There is no escaping the fact that the majority of the financial services we consume daily have become indistinguishable commodities to most of us.
In a market where everything is various flavours of the same vanilla, customers either stick with what they have, or chase bargain-bottom pricing. “Who cares if we’re boring”, financial providers say to themselves. “So is everyone else”.
But in the past few months something has clearly ruffled the feathers of a few sitting finance ducks – most notably those in Australia’s wealth management sector. These days it’s hard to go past a press article or finance blog that doesn’t mention the phrase ‘clever marketing’ – or some other thinly veiled backhanded compliment – from grey haired industry experts called upon to discuss the meteoric rise of startups in various fintech ‘hot spots’.
And while here and there you’ll find a few pearls of wisdom, what most of this commentary has tended to amount to is a clever (and calculated) de-positioning of the one tactical weapon traditional financial services firms don’t have – a great brand capable of being marketed successfully. Capable of winning customers hearts, then minds.
Unfortunately for incumbents, many new entrants will prove they are more than capable of playing by the same regulatory rules as their forebears – possibly even better. Which means if they can combine financial nous with brilliant creative, then the un-commodification of financial services may come a lot sooner than anticipated.
There are a lot of people and businesses who have become incredibly wealthy off opaque and vanilla financial services businesses that require them to do very little in the way of trying to keep their customers happy. Something in the wind tells me that is changing, and that established players who choose to underestimate this will do so at their peril.
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