Technology Must Make Digital Banking More Human

As technology continues to transform every facet of the banking industry, the importance of the human element never been greater. In this exclusive interview, Duena Blomstrom discusses her book, Emotional Banking, and the importance of changing the legacy banking culture of processing transactions to a culture of developing emotional connections.

Duena Blomstrom is an independent digital and customer experience (CX) consultant, industry specialist, an entrepreneur and Angel Investor. She has been a mentor for Startupbootcamp and Techstars, the founder of FinWinners, a coaching consultancy for start-up FinTech organizations.

With a background in psychology as well as business, Duena is an avid blogger and keynote speaker, advancing the objective of improving the emotional experience (EX) in banking. As the inventor of the Emotional Banking™ and EX concepts, she works with organizations to enable them to become truly Human Design led, delivering ‘Money Moments’ as opposed to traditional banking products.

In this exclusive interview, Duena discusses some of the major topics covered in her book, “Emotional Banking: Fixing Culture, Leveraging FinTech and Transforming Retail Banks into Brands”. During this interview, bank and credit union executives will understand why it is important to understand the principles behind Emotional Banking – a cultural change concept that brings the consumer to the center of rethinking banking products and delivery.

Is the Concept of Building an Emotional Connection With a Bank Brand Achievable?

Duena Blomstrom: The concept of being beloved has to start by being aspirational in order for the goal to become achievable … but it can be done. Technology is undergoing immensely fast change, with ways of work changing in parallel. This has the potential to eliminate barriers to achieving delightful user experiences in digital.

The real barrier is the equivalent of a “mental hang up” – a collection of perceived impediments that result in organizational dysfunction. This creates a paralysis of activity that doesn’t let banks make use of the magic of technology. In other words, it is the internal banking culture that is holding the industry back. In my book, I show an efficient method to change a bank’s culture through the Emotional Banking™ processes that make the aspirational, achievable.

What is the Biggest Challenge Facing Traditional Banking Organizations?

Duena Blomstrom: Having worked in the financial services industry long before the term ‘fintech’ was spoken, I can’t minimize the magnitude of the challenges incumbent banks and credit unions face. Bankers sometimes read my extreme advocacy for “people not tech” as a gross oversimplification – that I dismiss the challenges surrounding legacy core systems, stifling regulation or that I lack an understanding of technology.

In reality, I’m a technologist at heart and have been working in the fintech field for some time. My laser focus on changing culture is intentional, and a necessity since technology without the human component will simply deliver bad experiences faster.

What are the Reactions You Receive Around Your Emotional Banking Concept?

Duena Blomstrom: I worked with several financial institutions in the development of the Emotional Banking™ programs and workshops, using both suggestions and objections to improve the concept. The initial negative objections were mainly dismissive eye rolls and sighs, suggesting that building an emotional experience (EX) was intangible and ‘fluffy’. Bankers believed I was oblivious to the massive operational challenges because most had always worked in ‘Fortran-wired’ world.

When those objections came from technologists, I welcomed them because I am able to demonstrate that IT is actually the currency that unlocks Passion and Courage alike. Once bankers understand the magic and power of user design, and how we have the technology to create amazing experiences, they become courageous and think from the customer’s perspective and start on the road to becoming a beloved brand.

What Advantages do Fintech and Big Tech Firms Have in Building an Emotional Brand?

Duena Blomstrom: For start-up organizations, the advantage is having First Principles on their side – the ability to design the experience from the consumer’s perspective, essentially making “Money Moments” not “Banking Products”. For the established tech giants dipping their toes in the financial services pond, they usually bring powerful and respected brand capital kept alive by solid technology and a deep data analytical mindset.

Both fintech firms and tech giants already have the foundation for personalized and contextual engagement, providing an immense head start compared to a bank which has neither the technology nor the mentality to think in terms of creating an emotional bond with every interaction. Moreover, fintech and big tech firms start with a clean bill of cultural health, always striving to do right by the digital consumer.

Where Should Organizations Start in Changing Their Legacy Culture?

Duena Blomstrom: My main guiding principle in creating the Emotional Banking™ method was that all transformations need to be swiftly efficient. There needs to be an extreme sense of urgency within the organization to accept and implement change, otherwise the organization will see the ‘doomsday’ industry scenario that we’ve been warned about.

As a result, it is important to find deeply transformational levers – changes that will fundamentally make a collective difference faster than a general employee engagement program or a sheer reorganization exercise. That’s why every Emotional Banking workshop and program designed corresponds to one of four key levers … Knowledge, Passion, Courage and Language.

Because the connection to brands differ from bank to bank, the process of building a successful emotional connection between the organization and the customer must be flexible. Emotional Banking is an evolutionary process, that will change over time and will be customized for each organization. I have enlisted a global deployment partner as well as Dr. Julia Furedi to build learnings around what works best and fastest, and to help demonstrate the synergy between the four levers and the technology now available at leading banks.

Are There Any Organizations That Have an Emotional Banking Brand Today?

Duena Blomstrom: Some banking organizations absolutely do ‘get it’, with the leaders having started moving fast on implementing the organizational change requisite to impact the consumer positively. Many of our clients have a renewed, organic sense of passion, an army of ‘Banking Superheroes’ and intrapreneurs, and are making bold choices that will reflect in the digital consumer experience.

One of the best examples of an organization that has arrived at their own version of Emotional Banking™ and executed a major cultural transformation, followed by demonstrable progress in becoming a strong digital brand is DBS bank in Singapore.

How Was Your Experience With Writing Your First Book?

Duena Blomstrom: Writing the book has been equal parts harrowing and delightful. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of work it turned out to be – in particular because I was working with banks on cultural and technology programs while writing about the same processes. Despite being a rather vast and uncharted concept, that was new to banking, I felt a sense of urgent duty to explain why ‘people, not tech’ mattered from both a cultural and ROI perspective.

My hope is that whoever reads the book is inspired to become a ‘Banking Superhero’,  spearheading the knowledge and passion shift that will give consumers Money Moments they deserve.

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