Why we struggle to connect with banks and what fintech can learn

Piggy Bank and Red Heart

I bank with a number of different banks.  I’m a typical millennial, terribly disloyal and very disdainful of any attempt by a bank to ‘market’ to me.  I think the closest I’ve ever come to enjoying a bank advertising campaign was NAB’s ‘Don’t Trade Like It’s The 90s’ campaign.  And that’s basically because when done well, poking fun at your own industry (or yourself) is a timeworn formula for success.

So why can’t any particular bank brand capture me emotionally?  I religiously buy iPhones but couldn’t care less where I deposit my monthly pay.  I am an avid consumer of Mecca coffees but don’t think twice about whether I’m getting the most reward points for every dollar spent on my credit card.  Is it really possible for a bank these days to be ‘same same but different’ when compared to their peers?

When it comes to the most daily and mundane of banking transactions, you could say I’m pretty apathetic.  It turns out I’m not alone.  A PwC survey conducted late last year found that fewer than one in three customers now trust their bank, yet still those surveyed could not be bothered to switch financial institutions.  It’s like we’re all in these awful relationships we know will never go anywhere, but we’ve decided the chances of finding anything better are that grim we stay, barely talking, like ships in the night.

George Stylianides, Financial Services Risk and Regulation leader at PwC, commented, “Those [banks] who don’t change now, and those who don’t make the right changes, risk going further down the road where the people they are trying to reach have stopped listening and will only pay attention again when something genuinely different comes along.”  With zero emotional baggage, if executed emotionally correctly fintech has the opportunity to be that ‘something’.

A McKinsey & Company study recently postulated that the three key emotional engagers for getting consumers to connect with banking services were belonging, autonomy and empowerment, and trust and security.


Feeling as if you are part of something bigger than yourself would help tackle the belonging element.  Apple does this incredibly well.  One simply does not buy an iPhone or MacBook, one subscribes to a revolutionary idea about empowering the masses through technology.  Fintech can easily harness these emotions by positioning themselves against the banking oligopolies.  Remaining authentic and not appearing to ‘sell out’ will be core when employing this engagement strategy.

Autonomy and Empowerment

Control over your own destiny is at the heart of freedom and liberty.  The Great American Dream and its hold over immigrants the world over is but one example of how deeply we crave autonomy and empowerment.  If fintech can engender this type of emotion through a life changing banking product then they will have struck emotional engagement gold.

Trust and Security

No one likes to be let down, be it by a partner, colleague or company.  Just like an emotional trust-bank you might have with your inner circle, the trust-bank between customers and traditional banks has been significantly depleted over the past 10 years. Starting with the GFC and fast-forwarding to more modern day customer mis-management horror stories (think Big 4 financial planning scandals), trust is certainly at a low point.  Fintech can capitalise on this but should also learn from it.  It’s hard to stop the rot once it’s started.

Weaving brand stories and real experiences around these three engagement factors could be the magic sauce for tomorrows fintech stars.  Ultimately banks have finance and they have technology.  There’s not a lot stopping them from getting in on ‘fintech’ too.  In fact, many actually already do.  What banks find harder are making people like me care.  And this is what could be the ultimate game changer.

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