Sunday, 28 June 2015

Of lions and fishes!

So the much celebrated advertising festival held at Cannes every year just got over. The company I work for bagged 69 lions this year. Looking at the well crafted ideas I marvelled at the industry I am so proud to be a part of!

But reading some of the reports on scam work, stollen ideas etc I can't help but wonder what makes creative geniuses stoop so low? Global recognition is a powerful motivation I agree, but, what happens after the undeserved lion enters the office? What benchmarks do these 'Gods' set for their juniors? Do their clients respect them? Will their business partners ever think twice before cheating them? who and how will this malice stop? Are we doomed to marvel at every creative work with niggle of doubt regarding its orginality?

Who cares? The. negative reports will die out soon. What will remain are the sparkling lions. The people behind the scams will move on to their next job at astronomically high salaries where they will be encouraged to pull more scam. The work they produce will continue to be aimed at the jury and not the consumers. After all what do poor people who buy detergents, shampoos and everyday household goods know about creativity!

What we will lose out on are the talents who genuinely want to build brands and want to solve their clients' problems. People who will perhaps never have a lion to show. People who will never make it to the cover of popular trade journals. People who will never be celebrated for their ideas at a a global level purely because their ideas did not have the sheen to wow the goras who form the bulk of the jury.  They will lose faith and move on to baking cookies and writing books which no one will perhaps ever read.

Here's hoping that before the next lion is awarded, we clean up our act so that the next fish that is served up does not stink like the one this year.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Now Banks Are Doing It The Way Apple Does It

Tech futurist, Brett King’s interview opened my eyes to the way technology is changing the banking world. He said something rather interesting - with 25000 fintech start ups around the world, in ten years the biggest and the fastest growing ‘banks’ will be technology companies. Amazing! A little reading up on the subject absolutely astonished me about the new trends in the BFSI category. Here are some key trends which I would like to share: 

Game Changing Service Experience  
The new banks are not really banks. They are merely customer interfaces of white labeled FDIC insured banks. Check out Simple and Moven. Two new age banks who have completely revolutionized banking. They are not just transaction oriented digital terminals of brick and mortar banks. Simple and Moven are both revolutionary experience providers. Apple of banks, if I may say so.

Just to give you an example of their level of ‘customer centricity', a much abused word in the financial services sector, Simple’s Safe-to-spend feature tells the user how much she can spend today without hurting tomorrow’s plans. When users want to know their bank balance, the app does a simple math – it subtracts upcoming bill payments, pending transactions and any goals that the user is saving for and then presents a more accurate picture of how much money can be spent today.

Digital transaction slips enable users to attach memos, photos and notes. The user can attach these via the Simple app or website to create a diary which records where they spent, on whom and why.

Peer to Peer Loans
Leveraging peer to peer sharing trends which is extremely popular among netizens, online platforms such as Faircents enable people to take a loan from othe individuals at a lower rate of interest. The lenders get higher rate of interest than they would have got had they kept their money in a bank’s Fixed Deposit account. What more, the interest amount is completely flexible. If you are willing to take a very high risk, you could earn as high as 36% on the money you lend out. The service provider earns a small fee from the transaction for scrutinising the borrower's credentials and ensuring safety for the lender’s money. 

Banks really need to watch out for these platforms. As per Rajat Gandhi's article in ET, despite two rate cuts in 2015, about 70 banks have still not cut their interest rates and passed on the benefits to their customers. While the poor in this country regularly die as they are unable to service their debts, our top ten banks have an average profit margin of 30% and have been growing at over 25% for the last ten years.   

Thinking Like A Designer
Banks such as Fidelity are increasing employing new age methods such as Design Thinking. To develop a new product or even customer interface, banks now think like designers – observe customers in mutidisciplinary teams, develop ideas iteratively and evaluate these ideas using prototyping. Apple captured this spirit in 1997 and the rest is history.

If you visit Fidelity’s My Money website, the simplicity of the user interface, the dejargonised content and their compeling proposition communicated through videos – will blow your mind.

Customer Reviews
Brands such as USAA actively let users rate and review their products online just the way one would review a film or a gadget. I was surprised to read that they are one of the few retail financial institutions which allow people to review their products! No wonder, they have 84.7K twitter followers and 794K fans on Facebook. For the size of its assets and audience, they have a tremendous ratio of fans.

According to a recent CGI report titled 'Understanding Financial Consumers In the Digital Era', people expect a lot more than just digital services from their financial Services brand’s online assets. These expectation will only be met by understanding people’s behaviour outside the limited world of finance.

In face of stiff competition from upstart fintech start ups, established FinServ brands need to take a hard look over their shoulders to keep from going the Nokia or Kodak way. Perhaps, just like the fintech companies, they too need to look at Apple for inspiration.