On banks, touch-points and technology

In the process of digitization and automation, it is easy to loose touch with your customers, especially if the ‘stuff’ you are dealing with is something as abstract as an exchange item; money. Restoring touch-points becomes main focus.


Grocery stores went through the process of digitization and automation. Starting as small shops, they where used to serve each client in person, and would know their clients in person. Then, in the beginning of last century, long before digitization and big data, they went through the process of first introducing self service, and afterwards, with the introduction of digital tools, through the process of using data (and loyalty cards) to understand client behaviors. Grocery stores had the luxury of a step wise introduction, first automation/self service, and then the introduction of advanced analytics to understand client behavior from data by means of data collection and statistics.

Grocery stores have one big advantage; they deal in physical goods. You, as a client, need to go out and get it, or someone needs to pass by and bring it to you. In short, intrinsic (still) is a personal transaction. This means that the whole process of digitization and becoming a data driven industry was developed while having a personal contact with the client.

Banks do not have had that advantage. Banks deal in somesthing abstract; a means of transaction. In the process of digitization and automation has removed the need to actually visit a bank or talk to a bank agent. The ‘transaction means’ in the past may have relied on physical goods (paper money, coins, remember Scrooge McDuck swimming in his money) nowadays it is digital and growing more and more abstract. Clients have access without ever having to enter a bank filial or meet a bank agent. On top of having lost contact with their clients, banks also have 1000 and 1 technology driven start-ups with innovative business models eating away at the basis of the bank’s income. Ideas such as peer to peer lending and robot advice (where investments are driven automatically by computer models following market trends instead of by human analysts).

Not surprisingly, banks have two important interests: touch-points and big-data.

What I find surprising is that the banks strategies are technology driven. For example, the UBS (or here, see page 9; the great transformation) list the following as main trends; privacy, self fitting products, wealth assistant (robot advise) and decomposed wealth management, all of which increases the reliance on technology and reduces the need for personal contact. Credit Suise, another major Swiss bank, “… announced that it is committed to making significant investments in expanding its client facing technology globally”

Why is technology seen as the solution for a problem created by technology? I am assuming of course that the main challenge of Banks is the growing distance towards their customers, which was created by automation and technology. You may dispute this. But if the problem of the banks are lack of contacts with their customers, shouldn’t the strategy be ‘getting in touch with the customer’’. Yes, technology may be a means in itself, but certainly not an objective.

Maybe it is sufficient to reduce MBOs to the following simple questions; When did you last ‘speak’ with a customer and what did you learn?

Btw, I thought the cartoon at the top of this page was funny and original. I was wrong; https://youtu.be/gWzhHInOiaY


Fred Voorhorst works as consultant for the FinTech industry, focussing on optimizing/improving wealth management advisory processes.

voice of the customer, helpful for innovation?

Is innovating supported by a user-community, or the voice of the customer useful? Yes. Absolutely! Although, no. Well, maybe. It depends. Basically, as always, it depends on what what kind of innovation you are pursuing. In this post I try map my experience with community supported development/innovation on the well-known “Innovation Management Matrix“, to indicate in what situation you will make most out of the community.

What is the Innovation Management Matrix? This is a marketing 1-to-1 on innovation management. Vertically, we plot extend in which the problem is defined (ranging from not, to well) and horizontally we plot how well the domain is defined (also from not to well). Greg Satell in Forbes gives a good overview.  He starts from two basic questions “How well is the problem defined?” (for example, Steve Jobs defined the problem for the iPod as “1000 songs in my pocket.”) and “Who is best placed to solve it?” (or what is critical for solving the problem) to arrive at the Innovation Management Matrix, as shown below.



So where are you in this matrix? Or where will you be with your project? Of course, in hind-sight, it is always easy to draw a straight line from problem to solution. Looking back, the road always was clear. Going forward, unless you work with a great visionary like Steve Jobs, the road might look a bit hazy. foggy, unclear, or even non-existing. And even if you do know where you are, then what? If I know I am disrupting the business, how does this help to make my innovation successful?

Allow me to side-jump for a moment and talk about on-line user-communities. A user-community to sound ideas is gaining popularity. “Sophisticated online crowdsourcing platforms are making it ever simpler to manage and support distributed workers. In essence, the crowd has become a fixed institution available on demand.” Advantages are clear; you can actually ask your users what the think. Better, you can ask what they think while you are working on your project. Not completely real-time, but close enough. This speeds up the process tremendously. Raving forward at virtually light speed towards the light of innovation is the kind of image you should be imagining now. The ‘only’ challenge is to create a community, which is time and resource intensive. But once you have established a community, you can just ‘throw in’ ideas and see what sticks. Well, sort of.

Personally, I had very good experiences working with STREAM-Research (offered by ATOM-Design), to create a user-community to support the UBS WM innovation team in understanding customer needs and driving one of their innovation projects forward.

Preparing a presentation on the success of the project, I came to the conclusion that “The Innovation Management Matrix” depicts the solution space, but not really helps to define a strategy on how to get there. However, placing this matrix in the context of user-community supported innovation, the options for each of the cells of the matrix become clear. See the image below.



Let me run you through the cells.

Problem space defined, but domain not defined. Basically you are transferring knowledge from a master domain to child domain. This situation occurs when for example, a product that is a huge success in on country is planned to being introduced in a different one, or when one business model (e.g.  ‘Uber’) model and validating whether it would work for the room rental business (couch surfing).  The strategy that might work best here is to run through a sequence of user-stories (as known from the mother domain) and see which applies or what problems you encounter.

Problem space is defined, and domain is defined. This is your incremental innovation. A user community might be an over-kill here, or at best to validate acceptance of changes and improvements. Still a valid use-case for community based innovation, but maybe not the most exciting one, or the best use of resources. Also, risk here is that the project slide off into either disruptive innovation or break through innovation, simply because of all the insights obtained through the community.

Problem space not defined, but the domain is defined. This is the basis for disruptive innovation, and a user community may be instrumental for finding-out undiscovered user needs and wishes. This situation occurs when for example new technologies or new approaches challenge the common way of doing things.

Neither the problem space nor the domain are defined. So, this basically is phishing. No need to consult a community here.

In sum. Innovating using a client community usefull? Absolutely. From my experience, taking the innovation management matrix as reference, there are two situations in which community based innovation are especially effective; the more straight forward transitioning from one domain to the other (Problem is understood, but the (new) domain is not) and, more challenging, using the community to gain insights and validate hypotheses (the domain is understood but the problem is not). Incremental innovation and more basic research seem less likely scenarios for which to apply community based innovation.

Digital transformation: Competing for attention

Digital technologies are forcing companies to transform. Digital transformation is not an easy topic and possibly disrupting the complete value chain of most businesses faster than we think. Brian Solis gives some insights in what to consider when taking on ‘Digital Transformation’.

A key tool to manage this process is user journey mapping (see e.g. here, or see here for more basic information about user journey mapping). This is true for any transformation, but especially digital transformation because of the sheer amount of content flowing towards us through our digital devices and competing for our attention. Yes, there are the 5 ‘W’s to help you understand digital transformation from a business point of view. But if the user is simply being entertained, persuaded, lured, do you know what you are competing with at the level of attention?

Remember OurDigitalDayOur digital day (see on the right)? I though was a funny, bit sarcastic user-journey of us in today’s digital life, showing how we are connected throughout the day. Actually, how we are only connected digitally and maybe ignore the physical world around us. But this overview was just generic, maybe a bit sarcastic and for sure self-reflective. But generic. I also was trying to make a point, namely that although we are connected throughout the day, we are not always connected using the same channel, or using the same device. This means, that when you are defining your digital transformation strategy, you have to map out what you will push through which channel.

I like to take it one small step further, looking at a specific user journey, and map-out the channels and opportunities for using those channels. What it boiled down to, is mapping out the channels and the attractors you are competing with at specific points of the user journey.

The user journey I looked at was one of the Wealth Manager Client Advisor. Over the past years I have been consulting in FinTech, helping traditional financial institutions to move the communication towards the clients on digital platforms. In most cases it has been a discussion mainly about technical implementation; “how to implement“. Much more relevant, but also a much more difficult discussion, is “what to implement“. With what implementation do we actually reach our clients. As Our digital day indicates, clients are fluent in reaching content through whatever device, therefore any offering must be platform agnostic. But in the journey towards covering all channels in this multi channel platform agnostic day and age, where do you start, and how do you get there.

In this user journey below, the ‘user’ is the Wealth Manager Client Advisor. The purpose of the journey is to support digital transformation; how to move printed information onto a digital platform. When does it make sense, and what platform/channel should it be moved on.

DDWMCA_1 Morning wake-up. The CA checks his phone for messages and important news. Printed material does not enter the scene here.

Entering this space competes with social contacts, the shower and a first cup of coffee.

Breakfast. If not talking to loved ones or being distracted by pets, the CA may be browsing information, trying to find out what happened the night before, chatting checking out social media etc.

Entering this space competes with actual news, social media, personal discussions, walking the dog and a good espresso.

DDWMCA_1 Commuting into the office, by bus, train or street car. Maybe by bike? Depends a bit on distance of travel and means of travel. Standing on the streetcar will limit the CA’s possibilities to swiping.

Entering this space competes with whatever is entertaining and easy to consumer (i.e. little interaction needed, minimal attention needed) such as for example reading (can also be print), watching a movie, playing a game, etc.

DDWMCA_1 In the office.

Entering this space competes with work. This can be a digital channel or printed materials.

DDWMCA_1 Client meeting. Somewhere in a bar or restaurant, maybe outside in the sun, or in the office.

This space can be occupied by printed media or by digital channels (e.g. using an iPad). The advantage of printed material is that the client probably much better remembers the discussion. The challenge with digital channels is to add to the discussion (simulate, support) and not interrupt (movie, animation).

DDWMCA_1 Comitting back home, by bus, train or street car. Maybe by bike? Depends a bit on distance of travel and means of travel. Standing on the streetcar will limit the CA’s possibilities to swiping.

Entering this space competes with whatever is entertaining and easy to consumer (i.e. little interaction needed, minimal attention needed) such as for example reading (can also be print), watching a movie, playing a game, etc.

DDWMCA_1 Coming home.

Entering this space competes with post (invoices) family, social events, dinner, a cold beer and maybe a dog. Little space for digital channels, but print – provided recognizable within the post – might have a chance.

DDWMCA_1 In the evening. Relaxing at home.

Entering this space competes with social events, actual events (e.g. European Soccer Championship etc.). Print, if it manages to enter this space, has the advantage that the reader will always check the next page for something interesting. The same is true with digital channels, but the next page can be a completely different web-site.

DDWMCA_1 Going to bed

Competing with a good book, social media, just sleeping, or all other opportunities a dark bedroom offers. Print or digital, make it interesting.

CompetingForAttentionIn sum, when creating a user or customer journey, when looking for the most opportune channels to support the digital transformation, interesting to consider is what you are competing with in terms of user attention . This spans beyond the device or channel you are considering. I mean, during breakfast you are actually competing with a nice espresso and with the dog wanting to go for a walk. How would you do that? How would you shape your digital channel such that the dog has to wait two more minutes? When would you offer print material so that it does not end-up on the big pile (or how do you make sure it is the first thing the client pulls from the pile)? Ideas?

Digital transformation, more than putting stuff online

It was a going to be a hot day. The föhn was blowing over the Alps. A warm strong northern wind, making Ticino the south of Switzerland, warm and humid. The air would soon be so heavy, you could peal if of like paint of the station’s wall. It is said the föhn makes people go crazy, even more than usual, and I was happy to be on the train north, into the moderate temperature and into the territory of the rational sane people. Well, so they say.

I was on my way to meet with Konsti, one of the guys from the bank’s innovation team. He called me to help on digital transformation. They realised that digital transformation is more than putting stuff online. A no-brainer; it is not just making stuff available digitally, even if this often still is the approach taken.

One of the problems wit digital transformation at banks is that often they are so far behind, those who are working on it believe they can catch-up simply on common sense. Luckily Konsti had a bit more than the average common sense. A lot more.

Digital transformation?
The last couple of years I have been involved in projects at a major Swiss Bank, in the wealth management area, on projects aiming to make market analytics and investment insights available digitally.

We are trained to ignore information, or to put it positively, we focus on what interests us and what we like. Well, depending on how the information is presented to us. If your client advisor gives you a document, you will glance over it, at least. A mail from a central mail address – even if it is from your Wealth Management service provider? Maybe. A notification from an wealth management app, well, yes, buy only if the content on the app is crisp and clear, otherwise it will only invite to turn off the notifications or – worse – to delete the app. We ignore most information thrown at us, and concentrate only on that what interest us, or excites us, or that we are forced to do (yes, it is tax-declaration-time again….).

No, digital transformation is not just converting the document into a PDF and sending it by mail, or posting it on the website for clients to download. But it is also not enough to reformat, e.g. put the text as is on a blog or website like this (I need to follow my own advise/insights…)

When I pick up a book to read, I find a nice seat, decent light, probably my glasses, maybe a cup of tea, and off I go. Point is that I am investing time in preparing for it, preparing myself for it. I will give the book or article a chance, give it a try. If I go and sit down to read some investors information I got from a client advisor, I will give it more than a glance, look for something interesting. This is completely different reading content on-line. Preparation is virtually zero. Pages come and go. If it does not grasp me, I am gone. My (average user) famous 8 seconds attention span.

This means that for digital transformation not only the channel of distribution is important, but also the way you address your readers.

Tools such as the business model canvas, and the value proposition canvas are extremely helpful in understanding how the ecosystem changes moving from traditional print distribution to digital channels. These help you to understand how the business model changes, and map out the customer needs and what value to provide to address that.

But to understand the needs of the customer, you will have to talk to clients and/or customers. In wealth management not always easy.

Over the past months we used the stream services to create an on-line community – The Exxchange – to evaluate under what conditions research information becomes interesting. Through a sequence of activities, such as discussions, surveys and chats etc, we explored how affluent clients deal with wealth management information via on-line channels. This confirmed our understanding of the business model and how this changed. Moreover, it gave insights into what is important for users when reading on-line; what is the information they look for when they ‘scan’. During this scanning, you have to grasp their attention, to give them a reason to continue reading.

Three main learnings relevant for digital transformation in Wealth Management information raised to the surface;

  •  an easy recognisable topic  (people look for what they know). This does not mean content has to recognisable in terms of logos and names, but it helps to invest in a constrained and concise visual/verbal language, so that within the given channel users feel familiarity and can build on previous experiences.
  • when dealing with investment opportunities make it easy to recognize what are the risks/opportunities, especially using graphics and charts. Remember you have 8 seconds; at a first glance the opportunity and risk has to be recognisable. Maybe not in full detail, but detailed enough to look further.
  • give it exclusivity; the information must be something they cannot find somewhere else. In case of wealth management information, something like speed to the market, or profound and well articulated easy to digest insights.

Main learning for digital transformation is that in the process of digitising information, moving from a traditional print approach to on-line channels, it is good to work with tools such as the business model canvas, and the value proposition canvas, but it is not enough. To attract readers in the fast moving digital/online world, you need to understand the customer in their behaviour and in what triggers their interest. Talk to them.