The user: the new engine of change in financial services

Companies have always had the consumer in their sights, but they haven’t always seen them the same way. When communication models were one-directional, all the company had to do was sell its product or service, relying on results to gauge consumer opinion.

The Internet has changed the rules of the game. Communication now goes both ways, and users want to say what they think and be heard

Even though this happens in every industry, the financial sector is where change is being felt the most deeply. This is what we have learned from the data in the Accenture study, Financial Providers: Transforming distribution models for the evolving consumer.

The first conclusion drawn from the study is that we have now entered a new phase of the company-consumer relationship. Consumers not only have a voice: they have power, and enough of it to force change. According to the study, the behaviors and expectations of new consumers are causing financial companies to re-think the service that they offer to users, as well as their distribution models. Some of the insights are quite revealing:

What do today’s new consumers expect from the financial industry?

1. Data is the new currency. Consumers are aware of the value of their data. They are willing to provide it if they get something in return, such as exclusive services, discounts, or more personalized products.

Personally, however, we think that the emerging trend will be to consider digital trust in the currency of exchange. Users provide their data if they trust the entity, not simply in exchange for a benefit, but taking into account other factors such as security and the digital experience.

2. Younger consumers prefer the GAFA model(Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon) as an alternative to traditional financial models. These companies have developed payment and financing methods from a 100% digital, user-centric perspective: Ease of use, accessibility, security, and fully on-line processes have managed to attract an audience that feels more comfortable managing finances from a mobile phone than going to an office for a face-to-face meeting.

3. Automated services. Even when it comes to complex decision-making processes, users prefer totally automatic services. The main reasons are convenience and the speed that comes with automation. Users want services to be available immediately, at all times and in all places.

4. Customization. More and more, customization is not an added benefit, but a basic premise. Users want their interactions with a financial institution to be customized and relevant to their own financial needs and objectives. As a result, communications that they cannot identify with, or that they consider superfluous, are increasingly perceived as annoyances.

5. Channel independence. Users care less and less about what channel they use to communicate with their financial institution. What interests them is to be able to get what they want, quickly and easily. Again, immediacy is the priority.

What this study makes abundantly clear is that the position of power has changed. Now, the user is in control. Fortunately, the data provides valuable insights about consumers, their expectations and demands, that will allow financial institutions to adapt better and more rapidly to the new trends in the digital environment.

Sources: ICAR, Accenture report