Building a compelling digital banking service is undeniably a hot topic among leaders in financial services. Recently Bain & Company released their study, ‘Building retail bank of the future’, which is an excellent report that highlights top priorities that leaders of retail banking businesses should focus. While I enjoyed their well-crafted report, one of their key points caught my attention: ‘Position technology at the heart of strategy and execution’.

 From 'Building retail bank of the future’ by Bain & Company study 2014
From ‘Building retail bank of the future’ by Bain & Company study 2014

This statement by Bain & Company summarised well the observation I made from conversations with businesses. It is critical for banks to invest in technology as an enabler to simplify customer experience. However I would like to challenge this statement, as it may have missed an important value in crafting digital banking vision- ‘human’.

While investing in technology, financial services should position ‘human’ at the heart of strategy and execution. I pose two reasons why.

Human behavior changes much slower than technology.

As technology advances, we have more tools than ever to improve or redefine customer experience. Often businesses try to understand the digital space by focusing on technology and technological change. However human behavior changes much slower than technology. Much of our behavior is based on adaptations that took many thousands of years to evolve, and these behavior patterns are not going to change much in our life time. (P. Adams)

This statement applies to core financial needs of people. Instead of driving innovation through possible technology, what leaders in financial services need to focus on is understanding the human behaviour towards financial management, how people make a decision – consciously as well as unconsciously, and what simplifies their life. This means that more than ever the human-centered design approach is important to make digital initiatives a success.

Our online world is simply catching up with our offline world.

Often we think technology massively changed the way we consume information and the way we interact with people. Social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram became part of many people’s life. Instead, we look at digital technology this way – The emergence of the social web is simply our online world catching up with our offline world.
By first understanding human behaviour and by mimicking the human behaviour using the digital technology we can create an experience that resembles our offline world, in which customers will find it natural and simple to use. There are three brilliant examples of the online world catching up our offline world.

1. Amazon’s recommendation became so smart; it became a trusted friend. It humanised the way we buy books as if we are asking our smart friend ‘hey, what book should I read next?’

2. The concept of Google Glass was born from the observation of our behaviour, as Sergey Brin explains. He thought, ‘Why do we look down at our phones when we want to connect to other people or connect to information. Should it be by just walking around, not looking down?” The technology and their endeavour to create more natural, human-like connection gave birth to Google Glass. Even if many people argue that the glass is not very user-friendly, eventually technology will get us there – the ultimate natural way of connecting to human and information.

Instagram @GoogleGlass @jrfederico #throughglass
Instagram @GoogleGlass @jrfederico #throughglass

3. Pay Anyone that OCBC Bank recently released support people’s natural behaviour splitting bills after a big meal with friends by making that activity simple without having to know their account or using internet banking. PayAnyoneOCBC

Our online world is catching up offline world. We have more enablers ever to do that. The more we understand the human behaviour, the greater opportunities we have in creating the digital bank that simplifies and delights people’s life.

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Put ‘human’ at the heart of your strategy and execution.
Invest more time in observing people and harnessing the behavioural insight.
Perhaps digital banking really means making banking more human.

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