EX for Banks’ Sake!

Anyone who’s read from me or spoken to me before, knows I am obstinately passionate about the concept of “Emotional Banking”/”Emotions and Banking” – just “Money and Feelings”.

EX stands for Emotional Experience (thank you David Milligan from Matchi.biz for the idea of the name). It is the only type of User Experience we should care about. Money is one of the core concepts in any customer’s emotional well being and it naturally elicits very strong emotions. Therefore, it stands to reason that banks, the institutions who are currently the enablers of people’s relationship with money, would spend inordinate amounts of time and effort deciphering how their consumers truly feel about it.

Unfortunately this is not the case.

I believe it is time we roll up our sleeves and change that if we are to ever arrive at “Invisible Banking” that is finally integrated into the consumer’s life in an emotionally connected way. We have so much we need to do that we’re behind on. We need to talk about the emotions behind savings, investments and day-to-day money. We need to learn about Emotional ML and how different segments react. We have to think about what is anxiety ridden, what is giving us joy, what are we looking forward to, how do we push consumers into good habits and get them out of bad ones, how do we make them richer and more connected to us? Why do they irrationally trust us, what’s stopping them from leaving us? How can we delight them, how can we answer all their needs and most importantly, how can we vanish out of their exasperated eye and become invisible empowerers of MoneyMoments(TM)?

When I started in banking, I had expected to encounter strong teams of behavioural psychologists in every serious bank stopping the IT people from doing anything at all before they ensured it was in line with what they had determined the consumer genuinely needs.  They wouldn’t be there to worry if Millenials spend 20 or 22 minutes on average per every half an hour using a mobile device but to decipher how we all really feel about our money. It seemed only natural. And yet, in the past few years in which I’ve sat down with most of the banks of everywhere I never met any.

Ironically perchance, I met instead companies wondering about how the consumer feels when building product and through some of them, this has trickled down to banks if they are their suppliers. They do this by employing a lot of common sense and using empathic design whether they call it that or not. Same methods would work stupendously well if bankers employed them for the same goal of truly understanding their customers but they do not.

One thing is clear to me: bankers simply must not feel entitled to think about themselves as a consumer and I’d like to change that. I need them analysing how they feel themselves and to translate that to a desire of digging into others’ relationship with their money as well. It’s why I’ve put together my workshop “EX – the next step after UX” that I offer to banks – two days of nothing but thinking feelings or better yet, feeling feelings.

ppt-diagram-chart-bAs I said in the article on TheFinancialBrand.com, I feel it’s high time we dissect what we mean with the overused term of “needs”. It’s a case of going back to the beginning where Maslow identified real needs and then mapping out which of them involve money, in what fashion and what are the emotions associated with each when they are met or not.

When I’ve put together the first versions of my workshop, I was fortunate enough to get a lot of ideas, amazing dialogue and invaluable feedback from the industry but two questions came through that puzzled me at first and then borderline outraged me: “Who is this for? Which side of the bank? Which job titles should attend?” and “What is the business benefit of thinking of EX? Where’s the ROI?

“Maybe you’re right and this is needed but since we don’t have these teams of behaviourists whose job is it to do this mapping and analyse emotions? Who should be the ones to think of how to build Emotionally Significant Moments in the customer’s life and how to seamlessly fit into existent ones?” Everyone.


First of all – which side of the bank? Presumably every one of them that ever has contact with other humans. Retail may have more homework to do but SME has plenty of Money Moments and Wealth Management does too. With the exception of maybe Institutional banking no one is exempt from having to think of feelings.

Which departments should sit down for two days and learn Psychology 101, attempt to recognise and justify emotions, learn about Irrational Bank Loyalty, understand empathy design, dissect what is context and relevancy and what are valuable Facts of Life for each segment? Everyone. Yes those in charge of UX and product are the one that should become, in the words of Louise Long from NAB, “Value Managers” instead of “Product Managers” and they should care intensely but the Strategy people should do nothing unless they think under these terms, the Innovation people should be able to answer any need for new with the way it would make consumers keep feeling or stop feeling and everyone else whether hired by the bank to be a Thinker or a Doer should first and foremost ask themselves “how does my customer feel?“.

Which brings me to the second question. The “What’s in it for them?” age old benefits question. I first instinctively rebelled against the idea that every thought we have in banking needs to be quantifiable and directly traceable to a number increasing or decreasing – be it attrition rates or bonuses, and wondered what happened with our neo-hippie call to arms to “Stop asking for the ROI of digital” combined with an instinctive “Do we need a dollar sign on customer’s delight?!?” but soon had to conceal that bankers have been spoiled with real or imaginary case studies and investment models and they expect it now so I set out to research.  

Leafing through studies on the ROI of CX, Loyalty, Life Time Value of the Relationship and Digital is a sobering exercise and of course, of them the easiest answer containing spectacular numbers is in the evident correlation between the Net Promoter Score and EX. Needless to say the banks that don’t use NPS and the ones who’ve only vaguely thought of it, need to change their entire perspective and think of consumers’ actual feelings more than anyone else.

The good news is that thinking of how people feel is not a pointless, fluffy, hippie exercise just because it’s their God/Buddha/Nihilism given rights of having their money-feelings be amplified or diminished by their service provider but it will translate into bigger bottom lines for those who do it right. The easiest argument in favour of that is how the most beloved brand in the world that accomplished the most in delighting their customers by thinking of the way they experience emotions is now worth double what any other brand is.


For all the words we’ve said in banking about change and revolutions and disruption we all instinctively know our children will experience “banking” in a very different way. To them providers and pipes won’t matter. What products we sell won’t matter. Whether the branch has a drone waiting with their favourite coffee at the door won’t matter. How successful we are in sliding in and our of their lives at the right time with a highlighter for their positive emotions and an eraser for their negative ones is the only thing that will matter and empowering their Money Moments in that deeply emotionally connected way is not something we’ll be able to do by moving a tab or changing the background colours.

In product design it’s said you have to have “religion” to succeed – where “religion” is complete philosophical lockstep in believing in what the essence and the mission of what you bring to the world is. To me it’s glaringly obvious EX should have already been our religion in banking and we can still make it so in a fashion that will make bankers and consumers alike much richer and happier if we start today.

Et tu, Apple?!?

I’m in love with the fruit, I’ll admit it. So much so that I’ve counted the sleeps till I received my Apple Watch. Yes, one of “those people”. I may have even been less eager to schedule meetings Friday afternoon so that I am home when the delivery was announced. I know, sad.

Yes, partly it was because I wanted my new shinny gadget, but partly because to me, Apple Watch is the first notifications device and notifications are the heart of context and context (when relevant) is to my mind, the sum total of our digital experience going forward. My farm is bet on how our kids will conduct 90% of their digital experience on whatever device it will be through what we would today call a Notifications Center or Feed and it’s there that we have to meaningfully fit Money Moments TM and other Emotional Facts of Life to really make Banking Invisible.

Having spent an avid 24 hours with the Notifications Device let me just come out and say it outright – it’s £&*^@. And yes, I need to quantify that with “for now”.

So far, the most delightful bit of the experience and the most impressed with quality I have been, was when I opened the box. This must be why “unboxing” is a thing. It was a work of design and functionality genius but that can’t be said about the actual Watch. It’s beautiful alright. And the ever changing butterflies do amuse my 4 year old. It also tells time and acts like a smarter FitBit. What it doesn’t do is anything else of the things I normally want to do on my phone.

FullSizeRender (2)Ah but it isn’t meant to help me “do” things I hear you object, but help me “know” things. Fair point, so I won’t dissect what seems like dry humour on Apple’s part when the Watch will allow me to set a reminder I’ll dictate to my wrist but will close with “Ok, I’ll remind you” leaving me silently scream in frustration “WHEN will you?!?” or even “WHERE will you?!?”.

Neither will I spend time philosophising about how ironic its main use to date has been – I spent more time with my husband on the phone while driving than ever in the last month simply because it was so much more han….no, wristy (sic). Lastly, I won’t even complain how it feels like the Andriod Store cca 2002 – empty and useless in terms of apps. Here’s my real qualm with it – it hasn’t thought notifications through.

Not all notifications are created equal. Most just announce you something happened but some need to be actionable. Now “actionable notifications” has a bit of contradiction in terms ring to it so maybe it’s worth renaming them to “Facts” or “Happenings” but whatever term we use, sometimes we need to do something about them and the provided “Dismiss” button is not it. I’m not talking about fancy “Ok transfer to that savings account that just raised its APR” sophisticated functionality, we are likely 10 years away from that but how about a “Reply on phone/Macbook” button to at least open the email I am reading on another device? Is that too much to ask?

I got almost giddy when I notice an action other than “Dismiss” being offered when I was notified of a new Twitter follower – “Follow”. Great, I could click on something that would do something other but in the absence of any browser to display information to see who it is I am following I could make no use of it!

images (1)Another distinction I think we need and we need it soon is figuring out if the notification is part of an interaction such as a conversation. If it is and yet the Watch serves it to me empty, on its own, with zero context to what was said before by myself or others makes it even worse than simply serving Mel or Tom a “You’ve got mail” message nearly 20 years ago. “You have one Twitter reply in the DM FTM thread” and a button “Launch full conversation on the Phone” beats an out of context @brettking: “OMG this!!!” that would only fill me with curiosity (and/or dread).

I’m feeling a little let down, yes. Is it deeply upsetting and consumerly-off-putting? No. My irrational brand loyalty to Apple extends to where I’ll fondly remember the materials and the box opening while waiting for the new apps but I absolutely need us all to get serious about Notifications. Are they actionable or not, do they need some context or not, do they augment our lives at all or not. If we don’t, we’ll never reach the Context nirvana my farm rides on and the EX will shift from delighted and in love to frustrated and heavily annoyed.

Get me addicted to Saving!

“Saving is consumerism needlessly postponed” – Rory Sutherland, Ogily

My name is Duena Blomstrom and I’m addicted to instant gratification.

My four and a half year old often says “waiting for patience is boring” and I can’t disagree. I’ve been “waiting for patience” for 36 years and like Godot, it failed to arrive so as a result, I want everything right then and there. Seeing how goals such as attaining higher levels of enlightenment (sic) or increasing my fitness level are not ones I can reasonably expect to happen over night, they generate even more frustration that goes into my need of instant gratification. But then again there’s shopping and that rarely makes me wait.

I remember hearing the terms “addiction to shopping” for the first time in college and thinking – that’s a silly term, one can’t be addicted to the action of acquiring anything at all, I understand being addicted to fashion or hobby equipment but not just general “stuff”. I argued with one of my professors that it’s absurd and he calmly pointed me to study after study showing how people are simply experiencing an overwhelming urge or owning something new and whether this is of value such as an antique or the 18th lavender candle from Ikea, the action of acquiring is satisfying that need.

If I am critically honest I am now one of the people in those studies. Most of us have material goals of what they want to acquire next. Sometimes they are worthwhile saving goals such as a new family car or the dream vacation home, but sometimes they are smaller, immediate things that will make our lives a little bit better or somewhat more temporarily enjoyable. Those items find themselves on virtual wish lists and un-checked-out digital shopping carts, they aren’t substantial enough to call them saving goals.

What I am intensely curious about is the following question: “Is there a way that we can redirect the strong energy behind the buying impulse and the craving of the respective material belonging into savings?” In other words – is there a way to change my addiction to shopping into an addiction to savings? Of course, as we all know, changing financial behaviour is a mythically hard thing to do, but isn’t this so chiefly because we have collectively tried very little to actually accomplish it? Where is the real gamification? Where are the incentives? Where is the “Purple Cow” of savings?

So far there is ample research to show that forced savings works. Chile, Singapore, the US Army. All examples of how if you want people to save you have to make them.

Let’s take Digit. Everyone in FinTech had a forehead slapping moment when they came out. Technology to look at how and where we spend and whisk away money when we’re not paying attention or needing them to enhance our savings. Unleashing the power of “Free to Spend” for the good. Brilliance. And it is, undoubtedly. This will be basic bank functionality to our kids, I’d bet the farm, but it is also the opposite of what I am curious about which is whether there are ways in which we can make it truly enjoyable for people to save.

SmartyPig is of course the most famous example of what’s there is in voluntary savings. I’ve been looking at their trajectory from the get-go and fully expected their Savings API to do much better and become the standard by now but banking is not a meritocracy. Unfortunately I couldn’t try them out for this article as they only allow new members if they are US citizens now that the accounts are backed by BBVA Compass. The premise is simple. Define saving goals and then see them grow while allowing your social network to contribute to them if they liked. At one point it was announced they had launched One Click – a Chrome browser extension to help people save. It embodies two of the concepts key to incentivising Savings – “Impulse Saving” (the ability to save then and there whenever the fancy takes you) and “In Context Goal Creation” (the ability to see something online and create a goal for it).

I have set about on a quest to understand how far the industry has gone to try this and more. Now, I know what banks have done about this – nearly nothing. 90% of banks don’t offer an ability to define saving goals in one’s digital bank (this is going to rapidly change but likely not till the middle of next year). The ones that did anything (including darlings of FinTech such as Simple)  do it in a dry, matter of fact, non-engaging way “tell me what you save for and I will do you,  the consumer the favour or writing this word and this amount in my digital space then I will show you a visual representation of how much you have saved on a regular basis”. An even smaller subset actually create virtual accounts and superimpose it over real saving accounts and connect direct debits (regular payments) to them to ensure this is happening. There are only a handful of banks that have even dabbled into concepts such as Impulse Savings and Gamification.

Of the tiny percentage that got this right we should quote Standard Bank and Westpac which is a great example and the trailblazer of the concept of Impulse Saving (and they claim they were inspired by Rory Sutherland’s absolute sheer genius TED talk, that alone is worth bank brownie points) and then there’s my favourite – Nationwide’s Impulse Saver (see video here) – a pre-login piece of functionality so good I nearly switched current accounts to get. “Nearly” because it wasn’t quite compelling enough.

(This is a tangential potentially rhetorical point but question to the FinTechMafia pundits would be why is it that Westpack’s red button was launched more than 4 years ago and banks failed to copy such basic functionality?)

So I turned to my App Store. There are apps for counting sheep, surely there are apps to put together all these concepts and go beyond.

I have played with TrackMyGoals and Urge, attempted Porkfolio and foolishly forked the money for CashTrack. Porkfolio needed me to have purchased their special piggy device before I could even play with it – cute but ever so useless. CashTrack is beautifully designed but it essentially just adds a background picture to my goal and has no integration to actual money and TrackMyGoals is a glorified calculator as well. Urge I found very interesting as it has a great name and a good concept – make the consumer much more mindful of the financial tradeoffs they are faced with in their every day life with every purchase/non-purchase decision (reminded me a little of Meniga’s ToBuyOrNotToBuy but not as advanced) but the basic interface is off putting and the concept seems to be missing something.

IMG_0427 IMG_0420 IMG_0436 IMG_0429

While not claiming to have exhausted research on this (whoever has better examples please let me know in the comments and I’m happy to edit) I’m left disappointed. I need something intensely emotional to change behaviour and start saving.

Flash me random pictures of my child every time I’m about to hit “buy now” on Ebay, browser! Nudge me with a notification to hit my impulse save red button every time that my location tells you I’m passing a Ted Baker shop in London, bank! Define competitions with my social network on who saved more on a given month or who’s closer to their seasonal goals! Give me incremental raises in APR the better I do one month!

I want something to get me addicted to saving and I want it NOW!