Goodbye, Santander. The end of a banking love affair.


My love affair with Santander began many years ago when I started meeting some of their amazing people at the start of my journey of selling them Meniga’s PFM. Over time many of those people became friends because it’s hard to resist bankers with such astoundingly large hearts. Don’t get me wrong, most banks have a contingent of great minds and fiery hearts but in Santander, the passion seemed to run through the veins of every department from the digital crusaders to the procurement people so I quickly became a personal fan too and switched my impossible-to-use-due-to-extreme-passwording (annus domini: 2014 so no touch ID) Lloyds account to a Santander one.

Many of the people I worked with over the last few years, have seen me use a folder I was forced to create on my phone to contain all the various Santander apps in one place (affectionately called “FFS Santander!”) as an example of what not to do as a bank, but that was not me the consumer moaning but the front-end strategist disagreeing with the scattered growth. Aside from that though, as a consumer, I had only one major complaint – that of having to call them to let them know I’m out of the country and will be using their card so once a week I’d be on the phone -some times for ages- to do so typically on my way to the airport or they would promptly block me out of funds because yanno, flagging that I’m the epitome of the frequent flyer seemed to be too much to handle for their systems.

That was the only problem I really had, and if we accept Santander is simply not interested in air crew and the likes, it wasn’t an issue major enough to make me consider switching, chiefly because, as any other consumer, I didn’t think I could get better elsewhere. (Turns out that’s wrong, at least 3 UK banks let you tell them you’ll be away on the go).

So all in all Santander and I had settled into the lull of a semi-dysfunctional but comfortable long term relationship where the shine of young love thrills had been replaced by torn corners of my debit card and I had thought we’d be together till the day that I’ll choose my Challenger bank and then amicably part ways.

But then this happened.

On my way to Budapest to work with Unicredit a couple of weeks ago, I go through my normal round of Santander calls to ensure they don’t cut me off. This once I’m short for time, so don’t even do my “you guys really need to sort this” litany but hurriedly hung up as I’m passing through security and holding up the queue. I pick up my belongings and as I run to the aircraft I log into my Metro Bank business account application (which gleefully responds within milliseconds causing me to fleetingly give cheating on Santander a thought) and send my Santander debit account a few thousand pounds for various things. Having seen the confirmation of the transfer I turn off my phone and settle into my Priority Boarding many comforts.

Once at the hotel in Budapest I decide to carry on with my on-the-move home accounting endeavour thinking it can easily be done while I reapply make-up and get ready for dinner. In particular as this should only be a couple of transfers including a hefty one to the husband-come-PA as he’s in charge of paying most of the bills, taking cash out for the Monzo-reluctant nanny (another story for another time), etc.

Half absent-mindedly, I log into Smartbank , click on Transfer, write down the amount and make to scroll down through my list of Payees to find Husband’s Lloyds. Nothing to scroll down through. Huh? I put down the lipstick, sit down and give it full attention. Have they changed the interface and it now needs side scrolling? Have they made the payees’ names white-on-white? All possible scenarios, sadly. Nope. The payees’ field stares at me empty and surprised I quiz it. Instead of the 6-7 names there all the time I now have nothing at all.

Feeling my blood pressure raising I decide it’s likely easier to get online on my laptop and set him up as a payee again, than try and deal with what has happened and while I shoot him an Whatsapp asking him for a picture of his Lloyds card (because c’mon, security schecurity, I have bankers waiting with dinner!) I pop open the lid of my laptop and brace myself for the ordeal that is going to the online bank in Santander while hoping things have miraculously changed since I was there last 6 months ago.

Nope, still there. The three incomprehensible blood-of-grandmother-type password steps complete with gratuitous picture they made me choose for “personalisation” reasons and an online-only password so painful to remember I have written in my London office on an eternal post-it. In hindsight, had I asked someone to take a picture of said post-it and send it to me I would have been in, and Bob may have been my banking uncle but instead I risk it and you guessed it, lock myself out of the online bank on the skippy. Time for the last resort.

“Hi, I need to keep this brief as I’m calling you from Hungary and I’m in a hurry. You guys “vanished” my payees from the mobile app for no good reas…”

“Oh hello my name is Charlie, I’ll need to walk you through some security first”

“Awesome. Let me save you some time – name is, date of birth is, address is and tell me what number letters you need”

“2nd, 5th and 6th”

“7, 4, 1”

“Excellent! How can we help you today Mrs Blomstrom?”

“As I said, I got into my mobile app and have no payees so I can’t…”

“Oh I’m sorry to hear that. That’s strange, I will have to move you to the team dealing with the mobile app”

“No, wait! I don’t need that, they can’t magically reinstate them for me! I need to register at least another one tonight. Can I do it with you on the phone, please?”

“Oh no I’m afraid we can not do that but you can do it in the onl…”

“….online bank. I know. I tried. I didn’t get your impossible online password right so I locked myself out.”

“Oh ok, that’s not ideal. What I can do is send you another temporary password for the online bank”

“Excellent! Email or SMS?”

“Oh no, I’m afraid we can’t do that m’am, this will be in the regular mail”

“WHAT?!? Leave alone how ridiculous it is to send a password for online in the mail that won’t do me any good as I need to transfer money tonight!”

“Yes well, let me explain, once the password is sent in the mail we can reset it for you from here so I am trying to get you in tonight”

“O….k…. that’s just dumb but sure, go ahead and send it.”

“Ok M’am, please give me your address”

“It’s probably XYZ in the system but I moved to ABC”

“What?!? You moved and never went to the branch to sort the new address?”

“Yes well I’m sorry, it’s been a busy few weeks – let’s just change it now”

“I’m sorry that will not work, you have to go into a branch to do a change of address.”

“Ok well nevermind, forget I said that, send the password to the address you have”

“I can’t do that M’am since you just admitted you do not reside there”

“Ok but you said it doesn’t matter and we can change the password through a reset link!!!”

“Yes but not if I can not send the password by mail and I can not”

“Are you friggin’ kidding me?! It’s now been 3 hours of me trying to make ONE payment”

“I’m sorry M’am”

“Ok listen, what can we actually do? If you can’t set up the payee, can you at least make this one time transfer?”

“Over the phone? No, I’m afraid it has to be on the mobile app or inside the on…”

“You MUST BE JOKING!!!! What am I supposed to do?”

“I’m afraid you will have to go to a branch M’am”

“I’m not even in the country! Are you saying you will keep my money prisoner till I get back because your entire system is crap?!?”

“No, I am just…”

“This is not acceptable! I need a solution! Either you make a transfer or I am done with you guys!”

“M’am – shall I patch you through to our complaints department?”

“Yes! Wait! No!”

“Hello? We understand you are not happy with the online banking service?

“What? NO! That’s not it. Nevermind, done with you people I want to close my account!”

“May I ask why?”

“No. I am seriously done, send me my CDs back done, you can have your leather jacket done. It’s over. Finito. Kaput.

“Well ok… I’m just asking if I can I help…

“You can not, your backend sucks so bad that you managed to lose entries in the database, develop online as yet another separate endeavour with no connection to the same security system and build a login process so painful it makes grown men cry, and topped it all of with extreme phone channel impotence. I am serious, I want to close my account with Santander and switch to a real bank.”

“Well if you’re sure M’am. You can close your account at any of our branches, would you like me to provide you with a list of the closest ones to you?”

So there you have it. My Disney fairytale ending of switching to the most valiant challenger or even, if they did not prove themselves before Santander caught up, staying with my bank till AI, PSD2, and Blockchain did us part, will never be.

And I did go to a branch. I went to several. A Santander one to change my address as otherwise I couldn’t Switch and then a NatWest one (don’t judge!) for a strangely enjoyable long, cathartic chat with my local banker over a cuppa, about how others did me wrong and what a lovely future we’ll have together.

Goodbye Santander, we can’t stay friends, it wasn’t me, it was you.


Holy Banking Paralysis Batman!

The long writing hiatus was chiefly due to being busy but also having to process how I feel about a rather bedazzling find: “Tangible Banking” stood still while I was “away”.

Not all of it of course, there was much done on the launch and proposition of challengers and front-end of neobanks but for traditional, big retail banks time shockingly stood still. A time they hardly afforded to lose to begin with.

As some of you know, I left the very practical side of things – selling and designing a core transaction and data FinTech product for banks who desperately needed it as it could dramatically change the consumer experience- about 18 months ago to do the “Less Tangible” banking stuff and ask them to stop and think of the consumers’ feelings and take introspective long hard looks at their organisations. One would argue I moved from a “doer” to a “thinker”. Some would argue I moved from being FinTech-er to being a professional finger pointer. Call it what you will, I spent that time writing as a banking consumer advocate, advising lots of FinTech companies how to approach if not defeat inertia and even working with a handful of genius banks who “got it”.

A couple of months ago I went back to “Tangible Banking” by working closely with a company who also has an amazingly smart and technically briliant product to dramatically change the consumer experience, this time on the onboarding side and I was blow away by where banks had gotten in the time that I was “away”.

Nowhere much.

Reaching out to some of my old clients and prospects I heard the same complaints and excuses and I attributed them to natural moaning needs of unsung heroes – bank employees who stuck it out during this FinTech palooza and tried to make these organisations move. A task worthy of Sysyphus.

Sadly, as I got a deeper understanding of what exactly their organisations have brought to the consumer in the time I had joined the “Intangible Banking Fixers” brigade, the complains are genuine – nearly nothing substantial can be pointed to and some of the same projects that were slow moving back then are still around whether on hold or being resurrected now. The big worthy ones. The ones about IRL data access, the ones about replacing spaghetti back-ends that prevent change, the ones about vision that is truly digital, the heavy stuff.

Look, I get banking inertia caused by “Business Prevention Departments” (J.P. Nicols Perpetuity TM) as much as the next frustrated doer or thinker in the industry, and I realise to my FinTechMafia gang this is another article on “same stuff I’ve been writing about since 2000” but this is a whole new level of ludricous, when I left “tangible banking” there was impossibly much buzz about how banks were “finally getting somewhere” and heaps of really solid projects in the works and they have all but vanished.

Here is who and what I blame:

  • Blockchain. Yes it’s complex and yes it’s potentially revolutionary but did everyone in every financial institution have to drop everything else they were thinking of to read and learn about it?
  • The slow pace of industry innovation. Just look at a Finovate Buzz words card and you’ll know nothing much was offered to the banks from the FinTech innovation side of things in the last 3-4 shows. This is partly because there is state-of-the-art front-end and no easily approachable back-end proposition fodder out there, but also because FinTech needs to make a buck and pushing the innovation barrel too far ahead of the banks makes no ROI sense.
  • The inability to catch-up of knowledge houses. 6-7 years ago the big consulting giants were woefully behind in offering any kind of serious strategic guidance to big retail banks in digital and top product designers stood in for them. They still are and they still do.
  • The FinTech commentator inflation. A few years ago there were 30-50 voices internationally who stepped in for the knowledge void created by the analysts and consultants. In the last 2 years that number has immeasurably exploded and while in the future that will be great for the industry as it will filter into real value and some of the newcomers are providing that already, it’s simply just massive noise for the banks for now, furthering their confusion.
  • The Great FinTech Distraction (TM). The mere number of Innovation Labs, Funds, Incubators, Aggregators, all other “-gators” says it all. How is one to focus on getting things done when one is not sure what the next best thing is and needs to keep on scouting?

Much as I would rather find reasons to praise the big retail banks and distance myself from the mindless bank bashing that some have taken up as a sport, for the reasons above, I feel everyone dropped the ball and allowed a vicious sort of analysis paralysis to take over. Let’s pick it up again and get going on that Free-to-Spend project from 2001.

Breaking news: Experts say you can save instead of spending!

Just as I was about to move away from my tentative foray in the psychology of saving I was exploring the other week, my eye was caught by a Google alert about a newspaper article that rapidly brought my blood to boiling point.


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Now, much as we may want to blame this on the Daily Mail which is good at boiling bloods in general, this was lifted from another site called “Career Girl Weekly” and appropriately placed in the Pink “Femail” section. In today’s episode, I won’t even get into a feminist rant into how many shades of wrong that is, I’ll focus on the money part, in particular financial literacy and advice.

It’s easy to dismiss the above with a shrug and an eye roll because the press just needed a page filler and no one needs the infinite wisdom of “Spend less, save more” and if you read some of the 900 comments you’ll find everything from delightfully ironic ones pointing out the ridiculousness of the formulation to heartbreaking accounts from people who are genuinely barely managing to survive.

I will not even dissect how ludicrous this is in the context of the UK economy where just the cost of housing tends to be 60% of average income and over. Nor is it worth noting that for some segments, this is simply insulting and painful, whereas for other segments it’s superfluous and something one’s financial executor should loosely keep in mind when playing with portfolios. This “golden rule” indeed only applies to an infinitely thin layer of the working population that finds themselves in the position of having vast amounts of discretionary spending income and they are likely neither Daily Mail readers nor in dire need of patronising life hacks.

Financial Literacy and general financial Advisory is a very serious topic and in my former life with Meniga we were fortunate enough to have some of the best thought leaders in the world advise on how to present some of it in the product. We had started with advice which was, if not in the least wrapped in as dumb a formulation, still merely a piece of text even when strategically placed in the context of the PFM features, but we’ve then moved to letting excellent UI make those points for us for the most part.

Whether we like to call it PFM or “enhanced informational presentation of our finances” or anything else in between, if executed correctly, the contextual and relevant view of their “Money Moments”(TM)  is giving people the right information at the right time and aids them in the decision making as well as teaches them lessons in time.

While there are far greater experts in best ways to get financial advice across out there, let me reinforce some simple facts for any banker out there who is thinking of reintroducing an advice box with pears of wisdom such as the above in the new version of their digital bank:

  1. Most people much prefer the visual representation of what they spent as pioneered by Simple, Meniga or Moven than being told anything with words – spare them;
  2. If you choose to write advice anyhow – mind your tone – anything patronising (kind of like how I may come across here) – will be severely off-putting;
  3. Context is everything – waste the chance to tell the customer they can get a loan while struggling at check-out and he’ll resent you for telling him so 2 days later in an email;
  4. Make it fiercely relevant or it will be a nuisance – telling the customer he would be spending less on a mortgage in their area than the rent they are currently paying is great except if you choose to do it as they are checking their Free to Spend while running to catch the train;
  5. Don’t let your disjointed backend systems dictate the value of the data and end up disconnected from the customer by “forgetting” details they have given you before;
  6. Changing behaviour is infinitely hard but not impossible – Find ways to engage them with goals in the same fashion that the health industry does and set different expectation for different behaviour patterns;

Above all, remember that if it is to work in the interest of the consumer and establish the bank as a respected relationship partner it has to feel like an intensely personal dialogue with a friend. A tall order indeed, but I believe that if we experiment with humour, relevant personal information and use technology to empower the “when” and “why” rather than the “how” of “spend less and save more” we’ll start delivering on our help promises.

P.S. To some bankers – especially my famous Experience Supermen – the entire article I wrote here will have them roll their eyes and react with the same “no sh!t Sherlock!” indignation I had towards the initial life hack article, I know. To them I say – I seriously believe that one of the reasons why some are so far behind is that there is a serious gap between FinTech and banking in execution, between what we take as “digital DUH” and what the consumer sees. As I was pleading before, it’s time we do a collective mea culpa and accept that the overwhelming majority of bank consumers see none of the mBank wonders and the Moven magic and our disconnect between best and rest can easily mean some bank somewhere would add paragraphs of advice to their internet bank’s home page instead of offering 30 seconds loans at the point of sale together with nudges on how to manage it.

Spenders and Savers

Following my call for action of a few articles ago I’ve decided to do something about it.

Since the industry won’t listen to me faster and set up new ways of studying how their customers truly feel about money I’ve decided I’ll take it upon myself to execute on “Emotional Banking”. Granted, nothing will be valuably scientific and my research utterly and despicably empirical but hey, beats nothing.

The only rule – question everything.

Spenders and Savers

For instance, why is it that in the rare cases when we define users for our journeys we accept in finance we can use the same data to build personas as in retail? Why not ignore age, gender and occupation and start by splitting people into Savers or Spenders. Isn’t that much more relevant for our purposes?

Then maybe we can see what each values. Whether it is time or money, what makes them tick, check if indeed Spenders value instant gratification and if Savers are more willing to delay it and if so why.

I spend a lot of time thinking of saving as my readers may know. I’m a Spender without a doubt but one that wants to grow up to be a Saver.

My obsession with this topic started when I helped design To Buy or Not to Buy, Meniga’s Finovate winning concept helping people make purchase or saving decisions. (You can see a demo of it here) It was aimed at creating a mechanism to transform impulse spending into impulse saving instead and it did so by injecting enough information into the decision making process (it allowed users to check if they have enough money for the purchase, to see if they had budgeted for it, etc) but also by making it emotionally engaging (one could crowdsource the decision to their friends on social media if they so chose and more importantly, they could see physical representations of their major savings goals to remind them what the value in saving instead would be).

Sadly this is the banking industry where we all get excited about things (the concept won Finovate’s Best of Show) but do very little about anything – the app is not live anywhere in the world today so we really have no way of knowing if it would have revolutionised the way we spend. If you think that is too big a claim look at the way Tinder changed the way we date.


The act of buying

Now what makes someone more likely to spend than others? What is it that makes a Spender? Is it the act of buying or the owning of the object that they are deriving more pleasure from?

The other day my nanny beamingly informed me that we can likely go through the entire summer without buying my son any new clothes. To her this was good news. To me, it sounded preposterous and sad. I would have more wanted to hear he has outgrown every item of clothing and we need to replace his whole wardrobe. It was going to be majorly expensive but hey, needs must. When she informed me of the opposite I felt loss. It made me question what it was that I would be missing on, why could I not share her enthusiasm at saving all that money. Turns out I had looked forward in my head to the trip where we spend an entire afternoon half listening to his preferences on whether or not T-shirts need to feature Transformers to be approved and half picking up things he “needs”. Dragging a half reluctant child through overcrowded stores and then handing hard earned cash was a price I was more than willing to pay for the experience of molding his taste, spending time listening to his ideas and feeling like I’m setting him up with necessary things as any good parent should.

So I propose this as a hypothesis: sometimes we buy experiences not things.

Here’s another example -and as I warned you, they are utterly anecdotal- I was speaking to some of my closest girl friends about buying behavior (yes they are FinTech geeks themselves, of course) and while one in particular deserves her own episode in this study as is a hard core Saver and extreme anti-Spender and I am still studying her before I can work out why that is, the other two heard me confess to a somewhat bizarre behavior and could relate to it!

Sometimes, I fill my basket up online and never check it out. On some sites, such as eBay or Amazon I end up having what is effectively a glorified wish list and I very rarely if ever, buy any of those products because in the cold light of day once I’ve cooled off from imagining I will take up yoga I never need the bejewelled mat I had clicked on. Why not have a list instead? Good question, something about a wish list makes it feel less actionable, like a recognised fantasy whereas I want to feel as close to buying that as I can without actually forking the money for it. A really interesting app called “Wish” goes even further –intentionally or not- in feeding my need for instant gratification and features an aggregated view of really cheap Chinese products – clothes, shoes, tech items- and I find myself loading them all into its basket idly as a past time. I never bought anything from them.

Imagine my surprise when I confessed this and my friends exclaimed “me too!”

Happy Money

The reality of it is that the only “happy money” is in savings. The satisfaction we get from spending is almost always marred with the subconscious buyer remorse we all experience to a degree or other but at the same time money enables momentary delight and the allure of paying for delight will never go away. Savings would need to be perceived of far greater value to equal it.

I’m still asking the industry to please find a way to get me addicted to savings like I was writing here last year but needless to say not much has appeared meanwhile.

In another episode I’ll look at what crowdfunding sites such as Kikstarter or Indiegogo teach us about delayed gratification and whether we can make investment exciting but for now I’d love to hear from you all – are you a Saver or a Spender and what makes you one?



Emotional Banking Crusade Revelations: Bankers


This was going to be an up-in-arms Brexit post but I’ll spare you all that (on this particular blog) and focus on something that transcends geography and get back to The Emotional Banking Crusade Revelations series that started with “I am a banker – therefore I lie”.

For the past few months I have been in the process of splitting the all-too-broad concept of Emotional Banking into several products suited to various parts of the banking industry as it has finally dawned on me, that the high-level inspirational workshop where we all become entranced with the noble idea of putting empathy design at the centre of everything we do for the consumer, leaves both me and the bankers in the room initially elated, and soon after highly deflated when faced with the dread of business as usual.

Now I’m not saying any of my frustration was misplaced or my ideas wrong, I had simply come to a cross road where I had to make a choice: do I want to be a crier or a doer?

There were many ways in which I could simply carry on as a consultant capitalising on my indignation of the consumer’s mistreatment and Lord knows many in the industry are already doing just that. Write a book, keep crying wolf, pointing fingers and deploring the status quo. Trouble is I’ve never been a good victim and I’ve always found it immensely more satisfying to get stuff done.

“What is the “stuff” though?”, I wondered. Am I going to be able to rethink the financial services industry to let go of the forced, artificial separation between retail and investment? What about doing away with silly product silos between current accounts, savings, investments, pensions and insurance products? Can I make bankers clear slates and go back to a drawing board where they can employ empathic design and create truly meaningful money moments for their consumers making the relationship relevant once again? Can I save them from themselves and get them to be intrinsically honest about their internal mess and external propositions that are fundamentally broken? Can I make an industry that has treated CX with contempt despite the lip service, make it their cornerstone?

Can I, ultimately, get them to seriously investigate and intensely care about people’s feelings and reactions to money, so they reinvent themselves into brands that offer delightful, addictive experiences to their consumers so that they even stay in the relationship game?

I decided I can try. And since I was serious about the trying I’ll have to take smaller bites. I may need partners. I may have to breathe in and learn patience. Realise this is a marathon not a sprint. Not expect wooden language to vanish over night. Not expect banks to invest in ideas instead of technology as of tomorrow. Think of the smaller picture.

What does this all mean? Well it means that while I talked about my banking heroes before, the Michal Panowicz’s, the Roberto Ferrari’s and others, their Superman cap is likely not enough and we need many more people to achieve true change in banking and over the past 18 months I’ve met some wonderful less visible, less famous bankers, Banking Superheroes-in-Waiting if you will who want to help with the change in big banks, and that I’ve devised ways to empower them to chip at the big block of paralysis they are up against.

Since I can’t quote them by name as this is banking and I’m (of course) ”NDA-ed”, I give you:

Bankers by Type


The HR Banker – They may have been my biggest revelation. I foolishly presumed that the HR departments of banks were stiff back-office like places where nothing but rigorous process and filing happens and there is little in the way of care. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ve met people in HR in some banks that will be the absolute catalyst for change in their entire group.


To help the HR Banker I held “Vision and Courage” Workshops – in which we talked about FinTech in general, sliced and diced how to infuse passion into their organization and watched them alight with ideas of what they can do to change culture from within. With the more advanced ones I’m already working on “Culture Change Pillarsstrategic plans to include my “Build-a-Voiceprogram that focuses on making internal FinTech advocates and my “Keep it real program to attempt to change internal dialogue into real talk instead of the wooden language.


The UX Banker – Back in the day, I used to think the most pained of all bankers were the Innovation Managers. It was pitiful how glaringly desperate they were to make change when they knew so much and were heard so little. Then they were given Innovation Labs, VC funds, incubators and accelerators and they started being taken seriously (at least in theory). These days their former bottom of the totem pole position, is held by design and UX teams everywhere. These are people who could reinvent banking if given the keys to the kingdom.


To hopefully help the UX Banker I did “Why Human Centered Design Matters”; “Everyone is a Designer”; “Empathy Design and Money Moments” and “Relationship not products” talks and workshops not to their teams but to other CxOish parts of the bank that needed to understand why these people are crucial to their organisation and not a team to advise on shades of green on an online tab.

Aside from the grandiose organisational change ambitions they let me lead hands-on “How to better segment”; “How to increase loyalty and half churn rates” classes and even needed “What is PSD2 and Account Aggregation” half day exercises to think of new business models typically together with the Digital Strategy and Innovation bankers.


The Innovation Banker – As I said above, in the past 2-3 years life has apparently gotten better for the Innovation Manager. They now have resources – teams, fancy furniture, money to invest, etc- and a place at the table when the conversation happens because they’ve been sent out in the world to bring back golden FinTech eggs that will magically change everything.


I’ve helped with the strategy of building a few of the new innovation practices of some institutions as I’ve closely observed the birth of most others and I’ve taken an important lesson from it all – if Innovation stays a scouting, external, collection of FinTech pearls PR-ish exercise, it will prove to have been a colossal waste sooner or later.

To prevent an unpleasant day of reckoning that’s about to come for the Innovation Banker I offer “Technology vs. Culture” talks and workshops where I accompany them in explaining that their efforts only mean something if innovation is truly embraced, I give them “Internal Navigation – from spotting a new idea to POC and implementation” workshops ; I lead “New business models – Challengers, Experience Layers, Neo Banks, Identity and beyond” seminars and I talk to them about “Design as DNA” as they are the ones with the mandate to disrupt the organisation.


The Techie Banker – My second biggest revelation after the HR banker has been how much sense and sensibility I’ve found in the Techie Banker. After my many years in FinTech having worked with them to implement a product touching their most important possession (data), I thought I knew them well. Indeed some are very close friends. What I didn’t foresee, is how the passion and common sense my Architect, CIO or CTO friends have, is not the exception but the norm.


I wrote “Why Blockchain doesn’t matter” with them in mind. They don’t need to wait another 2-3 years for the government to mandate APIs, for AI to rise and for their various labs to study Blockchain, they get it now. They also get that knowledge without action is useless and that none of this new fangled technology matters at all, in the absence of serious will to change that will clean up their spaghetti back-end, and allow new business models and better people. Once the various banking boardrooms stop sending Innovation scouts out and when they hear “Blockchain will change everything” one too many times they’ll turn to the Techie Banker and ask them to make them relevant once again and that is a tragedy waiting to happen so the only thing I can think to offer is any kind of “It’s not about the Technology, stupid” (Working title) workshop to make boards understand what these passionate techies have known all along.


The Marketeer Banker I’ve met virtually none of. I can’t say I know any banking CMO (save for the Challengers) and considering most of my work is around making banks into brands that worries me.


Seeing how my “Everything is a Brand but a Bank” – talk and articles have been some of my most successful ones I would have thought they are the ones who will put it all together. I’ve been offering “How to create delightful experiences digitally and in the branchworkshops all along. Not one Marketeer Banker reached out to say “I’ve had enough of the term “brand” being misused to mean our bank’s official font glossary, I can get UX, Techies, Innovation and Business together to get them to create a real brand, I need your help”. I really hope Marketing in banking will eventually stand up and be counted.


The Neo/Challenger Banker – Is of course the trendy one, the one who we all see as the likely winner. Envied by traditional bankers and hailed as the next consumer champion the Challenger Banker has a tough road ahead and while I play devil’s advocate with uncomfortable questions at conferences, or write open letters that look like a tongue lashing I do it out of sheer tough love. Because I dearly want them to succeed. If they do, everybody wins.


With them I do “Defining Invisible Banking”; “Context and Relevancy”; “Alerts – how to build a dialogue”; “Aggregation and Identity”; “Categorization as the cornerstone of your offering” Workshops to help them build the best product they can build, but I also sat down with some to define their “Customer Acquisition Strategy” and their long term Brand building plans and Marketing strategy as I have done with any other FinTech company many times before them because while they are on their way to being a bank they are also a start-up so their challenge is double.


The Business Unit Banker – This is a (arguably unfortunate) denomination to include many, many wonderful people who are sadly “in charge of X” where “X” is a de-facto Money Moment which has a sad product corset for now, but they all have something magical in common – they want to understand and change the consumer’s financial behaviour.

Any of the above Bankers are the Current Account Banker but what of Investment, Pensions, Insurance and SME?

The Wealth Banker – is, hands down, the most clued in when it comes to studying behaviour of their consumer. Be it because they have the most exposure to real life FinTech successes (there is little one can learn from how TransferWise operates but there is plenty to take from LearnVest, Betterment or Nutmeg) or simply because their margins of profit afford them investment in caring, their rhetoric is light years ahead of the other types.


I help them with “Tomorrow’s Investor – how to engage Millenials”; “Life stages and investment behaviour drivers”; “Lifestyle and Investments”; etc classes and workshops and they are the Financial industry brightest CX star designing experiences and understanding motivations.


For the SME Banker there is little that can’t be done bless their hearts, as they are likely the most neglected of all “departments” with basic consumer needs unmet in flagrant ways.


I often sit down with them for “Account Opening as an experience for the new entrepreneur” workshops and “Designing digital strategy for small and medium enterprise” building sessions where they look at basic PFM for business, accounting and employee expenses integration in their all too bare online and mobile offerings.


The Savings Banker – is maybe my favourite.


The Savings Banker uses my expertise in “How to get consumers addicted to savings” workshops where we dissected which personality type saves for what reason, what the drivers are and how to appeal to them to drive savings behaviour.


Finally The Non-Banker Insurer – is the most en-vogue one in the new InsureTech frenzy and they have only just started understanding relationships only banks used to have are up for grabs now, so they often ask me to come talk to them about “Trends in InsureTech” and “New Engagement Models – how to become the primary financial portal for the consumer”



This is not an exhaustive list, there are other kinds of Superheroes-in-Waiting Bankers I’m sure, I just haven’t yet met them or figured out how I can empower them but the ones above are those I’ve built with, so far.

Now rest assured, this doesn’t mean I will never stomp feet, rant and be up in arms again. Neither does it mean I believe between these Bankers and I the future of traditional banking is assured and no big technology giant or solid brand can swoop in and clean house, not in the least. It simply means I think there are ways in which we can all still try to win this for the consumer and I for one am excited about rolling my sleeves in a much more positive way than simply pointing at our eternally naked banking emperor.

I am a Banker – therefore I lie



While I came up with the Emotional Banking concept a few years ago, it’s only been a year now that I’ve waved my banking-change crusader flag and inflicted my indignation of banks not caring about their customers’ feelings, full time. I’ve learned a lot in this past year.

I have learned in utter consternation that banks have no interest in being a serious brand like every other consumer business does. I’ve then learned why this is and dissected its utter perceived lack of imperative that comes from a lack of mobility that no other industry has the luxury to experience.

Next up I questioned how banks can be neigh but blind to the imminent changes in the industry – the peer-2-peer plays, the internet players, the experience layers (neo banks), the technology giants dabbling with financial services and the new challengers. How they justified being able to afford more of the lack of care to the way their clients really felt about their money.

“I lie to myself all the time. But I never believe me” – S.E. Hinton

It turns out their blinds are handed out as soon as they become decision makers in banking. If life were a science-fiction work by Philip K Dick there would be a higher evil mastermind that keeps bank’s boardrooms topped up with pre-Y generation males and then ensures they speak McKinsey talk in lieu of real English while loosely discussing hip FinTech words they once read in the Guardian for all of 2 minutes before returning to P&L and share prices.

This would help this evil mastermind ensure there’s no regard for the consumer, no insight into his or her needs and desires and surely no understanding of how to get, motivate and keep the right people who can put that new fangled technology to good use.

Sadly this is not a novel but our reality.

More worryingly, in the past few months I’ve witnessed the famed challenger banks, a wave of new and promising structures that Britain bet its farms on, start down that path as well. Business models that were courageous and disruptive iterated again and again to at most, tamer, pale versions of their initial selves, or worse, a completely different animal that amounts to more vivid colours on a version of the high streets current accounts. I’m sure if they cared to admit this is the case, they would blame it on the FCA license grilling but I believe it’s simply normal start-up pressure to demonstrate model which in their case means go to market half cooked an half stripped of dreams.

Maybe there is still time for the UK challenger banks to turn the boat around and do what’s right for the consumer but they need to stop crowd-funding till they break servers and charming conferences and journalists for vanity and put their heads down and give us insight and action.

Insight is all but absent in the industry. We never learn anything new. The same dusty statistical tidbits about amounts of tooth brushes versus mobile phones in the world and the length of marriage versus banking relationships are repeated over and over again. And it isn’t only the establishment that is guilty of it. Of the former (as undoubtedly they are even more today) 27 founders and CEOs of challenger banks the FCA has reviewed and that I’ve heard speaking in public or private contexts, do you know how many have had any revelation to share about consumers? If not “I’ve found the holy grail of savings” at least a “We saw huge anxiety when they tap in the overdraft so we change the colour of the app and the language to reassure”. You guessed it. Not one.

The incumbents blame the immutable inertia created by tens of years of patched, spaghetti-like backend systems, for their paralysis in real interest of what would truly make consumer’s lives better from the money point of view. If only they started all over, they say. The challengers don’t blame anything as they won’t admit it, but suffer from the same unwillingness because of natural constraints of being at the beginning and having to start proving their case. If only they had systems and mass, they think.

Meanwhile, the protagonist of the consumer centric mantra falls in between and gets what is, for all our FinTech sins, a flat design version of their online banking of 3-4 years ago topped off with an ever growing dread of customer support and mistrust in its uptime and an ever more futuristic in design cow-webbed branch.

It isn’t’ just the banks (big or small) either. We’re all guilty of it in the industry. We write articles, go to industry events and pat ourselves on the back for beginning to understand AI and Blockchain but we allow basic customer research to not happen anymore. We say it politely when we should allow ourselves to be alarmed and shake every banker we ever meet into action. We hear no revelations about consumer behavior about their money but we accept that what they really want is a new currency in identity and disruptive data and trust models. We have no serious interest in how to modify virtuous monetary behavior but we wave the “millennials want instant access to information” flag as if we came up with that nugget ourselves.

We lie. There’s no point in sugar coating it. When we collectively claim all we care about is the consumer and we will put them at the center of our every thought, but we banish design to a de-facto after-thought to prettify existent cumbersome products, we lie. When we say we’re building disruptive new models that will integrate money into larger digital contexts, but we don’t have the backend technology to even begin to understand the data, we lie. When we know as a consumer, as a human, that our needs are nowhere close to met in our interaction with our money holder, but we spend no time seriously studying those needs and feelings but say we do, we lie.

I fundamentally believe bankers old and new are not comfortable with this particular lie (research clearly shows they are ok with other kinds) and given the means would like to change it so let’s start with an honest look.

Where is experience design in your organisation? How many of the products and features you offer have been designed as compared to copied and modified?

How many people and how much time is devoted on good old fashioned customer research? Not the odd focus group to prove the choice of green on the left corner of the mobile app is correct but honest, intense research about their attitudes, emotions and views about money and the interaction with their provider.

How many innovation labs, funds, in- and ac-celerators have you poured (granted, non-significant) amounts of money into over the last 5 years? What can you point to that has trickled down to the consumer? How has it changed their financial lives?

Saying “it’s about the people” sets you aside from the old and dusty ones who won’t even admit that but is that rhetoric confined to water coolers and hip events or brought into the board room and made a priority? How many of you reward knowledge if you happen to accidentally have FinTech industry voices with strong opinions and a name working for you instead of treating them as having a shameful hobby? In your list of KPIs, OKRs or any other Rs does it say “Get, keep and nurture mega smart and passionate people who put the consumer first”?

Here’s the thing, we all agree the status quo won’t hold.

We all know you could become pipes (and that goes for challenger banks as well when it comes to invisible banking). We’re up against companies who get experience intimately, have brand, have people, have an obsession with understanding the consumer and don’t have to lie about it. We absolutely must shake the lip service, the convoluted meaningless language, the excuses about too much legacy or too little funding and the hope that these other guys “would never enter banking, why would they?” because at this rate, our lying amounts to such abuse of the consumer they may enter banking as sheer compassionate charity and not in the hopes of turning a profit.

P.S. My faithful readers – hi honey!- know, I end articles with a bang so the above phrase would have been the perfect point to leave hanging to emphasise the doom and gloom but that would make me guilty of the same demagoguery. This is not in the scare mongering series we all seem to write these days. This is a call to arms. I know so many of you reading this well and you’re amazingly passionate, smart human beings who struggle with the fact customer centricity is reduced to a lie despite how you still feel everything you do is with the consumer in mind. Changing it is daunting, but it’s doable. Let’s break this down and figure out how to listen and care and tell the truth about our culture and what it needs to fundamentally change and we will eventually get there. 

Dear Bankers – feelings make bank


Tapping into emotions and driving positive ones through addictively delightful interactions- pays. That’s why you need to be a brand. No seriously, I know I’ve been repeating this like a broken record over the past years but it most certainly does.

There are three areas where the connection between customer’s feelings and their shopping behaviour becomes most evident. Areas where the Rational Consumer is but Myth.


Recent research shows that the way we relate to technology and its digital manifestation has drastically changed over the past few years. We started our pre-digital relationship to technology by perceiving it as an objective enabler for various goals with practical benefits. Now-a-days technology translates into an instant appraisal of how it can “express and enhance who I am” – an emotional goal touching on motivation and needs.


Nowhere is the connection more surprising than in purchasing decisions when it comes to everyday goods. Dr. P.N. Murray and his team found that:

“…consumers’ beliefs about a brand’s personality are based primarily on their interpretation of its “story” – the narrative expressed in communication, packaging, and other marketing elements. The narrative communicates what the brand means to them … the emotional connection. It is this connection that makes consumers loyal to brands.”


We all know that luxury items are maybe the most emotional of purchases with no reason to buy a Tesla versus a Mercedes SLK beyond the fact that it intrinsically appeals to our aspirations and sense of self.

This new research also uncovered subconscious reasons behind each aspirational purchase decision

“unconscious perceptions about a brand’s authenticity and timelessness – what consumers describe as its “truth.” These perceptions evoke emotions – the sense of trust and security that is the essence of luxury for consumers.”

If you’re in banking and quickly scrolled down to see if Financial Services was listed only to let out a sigh of relief not to see it I would suggest it’s time you hold that breath and look up again because no matter how much we may not like to admit it, banking is part consumer goods, part luxury and it’s all underpinned by technology and digital products so all of this, the irrationality of consumers, their need for an emotional connection is highly relevant to us.

So Mr (or, sadly far more unlikely, Mrs) Banker let me ask you this: do you know how your CBBE (Consumer Based Brand Equity) pyramid compares to that of Levi’s, Amazon’s or Google’s? Does your bank have one? Shall we grab someone from the Customer Behaviour team and ask, maybe a Neuromarketing expert? Does your bank know what it is?

I’d wager the answer is “no, no, who?!? and no” because we’ve already established banks do not lift one finger to become a brand. In their defence there was no need – if they did not build delightful experiences and expressed their story and “truth” then what? What would the consumer do? Go to the next non-delightful-devoid-of-truth bank? The reality of it is that while there’s ample safety in numbers and banks can continue to abuse its consumers by withholding delight some of them have where to go now. And the places they go to will fundamentally have built an identity and the type of strong brand that will make people join them and fall in love with them hence buy from them

While we struggle to understand why we should even put the consumer truly at the centre of what we build in retail, private banking and wealth made some –timid- steps in researching emotions and some studies such as this and this have been surfacing. That’s because they care, they want to make money.

That 1 point change in mortgage rates you debated for 3 months won’t move the needle. The 0.02 higher savings offer or the 100 quid signing bonus won’t make anyone a loyal, invested customer because your premise doesn’t work. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about the feelings. That’s what pays.

No matter how much denial they invest in it and how many times they roll their eyes at the urgency to understand and act on Emotional Banking, retail banking will have to soon stop avoiding the issue, rip off stifling culture to inject experience design into the DNA as a sine qua non technology enabler, and become a loved brand, as opposed to just paying customer centricity lip service sometime very soon.



Banks in the UK may be wasting (another) £400M a year

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Banks need to Switch off Switching and Switch into the Consumer Instead

To those of you who read me before it will sound strange that after I spent so long complaining about the fact that people do not switch banks and remain prisoners of an abusive relationship, I would do anything other but rejoice to see this week’s news that current account switching is up by 13% bringing us up to a total of 2.8M customers in 3 years split chiefly between 7 banks.

The reason my eyes rolled when I read it, is that it’s not the mobility based on merit we were hoping for, but in effect, the consumer’s turn to scam the bank.

Take “Switching Stephen” in this article  – he openly admits his goal is to make as much money as possible by playing the system and switching as many times as possible as a pure money saving scheme. As such which of these banks will end up being the one he stays with once he’s exhausted his options? Who “owns” Steven? Who should count him in the success metrics of their acquisition campaign?

How engaged is our hero? How much does he believe that any of these banks are a brand he believes in who will serve his financial needs and accompany him as a trusted advisor through life rather than a mere pawn in his penny chasing game?

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If I were the 7 banks in the article I’d -rightfully- feel used. If I were on the board of directors of any of them I’d wonder what got into me to approve that as a strategy (or indeed why I never even knew about it). If I were serious about changing things I’d stop trying to find shortcuts and find better things to do with the 280M this exercise in futility cost.

The sad bit is that the consumer part of any of the bankers reading this, will punch the air and grin at Steven’s ingenuity -and maybe even consider making a move themselves- because we all know “banks deserve it, they’ve been shoving their hands in our pockets for long enough, time to do the same” but also because they know the service they provide is no different from the other guys and the degree to which it can delight the consumer is equally non-existent so they can’t help but sympathise.

But sympathy won’t get us anywhere. Neither will £400M a year to the tune of £100 a pop. In the infographic below I outline some of the things that money would have bought any of these banks. 40 Incubators. 4M custom development hours. 5 x Bank Simple or mBank. Half a new backend (don’t scoff, a Savings Goal and two years later they’d avoid salaries missing and ATMs crushing). 4 new BODs? Let’s stop wasting money by throwing bonuses at it and instead, create delightfully addictive or at least reasonably sticky experiences for poor Switchin’ Stephen, it’s high time.



Money 2020 Europe – this is how we rolled



Let me tell you what this won’t be. A play-by-play of the conference. It won’t be that for several reasons including the fact that I missed a few general sessions due to meetings and the occasional hospital stay so I can’t comment on the full content. What I can comment on, is my experience of it.

First off, while I publicly flogged them for the iffy WiFi the rest of the organisation was flawless in terms of location and endless delightful perks such as DJs, laser beams, ice-cream and pancakes, cute huts for meeting places, mini Lego figurines for each speaker, smoothie bars, cool exhibitions and even the occasional bejeweled wheel chair for the temporarily impaired. As many people remarked it had a trendy, hipsterish, festival feel to it. Which made it an experience.

Which sadly, was in stark contrast with the content of most of the sessions I attended.

Stiff. Corseted. Jargoned to the gills. Wooden language galore. Many speakers other than the usual suspects who tried to liven it up, sounded like media trained drones repeating soul-killing messages about collaboration, technology and customer centricity devoid of critical thought or meaning. Why is this?

I find this fascinating and genuinely think this is a FinTech specific illness. The way in which we slip in and out of meaning and the way many people are genuinely passionate and bit by the bug one moment, and deadpan and businessy the other. Why can’t we say precisely what we mean in plain English?

Is it because the excitement of the Technology world only recently met the Finance world where being stiff has traditionally been everything? Many of the people in FinTech are new to both sides of the story, the new wave are new to the working force altogether yet they seem to adopt this same non-meaningful half unicorn, half sloth language.

Maybe it’s a sign of how everyone is more or less out of their depth and all the experts are still in the making. Even the most knowledgeable of the FinTech world have only had a few years to work this out as they go along and while in the Tech world one can easily be proud of the outstanding speed of change and focus on innovating for the sake of it, when we apply that to financial services it has to have application and it has to be worked out fast enough to allow the ridiculously long cycles of buying and implementing in banking so it is all scarily fluid. Having to translate all this Tech excitement into Banking value may be what makes them sound like a Silicon Valley hipster one minute and like a retiring McKinsey consultant the other.

Or maybe, more likely and hopefully, it’s all about the fact that before technology decided to stuck its hedonism inducing nose into finance, it was all about numbers and being stiff and corseted was necessary to perform the right math whereas now, banking has had to notice the consumer and attempt to start matching these moments of delight they get elsewhere thanks to digitisation.

UX is only “a thing” that bankers have to take seriously because our mobile phones is where we bank rather than where they’ve been expecting us for the last hundreds of years and the table has turned – it’s no longer the consumer shyly coming to the branch hat turned in jittery hands asking for the banker to make some incomprehensible number magic and sell them a product, it’s now a case of the banker holding out their top hat asking for the technologists’ best tips on how to get to a consumer through this new fangled device. Digital technology brought CX to banking and with it a new language and if it has to be a weird combination between real talk and consultancy speak for now while we build new paradigms for the consumer, so be it.

To me, wheeling my chair through its delightful networking areas and entering panels that felt like annual reviews for shareholders, Money2020 was a good metaphor for today’s banking proposition. Beautifully packaged, hip and trendy on the outside and tangled, stiff, immutably old school and rather useless on the inside.

Top UK Banks – As Seen on TV


TV Adverts are not Branding, dear Banks – but if they were…

seen When I write I sit down and pour it out. Many of you remarked that it’s sometimes not even proofread and I’ve taken to forcing myself to re-read once before I publish so I avoid that level of disrespect, but nonetheless it’s not my style to work on a piece for days, it either “flows” or it’s not worth writing. Not this once. This one needed a lot of research. Some of it was pleasant but most of it was painful.

I’d recommend you save this article for some evening when you can pour a cuppa, put your feet up and open each link in a new tab because we all know what happens once you see one YouTube video…

It started from having caught my first Nationwide commercial in a cinema this weekend and having found it moving.

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The only other one I could cite off the top of my head that I liked was HSBC’s “Museum of Procrastination” -which I loved so much I wished they’d hire that ad agency to run the whole bank- while all I could remember of Lloyds was that it had black horses. Having lived in the UK for over two years now and making a living from examining banks this was a situation I needed to correct.

I watched a good 80-100 commercials from the major UK banks (and one day when I retire I may do the same for all the major international retail banks) and at first intended to be utterly exhaustive (and was not, the likes of Coop and other smaller banks and building societies were left out) and diligently organized on scoring them based on audience, targeting ability, likability, clarity, etc. As I was going, I realized my scoring system is far from foolproof and I am not conducting a scientific study here so that good intention was replaced by “How it made me feel” as sole determining factor for the following top so feel free to sharpen those “but we won an award with that one” pitchforks.

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8th (and last) Place: LLOYDS

Whose idea were the creepy horses series, guys? this is as failed in its artsy pretentious tone as Barclays asking Samuel Jackson to talk about chickens. Not that it’s your only painful one – the Take a Second campaign is cringe-worthy – no one will give me back my 3 minutes of having to see this

While the low production value such as the Filling Station TV advert and the Clubs ones kind of work and functionally do what we expect them to – tell us we can get features, this brand new one is absolutely taking the cake as the worst I’ve seen: not only is the angel of death horse back again but the Mad World Donnie Darko sound track makes it extra creepy! Please stop!

7th Place: BARCLAYS

If you can afford Hollywood why not use it? I hadn’t seen the Big one with Sir Anthony Hopkins or the Samuel Jackson series but neither made me feel anything at all.

Here is one that made me feel something. The LifeSkills campaign. A mixture of emotions – none positive. Mainly awe at how far removed I must be from the millenials that are the target market that I can not comprehend how they would find it anything but patronizing and condescending. – not to mention it is just objectionably badly made.

I had to dig to the end of the internet to find this very old Truman Show inspired Barclays commercial that was not bafflingly bad and dig out the only funny one from Pingit but neither rocked my world.

6th Place: RBS and NATWEST

I found the following – the NatWest 1991 advert, that one time when RBS was funny on the old Less Talk campaign and multiple NatWest haters who bothered to make songs about their dislike

But this Bills Reward account advert is not bad at all as it’s all too relatable, don’t we all have that one light switcher-off-er in the house?

And this one is absolutely on point on what it feels like to pay with ApplePay (when it works) even if that’s universal to all banks who offer it and nothing to do with NatWest in particular as compared to this Lloyds one for ApplePay that’s perfectly pointless

All in all I was stunned to see that for all the care Lloyds and HSBC take to try and make their portfolio discernable individually with various degrees of success, RBS and NatWest do none of that and are one big lump messaging wise.

5th Place: TSB

This gets me dizzy but it’s worth seeing as a –true- story of community banking ethos. The current cartoons are underwhelming but clear and some may like them although the new pointy characters are not as endearing as their Disney like predecessors of a few years ago. All in all middle of the road and non-objectionable but with somewhat of a brand identity hence why they deserve an entry of their own.

4th Place: Halifax

If you dig as far back as 2008 you find their corny but cute Something New or Who let the dog out series but then they had their Howard Brown light bulb moment and it all changed for Halifax – a coup to make a regular employee a star – what better way to get people to feel intimately engaged in the story?

These days their X-tra kind of person series are sweet and well executed and their Jargon Buster series is the only serious financial literacy attempt I’ve seen.

 3rd Place: Nationwide

I admitted already I liked the BestDad commercial, a lot. By the way watch this behind the scenes which is a strike of genius on the part of the agency as it’s sweeter than the commercial in itself

And then there are the Annoying Bank Manager series and the iconic Ladies Little Britain one

The only negative is that when I found this commercial for Impulse Saving it spoke to me so much I downloaded their app! But evidently got nowhere with it as the Impulse Save thing is only available to customers and I have to go to a branch to become one and bring 100 papers yadda yadda– such a missed acquisition opportunity, there was no reason not to let me set a saving goal before I signed in!

2nd Place: HSBC, First Direct (and Atom!)

I went looking for this – and I still think it is a strike of genius that resonates with anyone but before I could enter another search term the next video YouTube served me was “Panorama – HSBC the Bank of Tax Cheats” which has 20k views as compared to the 4k the actual commercial has which seems a bit unfair.

Nonetheless I dare you to watch these two oldies on the importance of local knowledge and not laugh – the infamous Eels one and the Flowers one

There is a concerted effort at the heart of what HSBC does to both tell stories and position themselves as local and yet connected. This sadly still doesn’t make them a brand, simply a strong name with a good marketing story or this quality of effort and thought would have trickled down to their customers who meanwhile endure painful digital experiences. Their ad agencies and Wealth and Retail Marketing department should stage a coup and take over the whole thing and force their digital into this century of technology– heaven knows they need it.

HSBC won awards for their genius Airport series and if one has to choose a bank that did amazing on marketing it would be HSBC in particular with their FirstDirect efforts. Whether you love or hate the Black and white Platypus series you can’t deny Mark Mullen is a marketing genius and if you’re not convinced go to Atom’s website today and click on “Uncomplicated”. Go on, do it, I’ll wait. Exactly! THAT is why this category includes all three of these names.

First Place: Santander

Adverts can be of two kinds really – either funny or heart string pullers and while most other English high street banks seem to dabble in both sequentially, Santander manages to do both at the same time and that makes their overall message powerful. Who can deny that their keep on getting a little bit more out of life” is sweet and more importantly how genius of a line is this one? “Dads, keep on dadding”

Then there is their continual effort and an experimentation with viral tries – if you haven’t seen the campaign look it up as the #SecretSantander stuff is SO endearing I’m proud to be their client this one from 2014 and then last year’s

They say it’s “Simple, personal, fair” – heart stringy but then they also add a bite with “it’s what a bank should be” and that spirit can be felt across the brand.

And if that was not enough, there is one major reason why Santander wins this one for me and if you watch none of the other ones watch this one – it will make it all worth it, believe me –

To be fair, none of all these made me feel like my favourite bank commercial or rather, bank-brand commercial – this one from CheBanca! but then again someone suggested the other day that “it is preposterous to presume such corny debauchery could be presented on English screens” and that can well be the case.

Lastly and most importantly again: marketing is not branding dear banks, it’s only a part of the overall impression you leave us with.

The length of the phone queue and the music played meanwhile is branding, the carpets in the branch are branding, the words you choose when answering a customer on Twitter is branding, the way the mobile app feels helpful or annoying is branding, what your CEO looks like is branding (maybe Lloyds should have fared better now that I say that…). All of it. Everything you do translates into an experience and how that experience makes us feel is what your brand is like to us. I know you’re not confused about this dear banks, as it’s a fairly simple concept so don’t be using it as an excuse to be lazy and leave this to your Marketing department which clearly already has enough trouble trying to make non-horrible adverts.