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FinTech Connect took place on the 3rd and 4th December at London’s ExCel and brought together over 6,000 members of the FinTech community, many of whom visited the event to find out what’s in store for the next phase of digital transformation. Exhibitors included leading influential businesses from around the globe, including Somo. We exhibited on both days of the event, giving expert advice about all things digital and providing a free digital health check.
Somo’s CSO, Ross Sleight, took to the stage on Day One of the conference to present his keynote speech — discussing how brands can deliver real product differentiation. Ross is a digital strategist, fascinated by the relationship between the exponential growth of digital tech, the evolution of customer behaviour and the transformation of business to adapt to these new landscapes.
In his talk, Ross cited the need for the sector to re-evaluate the strategy for financial products and services. The incumbents, in particular, appear to be in a race to create new customer experiences – by simply chasing, or shadowing, the current digital natives. There’s nothing wrong with emulating experiences and existing features that work, but it poses the question: is this the right race to be in when these services are all fighting to talk to one particular audience?
There are other distinct audiences, who all have very distinct needs. Whether it’s people in the gig economy, or freelance, or customers who don’t meet the current income standard – there is a number of needs to be addressed.
Ross also explored the concept of future autonomous finance, in which all our financial opportunities will be melded around a product design developed for the individual; there will be no more siloes directly within products. Technologies such as AI are going to be able to create these opportunities for financial services; enabling brands to thrive and create digital products that customers truly need. But Ross added that autonomous finance is currently a pipe dream; and today businesses should think about human-centred design, product differentiation, and processes that we have in place.
Ross’ third point examined the societal role of the finance sector: banks and finance institutions are more than just money-making machines, they are an important part of society. And that means that people turn to them for financial education. They turn to them for the ability to speak to people face-to-face in a branch. Societal value is of vital importance, particularly for an ethical and sustainable agenda for financial companies moving forward. But not just that – according to exclusive consumer research in Somo’s recent financial services white paper ‘Are digital brands the future of financial services?’, a surprising 42 per cent of people still value in-branch advice.
In summary, Ross said that financial services brands shouldn’t be emulating what the digital challengers are doing. The FinTech startups should continue doing what they're doing, and see if they can scale those products to a greater extent. But, incumbents and legacy banks in particular should be thinking a little bit more about the real customer needs they are trying to solve and how they can create the right environment for technology to be able to make the processes more efficient and help people — ultimately, helping society become a better place.