All Posts in Thought leadership

7th December 2020

The Times, They Are A-Changing. That’s for Sure.

Author: Jesse Swash, Co-Founder Design by Structure

Jesse Swash

We are living through an extraordinary moment; it's been said so much this year. Years of change brought on in a matter of weeks: no time to catch your breath; continually on video; everything remote; everything in the cloud. It’s not a question of embracing it, it’s just the new reality.

How we work. How we communicate. How we meet. How we pitch. How we convert. How we deliver. How we grow. How we innovate. And crucially, how we (in business) survive.

If the past year has taught us anything, it’s this – if you weren’t already doing it – you must put the user, the client, and the customer right at the heart of everything you do. You need to continually drive better services. That means being brave enough to test, fail, and learning to improve all of the time.

This behaviour, attitude and way of being, is as relevant to the future of banking as it is to any and every other business that wants to survive and thrive. But what’s the point of simply surviving. In fact, it is the businesses that are built on these behaviours and cultures that are the new giants. The very companies we now rely on to exist in this new normal.

What if banks allowed themselves to adopt some of these agile SaaS tactics, allowed some of that energy, drive, and desire to create rich, useful and meaningful user experiences through their doors. Not all at once, obviously, but to start the process of change.

Granted, it's easy to say. Harder to do. And risky to get wrong. And if there’s one sector with a low appetite for risk, it’s this one. So where can banking brands access ideas, inspiration and parallels and also de-risk adoption?

Parallel lines. Parallel sectors. Learn from the successful. Those who are re-thinking the way they and their sectors behave. Look to the brands that have succeeded and prospered. Look at the mistake’s others have made along the way. Look at how they have transformed their industries and take, take, take and learn, learn, learn.

Like it or loathe it. Amazon sets the bar pretty high and is littered with clues. Start with its total clarity of purpose, of why it exists, an understanding that it exists to deliver. Whether it’s must-have items, groceries, information from the corner of your room with Alexa, movies on your TV with Prime, hosting the websites you surf on AWS, or cargo and trips to the moon with Blue Origin. It’s all about 'delivery'. Problem-solving of 'every day is the first day' despite being one of the largest companies in the world. With daily stand-ups. Problem-solving in agile blended teams. And mix in an obsession with making everything user-centric with the customers’ needs always first and the door is wide open to add services, dominate competitors, and to take market share.

Amazon - 'every day is the first day'

The path to change

Change offers opportunity. To reach more customers means more opportunities to sell. Asking more questions such as, what can we do better? means adding new services and product lines which in turn allows you to drive further sales loyalty and ultimately success. Those banks which re-think the right parts of their business and re-think their offers are the ones that will go further.

A recent client of ours, Mews, is a prime example of a business driving fundamental change in the hospitality sector. On the face of it revolutionising the sector with its technology. But actually, all driven by a deep-rooted desire to transform the guest experience for the better forever.

  • Cloud-based. Tick.
  • Easy to use for guests and hotel professionals alike. Tick.
  • Solving a user problem, eliminating long check-in queues, allowing weary travellers to get to their rooms faster, adding buyable services at online check-in, and removing the check-in desk entirely allowing the owners, designers, and architects to make use of premium space in better ways. Tick.

What is the secret? It's a familiar tale. Behave as though every-day is ‘the first day’. Agile ways of working. Blended teams from inside the industry and outside solving the problems that matter. Technology deployed to service an enhanced customer experience, not the hotel’s business admin needs. The net result, staff who can focus on their guests who in turn spend more and enjoy more. Everyone’s a winner.

So, take these three simple methods and apply them to the banking sector:

  1. Understand why you are different.
  2. Find that energy and love of what you do to behave as though this is a great day,
    if not 'the first day'.
  3. Make the customer experience remarkable and memorable.

And even if banking is essential it doesn’t have to be tedious. Keep your eyes open to parallel sectors for inspiration. Think about what can you learn from using Netflix or Spotify for example and apply ideas to your banking app?

These ideas will help your offer to be different. For the right reasons. Drawing insight from outside can help shift your thinking outside of the norm of your sector.

But. And it’s a big but. Do it slowly at first. Fools rush in. It takes time to change the direction and course of a super-tanker. But a series of small changes can make for huge changes over time. Take time to bring everyone with you. An aligned team enthused at the opportunity will go further than a half-committed reluctant group.

The upside is huge. Get started. The times they are a-changing… but at your pace.

This article is part of a series published in Global Banking and Finance Magazine.

29th October 2020

The Chosen One

Author: Jesse Swash, Co-Founder Design by Structure

Jesse Swash

The lessons for the future lie in the past. The same truths still hold. This time the story is the consumer, technology is the agent of change and the tale is the customer purchase journey.

The world keeps changing – we can’t change that. Online growth has accelerated, fast-tracked during the pandemic, and from now on only going to grow. Instore continues to shrink – no surprise there. But in truth, it was struggling before lockdown and is unlikely to recover to its hay day.

The truth is that customers are still shopping. The lesson is that how they shop and how they pay is and always has been changing. Learn that lesson. Be on the right side of change. That means embracing the change agent. Embracing the ‘change technology’ enables the way we all shop and, for the purpose of this story, pay.

Instore. Online. Omni-channel, multichannel or, blended. However, we want to describe it there are two key choices. Physical or virtual. Place your bets, allocate your resources, email with offers, entice in-store, catch your customers however you can. That race is on and has been for some time.

But there is another race happening too: behind the scenes; in the pocket; in the wallets and smartphones of your customers and prospects. This race is, with whom will they will pay?

For the customer, the method of payment is becoming increasingly important. There are traditional credit cards. There are the disruptors such as Revolut and Monzo. There are the new(ish) arrivals of PayPal, Apple Pay and Google, who in turn are being challenged by the even newer and free-thinking Klarna.

So, the big question is, as a payment brand how to make sure you’re chosen by and loved by consumers and which brands do retailers lean on and learn to embrace. Decisions. Decisions.

Payments as an industry continue to grow (global payments revenues totalled $1.9 trillion in 2018 alone (McKinsey)). A market that big, no wonder non-banks and non-traditional players are entering to grab their share. The opportunity to disrupt and carve out market share lies in joining the dots in the customer journey. It used to be a channel choice to connect to the retailer. Now it’s a channel choice to the retailer then a wallet choice at the terminal.

The ability of consumers to opt for a brand at the point-of-purchase, to pay with a brand they choose or even love, changes the connection to the bank or financial service provider in a way many fail to grasp. The ties that connect the customer to the brand and weaker and weaker.

The Retail Disconnect
So, imagine you’re at the checkout page or in the store at the till. For a bank or payment provider, its name on the screen or the payment terminal is the key point of connection with you, their shared customer.

Don’t assume you’ll be the chosen one. When the customer can choose the payment provider that offers the best vouchers and rewards, will they choose you? When they can simply wave their phone or ‘Smile-to-pay’, when they never see your logo or brand, how do you build that relationship that keeps them by your side?

The answer always lies in the lessons of the successful brands and businesses from the past and focussing on the customer needs. Stores used to make you queue. The agile and customer focussed introduced self-checkout. The free-thinking added roving assistants that come with their own till. And the really clever took advantage of online to shift or blend their offer and drive huge fortunes.

Now take an extra step, instore or onscreen, work hard to re-invent and re-position your brand so you’re on the terminal or by the confirm purchase button.  Think what message this sends the customer. We’ve thought of you. We’re on your side. We’re your friend. We’re changing to suit your needs. Choose us. Stay with us.

Becoming ‘The Chosen One’
Some brands will be leaders, some innovators, but not all will survive. They never do. But none of those that seek to succeed can afford to avoid the cracking landscape of payments that is happening within banking.

The winners in the transactional world of retail and consumption need to be customer-focused, more responsive, and deliver the services their customers actually want. This is always the start of our advice to every FinTech we work with and help.

Make sure what you offer keeps adapting. Make sure your offer is driven by customer demands. Be relevant. Keep up with Apple and Google. Have a view on Klarna. In short, make sure you’re the chosen one, however, your customers want to pay.

Because the lesson the past teaches us this time. Only the chosen will survive.

This article is part of a series published in Global Banking and Finance Magazine.

1st October 2020

Experience Counts

Author: Jesse Swash, Co-Founder Design by Structure

Jesse Swash

Challenges and challengers. There have always been pressures and change forced upon banking as an industry and retail banking specifically. In just the last few years think of the heavier financial regulation, government-backed customer switching and ever-diminishing customer-trust. Add to this the threats of new entrants from outside the sector, with giants such as Apple and Amazon dancing around banking services and the emergence of digital-first disruptors such as Monzo and Starling – the secure world of banking, is looking ever more vulnerable.

The disruptors are the change agents. With brand new business models that place customer experience and engagement at the core of their thinking, they are eroding the loyalty (the cornerstone of any bank’s ability to retain and charge its customers) customers felt to established banks.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on where you stand, every SaaS success story has to have a loser too. And that SaaS success also tends to accelerate towards a point of no return, a tipping point where change moves out of the reach of an incumbent.

In banking it’s the ease-of-use where the transformation really lies. It’s no longer enough to have different kinds of accounts or interest rates and account charges. Now, sky-high consumer expectations built on experiences from other sectors are the driving change. Managing your money at your fingertips, facial recognition and payment without contact are just some of the new battlegrounds where damage is being inflicted.

It doesn’t stop there, traditional banks are being attacked from other angles too. Their very structure and set-up make it hard for them to compete with the agile service providers that are built around making life easier for consumers. There is concrete evidence of this change already happening. The ‘big five’s’ share of personal current accounts was 80% in 2016 and has dropped to 63% in 2019 (Centre for Economics and Business Research). Following decades of slow change, customers have voted with their accounts by switching to new banks that seem to better understand and serve their needs.

Taking all this into account, it is clear to everyone (who wants to see it) that the winners of the next round of banking will be those with services specifically around customer expectation and need. Now more than ever it is 'experience' that counts the most. It’s a harsh lesson that the retail and transport sectors have been forced to learn and the music industry before them. And as a sector which has a retail face, it’s something the established banks should embrace, quickly, genuinely and wholeheartedly if they are to continue and to prosper again.

But all is not lost and there is still much to play for. There are ways the banks can design and build their way to a more stable future. Here are the three pillars of experience as we see it.

Experience counts - listen and learn from the legendary.
Transforming an industry means collaborating with experienced people who understand and have a deep-rooted passion for the opportunity in the sector.

Disruptors will always come to market with newness and energy as their currency. They can see an industry differently and do things in a newer and sometimes better and more agile way. But even they can’t do it alone. The legendary innovators, from Gates to Jobs all surrounded themselves with people who had talents they could absorb and learn from, that would help them not to just continue to ‘think different’ but also to continue delivering and growing and building. This works both ways. The established players can just as easily listen and learn. The shortcut is advice.

Experience counts - borrow great ideas from other sectors.
The second lesson is to take and adapt the best customer experiences from other sectors and replicate their successes in your sector.

If you’re in ‘retail banking’ bring ideas and innovations from successful retailers, digital and physical to your operation. Why not be the first to have an advisory ‘style council’ like
Mr Porter or the stylist experience at Selfridges but for your banking needs. Or an Apple Genius Bar, which provides concierge-style support for Apple customers if you still have to have branches. Put the customer experience at the core of your business activity and their success can be yours too if you’re open to it.

Experience counts – live in data, it never lies.
Banks sit on a vast vault of customer spending data. What does it tell you, what can you learn, what can you do better?

Banks can leverage that data to make more informed decisions to build better experiences and products for their customers. Look at rewards programmes run by retailers with the vast amounts of product consumption data, which is used to provide seasonal rewards or preferred brand vouchers. So, have an idea, a theory, build the test, try it. Trust in the data. It will tell you what to do, what colour to change the button too, which page needs the most work on your new website. Success comes from hard work, analysis, and lots more hard work. But with data on your side, it will work.

Show them you know them.
So, how do you bring all these elements and ideas together to create a better experience for your customers, which keeps you in the game? It all distils to the same idea. Show your customers that you know them. Show your customers that you understand them. And most importantly, treat them as if they are your most important possession.

Experience counts. Experience and expertise will take you far. Learn from the legends of your industry and the SaaS successes around you. Learn how they are shaping customer expectations and experiences. And learn from what you already know, the data you have within your organisation.

Harness all these elements in the right way and you can win the experience battle. Because for your future to be a success, experience counts in large amounts.

 

This article is part of a series published in Global Banking and Finance Magazine.

7th September 2020

The Future of Banking is…

Author: Jesse Swash, Co-Founder Design by Structure

Jesse Swash

In the time of great change we’re living through, this ‘new normal’, where every service we used to visit physically can now be accessed with a swipe, a tap, a click or smile, it’s easy to think that something as established as banking could and should have changed far more than it already has.

Yes, there has been change but as with much of the disruption around us, whether food delivery or taxi-hailing, the reality is that the future of banking will still be banking. What will be different is it will not be banking as we know it and it will not be with who we thought it would be with. All the angles and services, where we borrow money from, where we deposit it, whom we pay via, and transact with are all areas ripe for change.

The very concept of banking, at its most basic, a safe place to hold your hard-earned cash and a means by which to make financial transactions, feels like it’s been around largely unchanged for an extremely long time. In reality, there has always been ‘change’ as people moved cash from their pay packet into bank accounts and on to cash machines and credit cards. Banks rode these kinds of change well, it suited them as they still had a grip on the source and the distribution. They grew into big companies and became significant, trusted brands, a dependable cornerstone of modern society.

In this way, technology has been a friend to these landmarks of our high street. But this time technology and its disruptive twin, customer experience, are back and this time it’s different. This time change is going further and right to the core.

The cracks in the foundations.
Disruptor brands have been picking away at the foundations of the commercial offers to customers, carving out successful niches with narrow service offers on our screens and our phones. This is what the first stage of disruption looks like, a niche player like Monzo promising to not just look after your money but also to ‘make life easier’. And it works. The millennials voted with their feet, well with their smartphones, with 4,544,716 of them (to date) signing up. Think early Virgin Atlantic, Tesla with only the model S, or even earlier Apple with a shiny new iPhone but no app store and you can see the parallels. Now comes the flood.

The difference this time around with this second wave is how we, as consumers, want to engage with and ‘consume’ the products the banks offer. Digital transformation of the existing banks up until now has been about replicating a service in a new channel. This time the driver is in rethinking the service offer completely. The winners in this space are B2C brands like Monzo, Atom, and Starling. B2B brands like iBanFirst and HiPay are already starting the process, fulfilling customer needs with new innovative products and service offers and ever more meaningful and user experience led ways that make the incumbents look like, well just that, incumbents.

Multiple choice.
Now for the future-gazing. What comes next is a seemingly sudden shift, that in reality has been seeded by the change in other industries, away from the idea of your financial needs and products all in one place, delivered by just one or two banks or building societies. Let’s call this the multiple-choice phase. It’s an important moment. The next generation has been conditioned to want more, better, faster and easier in all their services. Money is no different. It’s their money and they want to access it and use it in ways that suit them. And worryingly for the banks, they don’t care where they get it from and they’re happy to have it stored in multiple places. If you’re shaking your head, just remind yourself that a TV from John Lewis and a TV from Amazon is the same, but one is cheaper and will be delivered faster. And we all know who is winning that battle.

Once the idea of having some money here, some money there or an investment here and an investment there takes hold, the doors are open for new entrants to arrive and offer alternative destinations. At this point, we pass a tipping point where new feels exciting, and it gets harder for the established brands to respond.

New entrants, old friends.
Next to go are the sector lines. Businesses you already know and trust start to dip their toes into finance and payment with new products and offers, building on the loyalty their customers feel to them. It’s already started to happen, our friend or foe (depending on how you see it) Amazon has launched its credit card with rewards and benefits for use on its retail platform, and tech giant Apple’s card is expected to launch in the UK this year with a promise to re-think how we use credit cards. And we haven’t even brought up Google, Tesla, or even Nike. All these brands approach this market in the same way they transformed how we use and engage with their products. The effect of their presence will be profound, fundamentally changing the way we interact, think about, and access and use our money. The not so secret ingredients are trust, loyalty, and creating that feeling of belonging to a better tribe. Mixed and served correctly they will go a long, long way. For Apple, it’s even created the world’s most valuable company.

The smart money won’t be betting on the incumbents to win this competition. After all, how can you compete with an offer that doesn’t look or behave anything like yours? This won’t be a level playing field.

Power to the people
The final shift is in the power of the customer. This is where the acceleration happens. Once the idea of security and trust in established banking names is gone. Once the drivers are firmly established as a convenience, ease of use, and expectations around experience – ‘If I have a good experience financing my car, why not get a home loan from the same company?’ Once it’s clear that what matters is the quality of the product and the ease of experience in usage the doors are wide open. And once the doors are open and the reviews, posts, and ‘refer a friend’ tactics kick in, it’s very hard to see how anyone can compete with that...

After all, you can bet that the Apple credit card won’t be posted in a letter with a glue dab, that with a swipe or a smile you’ll be able to do things banks haven’t even thought of and that it will lead to multiple additional services with rewards and offers the established players can’t get close to.

Out-thought, out-imagined, and outmanoeuvred. That is what this change looks like.

All change
So, where does that leave banking? It will be a fragmented arena with accelerated change with the winners pivoting toward rich, meaningful customer experiences. Competitors are not likely to be traditional institutions, but brands from other sectors, such as retail, with a vested interest in owning consumer financial transactions. We are already seeing global giants, such as Amazon, making inroads into finance. It is comfortably fully immersing itself in people’s lives – shopping, home entertainment – and now the means of payment. With an experienced toe in the water, the opportunity to offer more financial products is an easy transition and an open invitation for others to follow.

Banking brands will have to raise their game and fight to remain relevant when customer loyalty is eroded, rich user experience is rewarded, and innovation and new service offers are expected. In times of great change, only the bold survive. The evidence of what can happen if incumbents don’t respond fast enough is all around us and the competition is experienced and motivated.

The future of banking will be banking, but not as we know it now and unless the established act quickly, not with who we use now.

This article is part of a series published in Global Banking and Finance Magazine.

11th November 2020

New Healthcare Tech Fast-Tracked to Support Covid 19 Crisis

–The new health chatbot, which puts people at its heart–

A new healthtech chatbot, Ask Ave, has been making a meaningful impact during the pandemic. While it was originally created to assist those with Cancer and their families, due to its flexible design it has been adapted quickly for use to tackle people’s concerns about Covid 19.

The health chatbot, which puts people at its heart, has played a huge role in NHS Scotland, supporting over 110,000 Covid-19 messages from concerned people during its soft launch alone.

Connecting during Covid
The power of talking is encouraged, especially right now during Covid-times. However, for some people, talking face-to-face or over the phone about illness can be difficult. Not only in terms of discussing their symptoms but getting the words out to describe how they feel. It’s about Human Equity, connecting with people is part of being human, but so too is the need to help those people who can’t.  It was on this basis that a new piece of health tech has been created and built– a platform that breaks down the barriers by allowing anonymity.

The chatbot has been so successful in engaging with those that would otherwise not want to discuss the situation that it is now being rolled out to deal with Flu immunisation and vaccine queries on the NHS Inform platform in Scotland.

The tech has revealed some interesting successes. It has been able to extend its reach to those that the NHS has struggled to engage with previously  These are people who are often usually lost in the system or would not engage and they are now better informed and able to protect themselves by simply have the ability to ask questions on their terms day or night.

Speaking about the new application Avril Chester said, We’re so pleased that we’ve been able to support our NHS colleagues at this difficult time, using concepts from our cancer chatbot to help people affected by Covid-19. Working with our technical partner Amido we have applied our joint learnings from working with Cancer Central and NHS Inform to drive growth, efficiency and innovation to Ask Ave to provide  people with a new way to quickly access reliable medical information.’

Rooted in support
Ask Ave is the brainchild of Avril Chester, who founded Cancer Central in 2018 following her battle with the disease. Avril noted the disparate channels to find support for practical issues and services such as local societies or taxi hire to deeply personal ones such as financial, hats or wigs. She founded Cancer Central, which won the Digital Leaders HealthTech innovation ward 2019, as a ‘cominovation’ platform: a hub where community and innovation gather to help cancer patients and their carer’s. To support this initiative, Ask Ave was created as a conversational search – a virtual assistant, which learns as it interacts with people.

Founder Chester said, ‘At conception stage of Cancer Central we ran a ‘hackathon’ with lots of bright minds in the technology industry asking: where shall we start and how best do we achieve the vision? A number of teams recommended to build a solution with a conversational search as people wish to ask questions during a time of need – the Cancer Central chatbot Ask Ave was born.

 Why Ask Ave? Ave is my nickname. I still feel very uncomfortable naming our chatbot after myself, but my board and advisory panel encouraged me to do so.’

Ask Ave is launching in December 2020 under its own brand which was created by Design By Structure. The agency was briefed to evolve the brand’s visual identity, modernising its aesthetic, making the logo so it’s more readable. Provide a clear proposition/ high level messaging so that people can understand what the service is about and an endorsement mechanic, ‘powered by’ lockup when it is licensed to a 3rd party. The chatbot was created with pro-bono support, engineered by Amido, hosted by Microsoft, and supported with SMS texts by Twilio.

This story first appeared in Health Tech World.