Better the bank you know?

Carolyn Pitt

Carolyn is a seasoned agency leader with over 15 years’ experience delivering cross-discipline brand and communication programs for blue chip clients. She joined award-winning brand and design agency Hulsbosch as head of account management in August 2017.

In 2018, only 21 per cent of customers believed that banks in general had their customers best interests at heart and behave ethically. Only 26 per cent believed that banks will keep their promises; views cemented further following the Hayne Financial Services Royal Commission.  

Through the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, as listed entities the banks’ focus drifted towards pleasing shareholders before customers, employees and the community. The banks started making decisions that benefited investors rather than what their customers needed or wanted.  

Now, as we progress through 2019, we’re being introduced to the concept of open banking.

A new era where we each have greater control over our banking data, allowing us to direct access to providers we wish, so we can cherry pick the banking services we use, from whom we choose.  

Switching between banks will be easier than ever, not just from established big and medium banks, but also from the bevy of ‘neo banks’ entering the market. Including 86 400, Xinja, Up, and Volt, this first wave of mobile-first banks – with international newcomers no doubt not far behind – all bear that shiny financial technology (fintech) appeal.  

However, while research shows a lack of trust in the big banks, and a growing consideration towards switching, there still remains a sense of comfort in the known. In spite of the cynicism towards the big banks, consumers still entrust them (potentially over newer players) to hold their money – the ‘big’ signals security.  

If a customer were to switch to a neo bank, with so much choice, how do they select the right option? With such a personal, anxiety-provoking subject as money, how will these new players convince consumers to put eggs in their basket? If we assume core product and services, and delivery, are largely equitable, what will tip a consumer one way or another?

Brand is the ultimate answer. From both the story they tell, and the way in which they present to market, bank brands need to signal who they are for, and that they can be trusted.  

Xinja and Up, with their fun language and respective ninja icons and scribble style, might appeal more to a younger audience, or those that may have less at risk in the money stakes. In comparison, Cuscal-backed 86 400 feels more sophisticated and simplified, likely to appeal better to those consumers with more to keep track of. 

In a trust economy, the authenticity and follow-through of what they promise will make or break the new players. 

The ongoing challenge in an open banking environment will be the ability of institutions, both old and new, to not only pinpoint the core customer need but to clearly show how they consistently deliver on it.  

There needs to be an ethical purpose and no gap between what a bank says it believes and how it behaves. Keeping your brand promise, that’s the imperative in Australia’s new age of banking.  

Time will tell how much the neo banks live up to their potential and gain the complete trust of customers.  

Expect to see people ‘dabbling’ – having one or more accounts with the neo banks and utilising their aggregation features that thus far the traditional banks are behind on but retaining a big four player as their main financial institution (MFI). For now, it may well be a case of ‘better banking with who you know’?

Tags: Financial Services, brand strategy, Hulsbosch, 86 400

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