top up online and offline, AmazonPay to pay for services; and, if they’re a Prime customer, receive 2% cash back on every purchase. That looks an awful lot like a bank balance, with one click pay that also incentivizes the consumer to spend with the benefits a bank-issued card might provide. With Amazon Pay Places, consumers can pay for in-store and order ahead shopping experiences using their Amazon app rather than with a card, cash (even checks where they’re still used), using their Amazon account information.
Amazon also provides online merchants with the ability to add a button on their websites’ checkout pages that let shoppers pay via their Amazon account info. The idea is that by doing so, consumers are less likely to abandon carts and thus more likely to accelerate the checkout process. So there you have funding, payments, and lending facilities for SMEs all within one ecosystem.
Similarly, the PayPal Cash MasterCard will let users access the money in their PayPal account to shop online or in stores and withdraw cash from ATMs anywhere MasterCard is accepted. Unbanked users can deposit a paycheck into their PayPal account … for free. Consumers who enroll in these features will be eligible to receive Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) pass-through insurance on the funds held in their PayPal account, with no minimum balance required.
If Amazon is lending you money, do you view it as the online bookseller? Is it now your bank? The rapid-response delivery firm when you’ve run out of washing powder? At any given point in time, it could be any of those because Amazon and others, such as Apple and Google, have a brand that stretches to encompass multiple service offerings. Try doing that with a bank brand – you can’t.
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Reassessing the Concept of ‘Bank’
So, as we move away from the outdated, mass-market product-push towards services and experiences that are embedded in our everyday lives, this has the potential to disrupt the entire notion of what a bank provides.
It is a future where individual consumers sit at the center of their personal worlds and access the services that fit best into their lives thanks to the data about themselves that they choose to share with brands that they trust. Moreover, we are talking about trust on a personal, emotionally-engaged level. Not just the trust we have with a utility-style process that will work the exact same way the next time we need it.
Although banks hold huge quantities of transactional data on millions of customers, they already face serious challenges to maintain the quality of that data and the way the data is used on behalf of the consumer. As customers turn to new payment methods, banks progressively lose the granular detail they used to have about their customers’ spending.
Instead, they see a stream of transactions where anyone but the banks ‘owns’ the relationship: ApplePay, PayPal transfers, a direct debit to a Nutmeg or Betterment account, or storing value on a Starbucks mobile app … with rewards associated with many of these relationships. As such, a consumer can leave a bank in every way that matters without closing their account. The traditional bank is still there, but other firms use enhanced data to deliver better, more valuable, more personalized experiences.
In other words: in a world where data is currency and a personalized, customer-centric experience is king, banks are at risk of lagging far, far behind.
A World Where the Consumer Controls Their Data
The other critical element of data is that the consumer is at the center of this new banking ecosystem, and is in charge because they can choose to share or withhold different elements of their data. Indeed, recent data regulation in the guise of GDPR has made clearer that the consumer is the owner of personal data and can decide what to share and with whom. This is not yet widely understood, but legally, it is now an explicit concept.
So, what does a consumer share (and what will they demand in return)? In the first instance, a consumer might agree to share their personal or business checking account transactions, and for that there may be a limited value exchange. If they share that data they might get, for example, a limited personal finance aggregation service. But, they might value this overview of part of their financial life.
In time, the same consumer might share their mortgage data, or their savings data, or their loans data, which will be opened up for sharing under PSD2 next year. (Note: Bankers in the U.S. should be prepared for similar regulations in the foreseeable future).
In Australia, they have chosen to go further and add telephony and energy data as well – since both are oligopolistic markets. Further, in the future, a consumer might be able and willing to plug in their insurance data, their health history and pensions data, their retail transactional data, and more.
From Financial Products to Financial Relationships
The point is that the more a consumer decides to share, the more they are enabling highly personalized services to be delivered … in real time. Moreover, the more personal data shared, the more predictive and pre-emptive these services can become. In turn, there is a greater potential for the consumer to make smarter decisions – or to have these smarter decisions suggested – proactively.
There is undoubtedly a huge opportunity for traditional providers to look for ways to use the data they hold to bring benefits to their customers. Assembling richer pools of data from multiple sources will provide more angles from which to view their customers and more ways to understand them than they could gain just from transactional information.
For example, if you bring energy understanding together with banking transaction understanding, you create new insights into that data and the potential for new services built on that understanding. Combine health, insurance, and banking insight together and discounts and incentives can be provided for changes in behavior. Everyone can win.
However, with the opportunity come risks. The process of identifying opportunities through data and then designing interventions are two different disciplines. It is one thing to be able to tell in advance from the patterns of behavior revealed in a customer’s transactional data that they are in danger of financial distress. It is quite another thing entirely to have the level of trust and personal engagement that will allow your financial partner to communicate pre-emptively on a topic as sensitive as this. It is here where the collaborative ecosystem will win out.
The Winners Will Have Insight + Trust
In the future, consumers will have complete control of their personal identity, and access only those services that enhance their daily lives based on the value transfer provided in exchange for their transaction and behavioral insights. Winning brands will not be segmented based on specific products, but on how much they are trusted on a personal, and emotionally-engaged, level.
It is a future where sectors (retail, hospitality, travel, healthcare, etc.) are a quaintly old-fashioned and irrelevant concept. In the new consumer ecosystem, banks must find their place – before others find it for them.