A while back, one of my articles touched on the emergence of fintech as a global hype uniting the financial sector by virtue of a compelling global vision for change. This dovetails with institutions increasingly focusing on enhancing their customer experience and driving transformation from the inside out.
Both fintech startups and their corporate counterparts are investing a great deal of their time in understanding just how an optimal customer experience looks like in respect of their offering. This is arguably easier for entrepreneurs than for large company intrapreneurs, as fintechs tend to squarely focus on just one type of financial services.
Such narrow specialisation minimises complexity on the regulatory side, and maximises opportunity for reimagining the customer experience for that particular proposition.
Unlike banks or insurers, a startup can concentrate their entire energy on a single product, which makes it much easier to develop a consistently excellent customer experience. Acorns in the US (and Smartly in Singapore) take that philosophy to another level and make investing a full service, hands-off experience.
This is the quintessence of what Clay Christensen calls ‘disruption’ – transformation of markets by introducing a dramatically simpler (and perhaps less sophisticated) value proposition that does a better job of addressing the core customer need.
Fintech is starting to get seriously good at this. TransferWise users may not have branches to go to, or access to a banker advising on the best rates for wire transfers. Instead, they have a simple online user interface at their helms that just gets the job done – sending money to someone else around the globe.
Unsurprisingly, the substantial difference between incumbent institutions and their nimble fintech counterparts extends beyond how they interact with customers. It is as visible, if not more apparent, in the way these companies are structured internally.
We need not look far to understand that the radically simplified experience many fintech startups provide is mirrored by an equally lean operational setup. The absence of legacy systems or processes allows for ongoing iteration in terms of how value is delivered to customers.
Likewise, absence of bureaucracy and decade-long operating expertise gives startups less to fear, more to challenge and a fresh perspective on the industry – which so often makes for genuine experiential breakthroughs. Needless to say, all of this shapes the contrasting organisational cultures of fintech startups versus big financial brands.
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While there certainly is potential for friction, the really interesting opportunity exists in the natural complementarity of new and established financial players. Instead of trying to replicate each other, corporates and startups are perhaps better off leaving to one another what each does best, and finding more natural points of interaction than say accelerators or corporate M&A can provide today.
What is worthwhile noting is that companies’ customer experience, especially in the financial domain, is often an accurate reflection of their inner identity. Keeping this in mind teaches us that being more customer centric starts with the way a company internally does business every day, and that outstanding customer experience is rooted in more than a dash of human centred design thinking on the outside.
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