Innovation and the Banking Hall Pass

I saw an “Innovation for you” – tagline in a Phillips ad the other day and it made me think. Have some companies lost touch with real consumer points of interest and excitement that they blurred the line between industry talk and consumer talk? If so maybe this is one of our many ailments in banking.

It’s innovation for you, dear company, it’s “new” or “better” for the consumer. Yes innovation is good, innovation is grand but that’s an internal conversation, you do so for yourself, so that you remain relevant to your consumer, it isn’t a gift for the customer.

What matters to the consumer is that you give them “good”, “fun” and “useful” products, services and features (well in banking those would translate to “acceptable”, “not mind-numbingly boring” and “usable”) not whether they are innovative.


Maybe this is why some banks are content building and maintaining an Innovation Lab instead of delivering anything out of it to the end customer because they believe “innovation is for them”.

To consumers innovation translates to progress and progress is expected. No one expects technology to do anything other than deliver better, faster and bigger experience returns ever so often. From electronics to cars to apps, we’re a generation of consumers with a high threshold for amazement and incredibly lofty expectations of progress and improvement in everything in interact with and purchase in shorter and shorter time spans. We didn’t even know that a tablet would exist a few years ago, but we now instinctively expect the next version to be lighter, smarter, brighter and generally better in every way and we expect the next version to reach us within months of the first one. Or else.

We’re fickle and impatient as consumers, now. Innovation is not for us, it’s for you company selling us something to stay in the game and satisfy our impatience and penchant for awe.

Granted, as I said many times, in banking the sense of urgency and necessity is dramatically lower as consumers keep giving digital and physical services from banks a hall pass they give no other type of retailer.

When I ordered a cold drink at Starbucks and they handed me a hot one – do you know what happened? They apologised profusely for the mix up that cost me 5 minutes’ delay and handed me a card explaining they would do anything for my love including giving me a free beverage next time I’m back. I was stunned and pleasantly surprised and resolved to remain loyal. (The first time only, the next time that it happened, I expected it.)

When I tried to close my business account with HSBC and jumped through 1000 loops that cost me hours and they assured me it was done only to send me a statement the next month as if none of that had transpired – do you know what happened? A lady on the phone told me in monotone “computer says NO” tones that there was likely a mix up and I would have to come in and do it all over again. I was raging and angry but realised I have to still do it. (The first time only, the next time that it happens, I’ll expect it. In fact I will expect it not to work the second time around.)

When Starbucks will innovate they’ll employ predictive analytics to work out it’s my diet cheat day and send out a barista to wait for me as I exit the tube on the way to work to offer me a cheeky caramel latte. When HSBC innovates they’ll stop losing paperwork and employ people who don’t sound soul-dead.

Neither of these “innovations” will be “for me” though.

In banking, this new found preoccupation with FinTech may force some banks (new or old) to realise Innovation needs to be part of their DNA ladder and when they do, they’ll offer us consumers things so awesome, we may soon run out of hall passes for their competitors.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

One thought on “Innovation and the Banking Hall Pass”