Consider your customer database. How important is financial technology and innovation to them? Is it a priority, and more importantly, is your business equipped or prepared to handle your customer’s financial expectations and increasing technological requirements?
Now more than ever, financial technology is a non-negotiable necessity and customers’ expectations of it are increasingly more advanced and far-reaching. I’ve seen this clearly evidenced in various mediums. From our own internal collation of customer-improvement suggestions and recent survey findings, right through to the relentless efforts embarked on by Google and other global heavyweights. Wherever the origination, the message continues to be very strong and clear to both brokers and lenders: customers want and expect improved financial technology, and if their needs are not met, sourcing a competitor who has embraced the inevitable digital future will literally be just a simple touch away.
The evidence for this continues to grow, and ignoring it now not an option. Not merely from a consequence perspective, but also because of the abundance of case studies and statistics being promoted today. Recently, my personal finance company, Fair Go Finance, conducted a survey of 3,148 Australians to understand the dependence, demands and expectations customers have towards financial technology, and the implications from that.
Some key findings from the survey:
• 91 per cent of respondents are already using financial technology for banking and paying bills
• 33 per cent were willing to swap their financial institution if another could offer better digital money and financial technology services
• 7 out of 10 said the best feature of digital money and financial technology is convenience and being able to use it 24/7
• 30 per cent anticipate that by 2017 they will rely entirely on their smartphone for all of their financial needs. This finding particularly gives rise to the importance of technology, and in particular, mobile technology.
Cue Google. At the end of last year, Google began to roll out special ranking features for mobile-friendly sites. By doing so, it sent a loud message to businesses who had not yet bothered to optimise their websites for mobiles. Businesses that take heed and upgrade their website to be mobile-friendly will benefit in their search results and ranking. Clearly, Google’s move represents, and actions on, the paradigm shift of something the industry is already aware of – that our customers’ consumption and interactions are, and will continue to be, significantly mobile. However, being aware of this shift sometimes does not translate to applying business and operational strategies to leverage the shift.
Our survey also highlighted a group who are tentative towards financial technology. The survey indicated that just over 42 per cent were still wary about providing financial details online. A further 25 per cent only used reputable sites and institutions such as banks, government agencies, and major stores. The findings illustrate the importance of credibility and the role of education. Brokers and lenders need to strengthen efforts to ensure people feel safe and confident in using financial technology, and are educated in the security and risks involved.
As customers’ expectations and reliance on financial technology increases, perhaps exponentially, a clear divide will eventuate between businesses that do not respond to that and those that strategically embrace it.
Here are my final three points summarising what I believe brokers and lenders need to focus on for now, or risk falling behind their more adaptive counterparts:
• Accept that technology and social media are key success drivers for financial businesses. You can now reach your customer anywhere, anytime. If you haven’t already, you should look at other digital avenues besides your website, such as social media platforms and blogs.
• Expect and prepare for a future dominated by mobile technology. Ensure your business is thinking mobile for its processes and certainly any web presence.
• Dedicate time to understand financial technology and be an advocate. Many consumers are looking for guidance, so whether you are a broker or lender, keep abreast of the latest product and service offerings to aid education and acceptance.
While it is empowering to know that customers are willing to swap banks for better digital services, respecting that customers will similarly be willing to swap their broker for one that is active and adept with technology and more understanding of their expectations is knowledge that should continue to be a guiding principle.
Paul Walshe is the managing director of Fair Go Finance, providing personal loans to everyday Australians and a dedicated service to brokers.
As a current board member of the National Credit Providers Association, Paul is committed to establishing understanding and acceptance of the micro-lending industry in Australia.
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