By Janaka Ediriweera
In 2018, Nicky Morgan MP, the head of the powerful Treasury Committee (in the UK), demanded answers from the chief executives of Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays, as millions of banking customers were locked out of their accounts, unable to access their own money or pay bills on time.
She remarked, “High Street banks justify the closure of their branch networks on the basis that they are providing a seamless online and mobile phone banking service. These justifications carry little weight if their banking apps and websites cannot be relied upon”.
While banks and financial services companies emphasize the importance of providing customers with seamless and reliable online and mobile banking services, many face criticism for focusing heavily on buying or building flashy tech rather than meeting customer needs.
The Problem of Focusing on Tech Over Customer Needs: Industry Examples
Other examples include Goldman Sachs’ digital-first retail banking effort, Marcus, which had to be stalled as it proved unprofitable, where issues included the complexity of the bank’s technology platforms. Meanwhile, Robinhood’s fast-paced, commission-free gamified trading platform for millennials faced severe backlash when a young trader, Alexander E. Kearns, committed suicide after seeing an erroneous $730,000 negative balance on the app.
Repeated failures and issues of this nature can put a company’s reputation, customer trust, and even financial stability at risk. This highlights the need for banks and financial services to go back to the basics when serving through digital channels, drawing on the disciplines of product
management and CX to prioritize and deliver on customer needs (instead of high-tech solutions).
Tech Leaders’ Motivations and Potential Pitfalls
Based on my extensive experience working with the BFSI industry, there are instances when financial services’ tech leaders commission the purchase of cutting-edge tech solutions based on directives from above, because a certain technology is flashy or new, or because they feel
it’s better than what their counterparts have. None of these reasons, however, justify the investment and they often do not bring in results.
It can lead to issues such as project delays, interoperability issues, and scaling concerns, among others.
They can also lead to the types of disasters described earlier, endangering customers, losing money, and risking your organization’s reputation. It serves as a reminder to companies in the financial industry of the mistake of being preoccupied with the technical solution, and the need
to focus on customer needs.
An Insider’s Perspective: Navigating Persistent BFSI Digital Problems
Particularly in the BFSI industry, where the pressure to evolve and innovate is high, tech leaders exhibit a natural inclination to buy or build first and think later. This is risky, as are other habits including not identifying your target customer’s underserved needs; designing the same digital CX for all customer segments; not aligning tech and digital initiatives with overall business strategy; and trying to build everything in one go.
With the vantage point I enjoy, being on the other side of the tech vendor-bank relationship, as Principal Product Consultant at my product management and customer experience design consultancy Beta Launch, I see these issues all too frequently across financial services.
The column ‘Product Management Chronicles’ has been shaped by such first-hand experience, and I felt it fitting to start with a post on the tendency to buy or build flashy tech over focusing on customer needs. In subsequent editions of this column, I’ll explore more such perennial problems and provide answers rooted in product management and CX for them.
Janaka Ediriweera, the writer of this article is Co-Founder and Principal Product Consultant at Beta Launch, a Melbourne and Colombo-based Product Management and Customer Experience consultancy. The writer can be contacted on email@example.com