“Betrayed by Barclays”

Catchy title, isn’t it? Not my idea of sensationalism this time – it’s what the press called this article last week about the mayor of a village whose local bank branch is closing despite a promise that they will stay.


The article is so hungry for a spectacular sob story it’s full of idiosyncrasies and contradictions. The mayor says she has changed banks 3 times in 18 years already (likely making her the most prolific switcher in the UK!) chasing the elusive brick-and-mortar banks and with Barclays being the last remaining one in town, the sense of doom and gloom should be overwhelming, yet despite that, she says she will use Barclays online banking from hereon.

She goes on to say a lot of “the older people” will not feel safe doing so as well “even if they have internet access”.

Now, if we ignore the rest of the article, that proceeds to meander in and out of intelligent discourse by naming the local Postal Office as the only saving grace as it will continue dealing with cash and cheques and has a thriving ATM but goes on to say local businesses that still deal in cash are likely set to perish as they will have to travel to deposit their earnings to other bank branches as if the authors never heard of deposit machines, we are still left with this important piece of the puzzle to ponder:

“Barclays says the Llanidloes branch is closing because of falling use. It says only 104 regular customers use it exclusively for their banking.”


How many employees in that branch? 4-5? Let’s assume it’s much less than that. Let’s assume it’s 2. They each serve 52 people. Wow. That’s quite the luxury. Don’t get me wrong, Barclays has posted quite the handsome numbers over the last few years but they are sure squandering it by blurring the line between Retail and Private Banking with what looks like involved, personal service. Perchance they imagined a new service model and are charging these online banking mistrusting ageing population a hefty fee for their customs so they can afford to keep serving them.

Only they can’t. Afford it, that is. They can’t afford serving the 104 Llanidloesilites any more than they can afford serving a vast majority of their retail banking customers really but that’s a story for another stormy night. Do you know who can afford that ratio of employee per customer? These guys. Even they couldn’t sustain offering much for cheap to the Dick and Joe with under £250,000 and had to hike their annual fees for a mere current account to £900 a few months ago.

The harsh reality is that the business models that retail banking engages in today have been skimmed of margins to where they only make sense in digital circumstances and while some brick and mortar will always remain, either as cost of business and brand museums or as community smart hubs such as the stat-of-the-art one BOI has in Dublin’s Grand Canal unless banking pulls up its socks and grasps at the opportunity to become the information and financial hub of a customer’s life by applying business models transcending traditional products and imagining new ones centred around people’s true money needs, we will all have to accept a local branch is not an immutable human right but a luxury.

Llanidloes is surely a  very nice place with 104 nice branch goers but sadly, they will have to add “local bank branch” to the long list of things they can’t have such as a Primark shop or an Opera house.

Why Facebook and Google should listen to Ron Shevlin

We were discussing Emotional Banking ™ last week on the FinTechMafia when this throwback nugget came up.

It’s an article from our very own Ron Shevlin about Financial Services Firms being “emotionally tone deaf”. You could have knocked me over with a feather! I’m one of Ron’s biggest fans and I had thought I read most of what he wrote over the years, but here I am not having read something that goes straight to the core of what I advocate.

I’m not going to go into the article in itself as you should read it, and I may not agree with the exact definition of the emotions a bank should investigate but that’s irrelevant, what counts is that Ron was saying this in 2008! TWO. THOUSAND.AND. EIGHT. A well respected analyst. Speaking to banks from a worldwide, well respected digital platform such as TheFinancialBrand. Even making it a point to outline that paying attention to the blind spot will see numbers suffer. In true Ron Shevlin tradition, solid banker-carrot-and-stick – research translated into numbers meant to either inspire or terrify.

Surely that should have even moved the needle before I got there and encountered the dessert land of utter lack of research and true intent to study consumers’ feelings about their money that I did in 2010. And if not that, surely that needle is moved now, nearly 10 years later.

For the record, this is not about attribution – Ron Shevlin and Chris Skinner and all the other handful of thinkers who arrived in the industry and started writing and turning things into their heads long before I did, had already started to conclude banks were doing their consumers an injustice by not examining their emotions while shortchanging themselves in the process. We’ve all invented the same wheel. We just said it differently, at different moments of time and proposed different solutions.

One could argue the FinTech titans only pulled alarm signals and wrote things about it before returning to all the other facets of the industry they focus on but didn’t provide a path to make it worthwhile. But others who took this seriously, did.

There are Human Centered design and CX firms out there –few and far between as they’d rather focus on industries who care such as retail- who have been fighting to explain the core of designing for experience and feeling; there are even valiant bankers taking it to heart such as the extraordinary Louise Long at NAB and modesty aside, my own work to get banks to recognize the value of being a brand and then show them concrete ways to change the culture to accomplish that, as I’ve done over the past few years with the Emotional Banking ™ methods has made a dent. And it’s all going to get better, too. The discourse is turning towards “people not tech” across the board which is amazingly positive. Finally.

Still here we are. Nearly 10 years later, at best collectively mildly-titillated intellectually by the idea that we should do more to focus on emotions but self-congratulatory that we just haven’t gotten around to the fluffy stuff yet, that we’ve all been serious and doing numbers and tech for day jobs instead.

The industry is chock full of people who like to proclaim themselves as “doers” but when it comes to what we’ve accomplished in not being “emotionally tone death” as Ron was accusing us 10 years ago, we’ve done nothing. We’ve accomplished nothing. We’ve taken exactly zero honest, deep looks into the psychic of a consumer we are asking to buy life-altering products from us.

Incumbents and challengers alike the world over, there is not one example in the industry of a bank having created at least one MoneyMoment that was a feelings-driven experience – contextual, emotionally charged, significant and addictive- and not just another repackaged financial product.

Who here, reading this, can say they’ve had any moment with their bank where they felt a surge of positive reaction other than gratitude it was not as painful as they anticipated or experienced in the past? One where you could say “Ah! I didn’t even realize there was a financial product or transaction behind this moment of my life! My bank just served my actual needs and it was pleasant!”. They didn’t because they still don’t know what the need is, what the feeling they need to enhance or inhibit is. And I wonder if they’ll ever bother finding out.

We live in an interesting time. In terms of CX for banking something tells me it’s both too late and too early. Our kids will think of banking as we know it as we think of dial-up or landlines.

I do believe they will have the seamlessly pleasant Invisible Banking experience our bank are unable to create for us, but it requires a blank slate to really do away with all existent banking products as we know them and design for truly investigated consumer emotions and people with brains, courage and passion to do so. One could argue it all boils down to which company, whether they are in Financial Services today or not -and my money is on “not”-, has enough of those and the common sense to let them get on with it already.