“Live your mission, to evolve your culture beyond a legacy mindset, and to invest in technology.”

On a recent Banking on Digital Growth podcast, James Robert Lay welcomed Jon Ogden, the head of strategic content at MX, to discuss how financial brands can prepare for the future.

One of the latest ideas MX is working on, as Jon notes, is a product called Pulse. “Pulse is essentially like a financial feed for the end-user to see in real-time what is happening with their finances, get nudges to help them see how to manage their money better, and receive financial advice that is personalized to them.” 

Simplified, Jon describes Pulse as an automated financial guidance tool that banks, credit unions, and FinTech companies can use to empower their customers to be financially strong. 

With an increasing amount of financial-insecurities and COVID-related stress, financial institutions are well-positioned to be the helpful guide.

Banks and credit unions are serving as the frontline “doctor” or “nurse” for their customers and those in the communities they serve. 

Financial brands have the power to provide hope and help.

As MX shows with Pulse, there is an opportunity to provide clarity into the complex world of financial data. There is an opportunity to provide actionable insights for the consumer to escape their financial fears and improve their life. And there is an opportunity to empower your customers to be financially strong.

Learning From the Past

While there are people all over the world who have remained unaffected or experienced minor changes due to the COVID-19 crisis, millions more are unsure of what the future holds when it comes to their jobs. 

Because major digital and automation transformations were already on the horizon pre-COVID-19, we already had data to help us predict and prepare for the future of work.

Jon takes us back to look at how work has evolved to help us understand what to expect moving towards the future. 

“For hundreds of thousands of years, humans were hunter-gatherers. About 10,000 years ago, we started the agricultural revolution. In the past 200 years, only a minority of people were farming, and now it's around two to five percent. Since the 1980s, the percentage of knowledge workers has grown a tremendous 230%. Work is becoming a completely different thing than it has been in our history.”

In 1973, the New York Times made a bold prediction about the up and coming ATM machines.

To an enthusiastic banker these machines, used today by many people to provide emergency cash, are considered the forerunner of the bank branch of the future, perhaps replacing up to 75 percent of the sometimes friendly human tellers.”

Well, ATMs haven't replaced humans.

And as Jon notes, teller jobs have actually grown slightly faster than the general labor force. 

“ATMs reduced the number of tellers needed per branch. It went from 21 to 13 in an average urban branch. But that reduction made it cheaper to build branches. So because it was cheaper to build branches, therefore then banks and credit unions built more branches and then hired more tellers overall.”

This phenomenon didn’t stop in the banking industry. The increase in automation has made products cheaper, therefore increasing the demand. 

“I think it has pretty big implications in banking itself,” Jon predicts, “if people are wondering, am I going to lose my job or not.”

A 3-Step Roadmap for Financial Brands

We’ve moved beyond a service economy into what some might argue to be the knowledge economy, or what James Robert calls the “expertise economy.” 

Work is not necessarily about what you do, but it's about what you think or the value that you create through your thinking or the insights that you're able to distill.

When it comes to the future of work, Jon has detailed a three-step roadmap of actions that a financial brand can take.

Step #1: Commit to Live Your Mission 

The executive team or board of directors may have written a great mission statement. It’s hanging with pride in the boardroom, prominently displayed in the bank lobby, and front-and-center on the homepage of the website. 

But the mission may not only be self-serving or deeply rooted in legacy. And it may not be translating internally to team members and externally into the communities they serve. This is a gap we often see through our research at the Digital Growth Institute. 

To combat this problem, Jon suggests hiring an internal anthropologist. “The primary focus of this position is to provide an objective sense of how your institution is actually measuring up to your mission.”

Does what we say translate to what we do? Does what we believe translate to what we communicate? And is that held up by how we deliver on the promise? 

Step #2: Evolve Beyond a Legacy Mindset.

One of the explanations Jon gives as to why there is push-back or why there is hesitation to break from the legacy mindset is because it’s been successful thus far. 

Cautious

“There is wisdom in being cautious,” Jon shares, “but too much caution can be paralyzing.” MX acknowledges and empathizes with their clients the desire to feel safe and secure, so in addition to just providing the technology, they provide guidance in helping them grow beyond the legacy mindset. 

Just like money is confusing and complex, so is technology and data. 

Having the guidance accompany the tools, reduces the fear of the unknown, and it reduces the fear of change.

Step #3: Invest in Technology 

Thousands of marketing technologies flood the marketplace and are available to a brand. But how do we know which platforms to hone in and focus on?

While your financial institute may not have much flexibility when it comes to rates, there are things financial brands can control. And that's the digital experience along with the human experience. 

A study conducted by MX found that 80% of customers are getting on their mobile banking app at least weekly. There's no other banking channel that is close to that type of engagement. 

Jon points out the importance of not getting locked in a digital experience that isn't able to evolve with you. “We don't get our clients stuck in contracts where when a new operating system comes out or a new device comes out, they can't move forward.”

The Future of Work  

Based on Jon’s research in the Future of Work, only 3% of bank executives were planning to significantly increase their investment in re-skilling their teams in the next three years.

That's a problem.

 

While there is quite a bit of disagreement on the effect AI will have on bank tellers, loan officers, etc., there is one thing that we can be certain of. Things are going to change. 

“The jobs are not going to look the same 10 years from now, five years from now, 20 years from now. And so this re-skilling really is essential. And it can be difficult, again, to know exactly how to go about doing the re-skilling.”

We’ve shared the importance of financial brands acting as a guide or a coach to empower customers to become financially strong. But this can’t happen unless the bank employees themselves have been educated and developed financial wellness and strength to be able to confidently articulate from the frontline. 

Moving Forward with Courage and Confidence 

When asked what the most important thing a financial brand can focus on moving forward is, Jon echoes the same sentiment we’ve heard from Brett King, and that’s to ensure that a customer can do anything from a digital channel, particularly mobile, that they can do in the branch. Can you offer an experience that's seamless, and in some ways is even preferable to going into the branch? 

We’ve heard it time and again. We are never going back to the way things were before. Our jobs, our behaviors, the way we shop, and the way we bank will never go back to the way they were prior to COVID-19. Adapt or fail. Transform or decay. Because once these new behaviors and habits are embedded, it’s going to be the new normal.