Permission to Permeate: Finance Trend Report

As financial institutions modernize and try to innovate, they often run up against walls set up by consumer expectations and lack of trust. While financial institutions are walled in, technology companies, even those in the financial services space, have been given the public’s permission to cross categories.

These companies are afforded this access because they are seen as “young,” born of an era that values agility. They are often seen as organic outgrowths of creative or egalitarian endeavors. In this way, technology companies are seen as democratic, while banks remain paternalistic. Technology and social norms have changed the expectations of what an individual needs from their financial ecosystems.

Fintech firms are poking holes in the traditional finance industry structure. Many established firms are acquiring or creating products to reinsert themselves into consumers’ financial ecosystems. In the P2P space, eBay/PayPal acquired Venmo, while a Chase-led consortium created Zelle, a P2P stand-alone app integration that is not bank branded.

Consumer brands are owning the transaction point. Starbucks and Sweetgreen have created standalone payment platforms aimed at increasing convenience, growing loyalty programs and disintermediating online ordering platforms. By owning the transaction point, directing that moment away from top-of-wallet credit cards, these brands get a bigger, more dynamic place in the consumer’s mind.

Partnerships across borders and industries can bring together titans in service of consumer needs. Alipay and Chase have partnered to enable Chinese tourists to use the AliPay mobile wallet in the US, building brand awareness for Chase and easing travel-finance anxieties for users.

Standout marketing from financial institutions uses narrative storytelling. This year Santander-sponsored, sci-fi short film “Cuanto, Has All Del Dinero” (“How Much, Beyond Money”) elevated branded content, while engaging in a very contemporary conversation about the value of money and memory. 

Consider partnership, not acquisition. Large all-encompassing institutions are now viewed skeptically, while smaller independent organizations are given favor and a leg up in consumers’ minds. Financial institutions should consider how to partner with outside organizations to show that they are comfortable guiding clients to the best solution, which might not be their brand. 

Retire the cross-sell. Rather than being seen as a giant machine, financial institutions should try to create a village of services that their clients can take advantage of. Consumers desire a variety in service that feels bespoke and tailored specifically to their needs; they don’t seek monolithic service that feels unconcerned about clients’ individuality.

Bring finance into the fold. Finance shouldn’t be a silo in individuals’ lives. It should feel like an integral part of everyday life. While financial institutions will never, and should never aspire to be a lifestyle brand, they do need to shift to being absorbed into the daily lives of individuals in a seamless way.