How to build a financial services business that makes people happy

Help your customers have a better relationship with their finances (and with you) with our upfront advice on creating longer-lasting loyalty.

Our relationship with money? It’s complicated.

Money brings all the emotions: happiness and security but also worry, guilt and shame. And we don’t like to talk about it.

We’d rather talk about anything else - sex, politics or our mental health - than our finances.

And that’s a problem because if we talked about money, we’d all make better decisions, feel less stressed and more in control. Our kids would also be more likely to form good lifetime money habits.

In short, we’d all be a whole lot happier.

And that would help the financial industry out too. Just think, if people felt more confident talking about their finances and more willing to share their financial experiences, financial services providers and advisers would find it a lot easier to build good relationships - and get more referrals and business through the door.

It’s a topic we need to be more upfront about.

We invited financial wellness coach Bola Sol onto the Upfront podcast for a frank and fearless conversation about our money mindset. She spoke about our relationship with money and how we can get more people talking about it (listen in full here).

During our chat, she revealed some hints and tricks that financial services businesses could use to gain trust, engagement and longer-lasting loyalty. Check them out:


Hold up. You’re used to putting your customers first, but what about your employees? Bola told the Upfront podcast how vital it was that financial services businesses prioritise helping their employees feel secure and supported with their finances.

“I’m really big on financial institutions starting within. I don’t want financial companies helping communities if they are not helping the people who work for them. There has to be an order to these things. Start internally first.”

She told the Upfront podcast that if she were the CEO of a financial services company, there would be a few things she’d make sure happened:

“At least twice a year companies should have finance sessions to teach their staff ways they can be better with their money. They should help their people understand their pensions better. If people have worked in previous places, they should help them amalgamate their pensions into one. They could help them learn about investments and why that's important as well. In this day and age of the working world, it would be incredibly helpful if there was a support team or support counsellor onsite that people could go to and talk to.”

According to Bola, these are things that can help people stay with a company and are usually highly valued: “I have never known a financial coach to go into a session and have someone from the audience say ‘that was not needed.’”

Read the room

We’ve said it before in How to build a financial services business that speaks to people, but we’ll say it again louder for those at the back: you have to start putting real-life scenarios into your marketing and advertising.

This, says Bola, is especially important in a world where the cost of living is going up and things feel uncertain. “When we don’t feel a sense of security in our lives, the notion of finances can affect us emotionally, quite adversely.”

So some extra reassurance is to help people feel safe and cared for. It might sound obvious, but Bola doesn’t see enough financial services businesses getting it right. She says the airy-fairy ‘we’ve got your money in a safe place, so you don’t have to worry’ approach traditionally used by financial institutions no longer cuts it.

“People want to know what you can do to help them if they’re in a crisis. What information can you give them? What happens if they go to the pub with their friends, tap their contactless, and it declines? Does the finance company or bank still have their back?” These are the real scenarios playing on people’s minds that financial services need to tap into and show.

“Do not talk to me about financial wellness and then make me talk to a bot.“


Technology has revolutionised how we deal with our finances and financial services providers, enabling us to have as much or as little interaction as we like.

Take AI bots, for instance. They’ve been a game-changer in enabling financial services businesses to deliver a fuss-free, hands-off service - brilliant when used in the right situation. But, applied to a different use case, something as simple as a bot could trigger an entirely different emotional reaction, as Bola illustrates:

“Do not talk to me about financial wellness and then make me talk to a bot. I'll be very angry. I'm going to talk to a human being. I do not think we should start financial wellness and counselling through an app, it can feel quite impersonal.”

We’ve all had frustrating experiences (listen to episode three of the Upfront podcast to hear our guests talk about theirs). Make sure you’re delighting customers by giving them a choice - let them decide how and when they want to engage.


Who doesn’t love a perk? Whether it’s a fiver for referring a friend, some insurance or a discount in our favourite restaurant, chances are, we’ll stay loyal to the brands that reward us and make us feel valued.

Bola is a big fan, and, as part of her financial coaching, gets her clients to list all their accounts and asks them what the purpose of that account is and what perks it offers.

“If they tell me they don’t know what the perks are, I say, ‘Then why are you there?’”

And that’s the thing - it’s so easy for customers to compare and switch between financial services providers now that you have to find new ways to make them stick by you. But, says Bola, it really has to make sense or be something that other financial companies aren’t doing. This applies to all types of financial businesses, not just banks.

“Everybody needs to ask the question - what perks are you giving me? We need to start asking more financial institutions what they are doing for us as we are trusting them with our money.”


Us humans are a cynical bunch and can see right through any less than genuine gimmicks or ploys. While we might be lured in by the promise of a half-decent interest rate, it doesn’t always signify the start of a long and happy relationship.

“A lot of financial tech doesn’t impress me because I can tell it’s for the purpose of data collection and companies’ interests,” says Bola. “There are a lot of gimmicks where banks say they’ll give you this interest rate but it’s only for a short time, and then it’s crap again. But I’ll do what I need to, get my interest, and bounce.”

She talked about two apps - Plum and Emma - which she loves and are a regular fixture in her life because they do exactly what she needs them to do (even if seeing her balance every morning does give her the shock horror of her life).

According to Bola, focusing on the growth of customers - not your profit margins - is the key to gaining long-term customer loyalty.

“Financial companies want profit but also want to help people, and I’m not seeing enough of that. Put people first and understand where they are. If you can invest in their problems and try to solve them where possible, you will find people will stay with you.”


Putting people first has been a running theme across all of the episodes of Upfront - and rightly so. After all, successful financial services businesses are built on good relationships, loyalty and trust. With money and our emotions so closely linked, financial services providers have a role to play in helping us all feel better, happier and more confident when dealing with our finances - and with them. A lot of that is down to the delivery, and whether it’s through a human or an app, there’s always an opportunity to inject more of the feel-good factor that keeps us coming back for more.