Consumers have typically been wary of smaller banking services; however, in the wake of a number of banking crises, trust in larger corporations has also waned in recent years. A number of banking start-ups have looked to take advantage of this trend and offer banking services that are not only trustworthy, but add value to consumers’ banking experiences.
Firms such as Monzo are now offering consumers the chance to open accounts that can be accessed using comprehensive apps as well as a contactless card to make payments. The apps allow consumers to track spending, send and receive funds, remotely top-up the account and cancel the card in case it is lost. Another added bonus is that the card can be used abroad without incurring any charges.
It is axiomatic that such a service could be extremely useful to a number of consumers, notably those who are frequent travellers. Monzo was recently granted a full banking license and has promised to grant its beta users current accounts in the coming months. Similar banking apps such as Atom and Starling Bank have also grown considerably since both received banking licenses in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
What’s Gone Wrong For Traditional Banks?
Traditional banks have also tried to tap into consumers’ digital needs by releasing apps to supplement existing online banking platforms. However, the apps still fall short of what newer fintech companies are offering. A formulaic approach is taken to mobile banking; consumers don’t have access to additional information about spending or the ability to cancel cards. The top-ranking free finance app in the UK Apple App Store is Barclays, coming in at a paltry 61st, with Natwest the highest ranked in the UK Android App Store at 72nd. Considering that a report from the University of Birmingham said that fewer than a million adults in the UK don’t have access to a bank account and Deloitte’s Mobile Consumer report indicates that 40% of all mobile users would prefer an app for dealing with their finances, these rankings seem very low.
Many critics of banking apps have called for more transparency in terms of how consumers are spending in the form of budgeting applications or simpler UX. LTP, a renowned critic in the Fintech industry, claimed that improved UX will help improve banking apps and a stronger consumer focus will help them achieve this goal. However, banks are also stymied by the tendency to create systems in their own image, thus creating an overly-delineated application that doesn’t provide value beyond its basic functions.
Severe critics have suggested that banks have a vested interest in keeping a certain element of complexity to the transactions and the amount of data they release. Whether such issues of clarity are careless or calculating, the fact remains that there are now a range of apps ready and waiting to help consumers who are looking for more from their bank.
How Have Banking Apps Been Improved Upon?
Companies such as Monzo and Atom have looked to add value to the platform by providing consumers with additional information without fuddling the app with endless add-ons. A recent survey from PwC showed that over 30% of Fintech companies describe themselves as ‘fully customer-centric’ compared to just over 10% of banks. It’s worth noting that many new banking firms, such as Monzo, are still undergoing Beta testing and make it clear that the product is far from finished. Many have encouraged users to participate in forums and workshops aimed at making the interaction even better.
The forums give users the opportunity to directly contact developers, who in turn can let users know about upcoming features and ask for feedback. Monzo offers users the chance to feed in what they like about fellow start-up banks such as Starling, giving crucial insight into the positives and negatives. Starling has also provided users with insight into its plans over the next 12 months; an unprecedented level of transparency in the industry.
Unusually, it seems as though fintech start-ups are managing to undercut traditional banks with a relatively low-tech solution: listening to the customer. By creating an environment where feedback is valued, such companies are able to drive loyalty and encourage referral sign-ups – the latter of these is a key element to making a bank successful.
The simplified output is also refreshing for consumers and other fintech startups have managed to tap into this area. Credit report provider ClearScore has accrued over 4 million users since starting in 2015 and bases its model on providing free, easily-digestible credit reports and is now the UK’s leading credit checking service. London-based Ormsby Street has also won acclaim for producing a simplified means of managing the supply chain and mortgage calculator Trussle has recently partnered with online property heavyweight Zoopla by providing quick estimates on potential mortgages.
Fintech companies are placing the needs of the consumer first, and if the success continues then the prioritisation of the consumer will hopefully become industry standard in the years to come. There are still issues that many may face, such as enrolling enough users for an app to become useful as well as following through on promises of simplicity, as US-based Simple found after being purchased by BBVA. Nonetheless, the industry stands to profit from an increased emphasis on the needs of the consumer coupled with relevant personalised data.
How have you found the experience of using newer banking solutions? Will this trend lead to wholescale change in the sector? Leave your comments below or start the conversation @mporiumgroup.