Fintech brands aren’t stealing customers from big financial brands. Big financial brands are giving their customers away. - Shinyverse

Fintech brands aren’t stealing customers from big financial brands. Big financial brands are giving their customers away.

Looking for a painful experience? Try opening savings accounts with large banks. Afterward you’ll realize just why fintechs are such a competitive threat to large established brands.

Our Big Bank Test

We were doing a research project for one of our financial clients and decided to open savings accounts with different brands to better understand those experiences. Our need for the accounts may have been atypical but the criteria we laid out for selecting the accounts was not:

  • Easy to open and manage online
  • Low or no minimum balance
  • No (or easily avoidable) fees
  • No hard pull on my credit
  • Optional: competitive interest rate

Some may disagree with interest rate and that’s fine – point is, people looking to start a savings account online may well be doing something more impulsive than most other financial products. “I don’t have a savings account and I know I should have one.”

Our Results

At the first bank site we went to our state wasn’t available in the drop-down and no explanation was given as to why. Stop, do not pass go. As people who work in financial services, we understood why this might be, but it was such a dead end, it left us with a bad taste for the brand. And then it happened again with a second brand. 

We then set our sights on a third bank, one of the most recognized financial brands in the world. This should be easy, we thought. We thought wrong. We captured everything on video, so were able to determine how long it took to complete different steps. Here’s how it broke down:

  • 4:18: Time to go through selecting a product right for our needs and complete the application process. This includes :60 of a spinning icon with a “submission completed” message before seeing a “submission error” screen and a super handy 18-digit code to give to the folks at the 800 number provided. Yay! I get to go through the phone tree of a large global bank. There was no other option. Remember the goal to be able to open and manage an account online? Not with this bank.
  • 1:03: Listening to choices on the phone tree three separate times because none of them included, “Press 3 if you encountered a submission error on our website.”
  • 9:48: Hold music. Very. Repetitive. Hold music. (Are we having fun yet?)
  • 3:56: Time it took the call center rep to say “It’s showing here that your account is approved.”
  • 4:38: Time it took to create the account, and set up a funding source on the bafflingly confusing onboarding process.
  • 2 days: How long it took to see the test deposits in the funding account before we could actually fund it. Meanwhile, the money earmarked for this purpose was sitting ready to be used somewhere else.
  • 7-10 days: How long the rep said it will take to receive the welcome kit.

In a highly competitive space where milliseconds count, this is simply abysmal. One Shiny team member suggested a new tagline for this brand, “Setup a new savings account in two weeks or less!” And while that would never make it to market, it’s exactly what a new customer thinks of the brand: slow, inflexible, and painful to work with for even the most basic of tasks. 

You may be wondering how the other banks fared. We gave up. We were looking for a quick fix and learned what we needed to for the research assignment: big banks don’t deliver quick, easy and seamless experiences. And that was summed up by the last thing the rep said on phone, “You have 60 days to fund the account, or it will be closed.” Let me reframe that. “If our slow, inflexible, and painful process doesn’t work for you and you get retargeted with a quicker, more pleasant experience with a fintech brand – have at it! You’re certainly not committed to us.” And to that point, I was able to write an article about it before I was even able to fund and use my account.

Here are three things big financial institutions can do to level the playing field:

1. Context is key…always provide information and helpful tips at the beginning of someone’s journey. Don’t operate in certain states? The solution is simple here –populate all 50 states and provide your prospect with an explanation as to why an account can’t be opened in their state. Ideally, provide them with an alternate path if possible. Need additional information to complete an online submission? Clearly state what you need and why. Even better if you know that you’re going to require some details that may not be readily handy, let them know that before they get started.

2. Keep people in their channel of choice. If for any reason a task can’t be completed without human intervention think of ways to provide that in the channel that the customer started. For example, if we wanted to talk to a human to set up an account we would have walked into a branch or started with an 800 number. Chat, text, heck even email would have been a better solution for us rather than that dreaded phone call.

3. Immediacy is non-negotiable. People’s mindset is that once they start an application or setting up an acount they are already your customer. And that means they expect to be able to use whatever product they’re looking for as soon as they hit submit on the button. In this scenario test deposits should have happened while we were still online, and a digital welcome kit should have already been provided. No matter how big a business you may have, you need to operate at the speed of life.

With a few simple steps big banks can solve for a lot of the issues we experienced…and start giving fintechs a run for our money.

A version of this article was originally published by Forbes.

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