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Last month I sat down with my family to go through our wish list in searching for a new home.  We listed the usual criteria such as location (proximity to school), size (add more space for a study room or office), and the general price range we might consider. That final point of course was dependent on being able to secure a suitable loan to help finance the acquisition.  We wrapped up our discussion with a list of to-dos including calling realtors, searching for online listings, and speaking to banks regarding financing. Of course that is where I hit a dilemma.  Do I reach out to my current bank for their advice on what is recognized as one of the biggest purchases made my most individuals in their lives? Or do I look around for a loan provider that takes the time to get to know what I want and works with me to find the best solution to meet my needs?

The reality is that I don’t feel that my bank knows me. In spite of the fact that they see most of my financial transactions and already clearly know what amount I receive in terms of salary and the payments I make each month; in order to start a discussion on loans, I still have to fill out these details on a form like a total stranger. My bank should be able to tell me what I can afford without asking a series of intrusive questions, especially when they have most of the answers already at their fingertips.

A few days ago I had the opportunity to visit Accenture’s innovation lab in Malaga and met two of our most popular recruits—personal robots that are being trained to undertake a range of tasks leveraging extensive databases of client and public information. As I watched a simple demo, I saw how easy it was to converse with the robot and how useful it could be.

Innovations in this space are at the heart of what Fjord (the Design and Innovation team from Accenture Interactive) identified as one of the key trends for 2016: Watch…It Listens. For those who have experimented with Siri or Alexa, you may already have an initial idea of what is possible. The new trend here is not simply the machine responding to your question, but through active listening, the machine learns and can anticipate your need.

I can imagine in a not-too-distant future, banking apps for personal robots which could assist in the home purchase process. Why not have a service that tells me how much more I need to save each month to afford my dream home? To advise me on my purchases? To let me know what I could reasonably bid on? All this without having to leave my home or navigate through multiple websites filling out detailed questionnaires with personal information. Today, I trust my bank to manage my financial accounts and keep my information private, but for guidance, I tend to go elsewhere.  When it comes to advice, I need to feel someone is listening to me.

Banks are missing an opportunity—sitting on a wealth of customer specific information, yet not using this to provide customized advice. The next generation of homebuyers will likely have a personal robot to assist them with the financing process.  It remains to be seen whether this will be powered by apps from the banking industry or an innovative solution from a new entrant in this space.

For more information on what’s coming in Design and Innovation see Fjord Trends 2016.

8 responses:

  1. Great insight Shira – people across geographies can relate to this! And there are many more use cases where automated, personalized banking advice can help consumers with their financial planning and needs – children education, dream holiday .. and so on!

    1. I agree Varun. It is exciting to think of the tools the next generation of banking customers will be signing up for as part of their standard service. And that future is not so far away.

    1. Thank you Jarkko. There are of course many great local bankers who provide invaluable advice to their customer base. I’ve worked in several bank branches myself in the past and have seen first-hand this kind of dedication and commitment. The challenge of course at the institutional level is to find a way of replicating this on a larger scale. Recent innovations in artificial intelligence (A.I.) now make this possible.

  2. We are seeing the same concept when banks reach out to customers for feedback.. How many times have you received a survey from an organization you regularly interact with then get a survey asking you for your name, age, where you live, how much you spend at x… information they should already know. It probably makes you feel like they don’t care. This is the reason market research is becoming too expensive, too slow, and not accurate.

    1. Manny, you highlight something that no doubt many of us have experienced. The one that I always find astonishing is when I receive some nicely phrased, expensive looking marketing materials that try to demonstrate how a particular firm values me as a customer, but in the opening sentence addresses the mail to MR. Lillis. I rarely read past that line.

      At the same time, I know people who would prefer not to be reminded of their last purchases, or failure to pay a particular bill on time, so bank employees have a challenging job trying to figure out what it is ok to admit to knowing, unless the customer has been asked ahead of time.

  3. Ah, but the devil is in the details. Banks have to worry about very complex and draconian regulations that apply to the mortgage origination process. That’s one of the reasons you are being asked to complete an application. The application establishes a starting point for several disclosure processes that are tied to a number of days and a particular date. And then there’s all the anti-money laundering know your customer rules we have to follow, not to mention the privacy and safeguarding of customer information rules. It’s true when you hear someone say that regulation holds banks back from being all that our clients want us to be.

    1. Very fair point Tony. I’m sure it must be quite challenging for bank employees under these circumstances. The past few years’ regulatory changes have done little to make it easier to navigate. Yet when I see developments such as eSignature, I know that change is possible. We all must work together to continue to transform the industry, taking advantage of digital innovations that help both customers and bank employees. Even simple items such as pre-filled forms can make a huge difference.

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