Does the financial services experience suck?

Let's talk about CX, baby.

Customer experience has become one of the biggest priorities - and probably headaches - for financial services businesses. Blame Apple and Amazon, but everyone wants to be the smoothest and the simplest. In reality, unless you’re Jeff Bezos, it’s not all that smooth, and it sure ain’t simple.

Keeping up with technology, customers’ digital expectations and innovating in a regulated market is tough. Can the financial services experience ever rival that of our favourite apps and services, or do rules and regulations mean it’s destined to suck in comparison?

In episode three of the Upfront podcast, Josh Guest, CEO at digital and design agency Transpire, and Amir Ansari, head of product design at Iress, gave us their fresh take on things and provided expert advice on what businesses can do to create experiences their customers (and the regulator) will love.

Read on for some of the highlights from the show and listen in full here.

So let’s get to it, does the financial services experience suck?

Josh Some parts suck, and some parts don't. The parts that suck are the experiences I've had with my stockbrokers and more traditional investment stuff. I’ve had meetings on-site, I need to send letters and instructions, and it's all very old school. I live on WhatsApp, so the whole idea of having meetings and stuff sucks. My experiences with consumer banking and consumer financial services are good. My everyday banking is pretty simple. When it comes to helping you save for a goal or giving you advice on your day-to-day spending, I think that could be a much better experience.

I live on WhatsApp, so the whole idea of having meetings and stuff sucks

I think my bank thinks I sit next to a fax machine.

What winds you up in particular?

Josh I think my bank thinks I sit next to a fax machine. They probably think I own a fax machine. They think that I know how to post letters and put a signature on paper and send it and dual copy it. I haven't had to send a letter or fax for years. In this case, I had to sign a document. We were in a pandemic, so I didn’t have access to an office, and it required me to sign a piece of paper and email it. I took a photo on my iPhone, scanned it, and sent it through, and the response was, ‘well, how do we know it's a wet signature?’ I said, ‘how do you mean? It looks like pen’. So I took another picture of me holding a pen, showing that it is, in fact, a wet signature. And this went on for a couple of weeks to the point where I had to go to a post office and send the document - in 2022. You know, we shouldn't have experiences like that. If I have to sign a contract, it's on DocuSign or done digitally, and that's what I would expect.

Is regulation getting the way of financial services delivering a better experience?

Amir With financial services comes regulations and compliance, and the end consumer doesn’t think about that. They compare it to TikTok and Spotify, the Uber app, and other seamless and convenient things. They’ll put them side by side because they're using those apps within minutes of each other and wonder why their financial services app sucks so much. So the finance space needs to work even harder to remove the notion of those compliance and security requirements and provide that same comparable experience.

Josh You can't lead innovation or an amazing experience with compliance. It becomes really difficult to do. It’s best to just focus on the customer, build a great experience and then work within compliance frameworks because they're there for a reason.

You can't lead innovation or an amazing experience with compliance

It must take a lot to impress you. Which financial services brands are nailing customer experience?

Josh I used a neo-bank called N26 based out of Germany. In Australia and many countries, if you want to open a bank account, you need to get in the car, drive to a branch, fill out some forms, wait a bunch of time, and eventually get a bank account. N26 had worked out that all you have to do is download the app on your phone. The way they got around the KYC checks was to do a video. Quick video call with an actual human. Hold up your passport. Hold up your ID. Have a conversation. They validate that you're a real person and you've got an account. The KYC compliance has always been there, but the innovation was ‘why can't we do that on video?’ I think the start-ups get it right. They think a bit differently.

Amir My wife and I decided to invest in the stock market and as part of an experiment, I thought I'd use two trading platforms. One was a well-known top four bank in Australia and the other was Spaceship, a start-up. The main bank took, I think, three days, and I had to set up a bank account with them so I could trade. Whereas, with the Spaceship app on my phone, I had bought stock within five minutes. Five minutes vs three days. That's a nice experience. Borderline lovable.

Five minutes vs three days. That's a nice experience. Borderline lovable.

How can businesses be more switched on to what their customers want?

Amir Financial advisers need to listen to their customers and their preferences for engaging. If they want to do it via SMS and WhatsApp, then that's how financial advisers have to interact. We’re getting there. It's a generational thing. The current generation of advisers is starting to retire, and the younger generation will follow. Those individuals will go, hang on. I grew up as a native technologist. I've got WhatsApp. Maybe I will give my customers advice via WhatsApp at 9 pm or via Instagram messages. There will come a point where either the industry needs to pull their finger out and follow suit or die a death, and some Tiktoky, We chatty Instagram equivalent platform, will come in and provide financial advice quickly. They'll just tick those regulatory boxes and make a fortune.

How to create a financial services experience people love

What do future financial services experiences look and feel like?

Josh The term frictionless comes to mind, where the tasks that I need to get done are as simple as when I purchase something from Apple. I could do it on my terms using technology when I choose. I can choose to chat. I can choose to go into a store and continue that experience. It becomes frictionless and seamless, and I never have to do a wet signature or send a fax.

Amir We need to get to a point where financial services, and even just technology in general, become so amazing, including things like AI and machine learning, that they can accurately guess what you want to do so that you can do the stuff that you love doing. We just need to get rid of all the friction, all the noise.

"The term frictionless comes to mind, where the tasks that I need to get done are as simple as when I purchase something from Apple."