A tale is told of a man riding a horse that is galloping very quickly. Another man, standing alongside the road, yells to him, “Where are you going?” The rider yells back, “I don’t know. Ask the horse!”

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Like this runaway horse, retail banks are now finding that rapidly evolving customer needs and changing expectations are setting the pace for the evolution of the business. To help banks better understand where the horse is going and keep pace (rather than just yanking on the reins), we recently polled 47,000 financial services consumers across 28 markets about their banking needs, behaviors and preferences. Some of the macro results were unsurprising. Customers want to be able to trust their bank to give them good advice and protect their personal data. They also want and expect seamless service across channels, without delays or hitches. More than half of customers also want their bank to offer integrated propositions that go beyond banking and address core needs, like home- or car-buying packages. Half also want personalised financial advice based on their unique circumstances, such as spending levels and habits. And because banks are trusted with transactional data, more than three-quarters of customers are willing to share that data in return for a better deal.

Yet, bank customers aren’t all moving at the same speed or with the same gait. Different groups of customers want different things at different stages of their lives, and the mix of those segments varies hugely by country, driven by a host of market-specific factors. Nevertheless, our research allowed us to separate retail banking customers into four distinct “personas” that can give providers a great deal of insight into how to structure their offerings and stay relevant.

Pioneers, for instance, look like the ideal customers for a modern digital bank. They are tech-savvy, have a positive attitude towards money, and expect their banks to offer service and channel innovations. Although they have high levels of trust in their bank, they are also most likely to trust non-traditional providers, like a telco or tech company, to provide banking services. Therefore, banks should be developing personalised offerings and “beyond banking” propositions for this group delivered through a mix of channels and ecosystem partners. But Pioneers only make up 23 percent of the global banking customer base. At 33 percent, the largest group are the Skeptics, who are tech-wary, dissatisfied with banks and generally have an adversarial attitude towards money. This is a far tougher

audience for a bank to address, but they are a long-term market opportunity, as more than a third of them are under age 35.

Banks can use these types of customer insights to make smart choices on strategy, ecosystem priorities and channel mix. Some, like digital challengers, may chose to focus on only one persona—like the Pioneers—while many incumbents must attempt to serve a far broader and diverse set of customers. What is clear is that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach will likely satisfy no one.

What we recommend is a three-step process:

  1. First, truly understand the nature of your customer base and whether your current product and channel offerings have created a self-selection bias that makes your customers different from those of other banks in the market. If you’ve majored on weekend branch opening and extended hours, you’ve probably attracted a lot of Traditionalists.
  2. Second, understand what each persona group truly needs to feel satisfied with their banking experience and examine whether those are things that your institution is able and willing to provide. Just because you are a digital challenger, like Starling Bank i
    n the UK, doesn’t mean that you can’t provide counter service for occasional cash deposits. But the smart way to do it (which they have done) is to do it in partnership with the post office network rather than building branches. Offering that counter service is unlikely to attract Traditionalist customers to a digital bank, but it does make the proposition differentially attractive to the target audience.
  3. Finally, just because you are serving multiple personas doesn’t mean that you need to create siloed propositions. Just like Lego bricks, componentisation and reusability are critical to running an efficient multi-persona-focused bank. Pragmatists may only be interested in account alerts rather than advice, but those AI-driven alerts can also be an important part of a broader relationship proposition for Pioneers. Also, personas are not fixed through time. With a little gentle nudging, lots of transparency, and an accretion of trust over time, today’s Pragmatists and Skeptics could be transformed into tomorrow’s Pioneers.

By better understanding both the differences and the similarities in their customer bases, banks can canter with the horses rather than working against them and give many more people the high-trust, omnipresent, personalised experiences, they want. That’s how winning banks will compete for and grow market share in the years ahead.

I invite you to read our 2019 Global Financial Services Consumer Study—and welcome your feedback.

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