10 Test Pilots of Banking

By Kate Young

Was that a bird or a plane that just sped by? Or was it a bank? This is an exciting time to be in banking, and if you pay attention, you’ll see banks taking bold new leaps. Some are practical, some inspiring, and some are—frankly—maybe a little weird. The important thing is that banks are trying new things to engage consumers and better serve their communities. And they’re taking these steps without always knowing exactly where they might lead, committing instead to a test-and-learn approach.

Will we live to see the day that banks can fly? Hard to say. But here at ABA, we’ve kept our eyes to the horizon, and here are some of the forward-thinking moves we’ve seen:

  1. Scotiabank’s Digital Factory. This Toronto-based center for design, analytics, and engineering is dedicated to creating frictionless banking specifically for Scotiabank customers. How? By replacing the traditional risk-averse culture of banking with an agile program that embraces change, flexibility, and continuous learning. Oh, Canada.
  2. Bank of America’s branches without employees. Don’t act so surprised. We’ve been hearing for years that this would happen, and now it’s happening. These three new branches are tiny, fully automated, and provide video conference access to employees at other branches. Bank customers, meet George Jetson.
  3. Capital One 360’s cafes. The average consumer probably loves going to Starbucks almost as much as they hate running to the bank. And the average online bank needs to think about ways to interact personally with customers. Enter Capital One’s online cousin, Capital One 360 and its 10 coffee bars. Instead of tellers, these outlets offer “digital lifestyle coaches” to help customers with online banking systems, while maintaining the look, feel, and smell of a coffee bar. Who wouldn’t want a large, double-shot, no-foam checking account?
  4. Ally’s new car smell exhibit. What’s most delightful scent you can think of? The first daffodils of spring? The velvety head of a freshly-bathed infant? Vanilla on your true love’s breath? Nonsense. We all know nothing smells as good as the interior of a brand new car. That’s why the marketing gurus at Ally created not one, but an entire collection of new car scents to showcase at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Sound crazy? Well…what would you do to lure car aficionados away from the cars and toward your finance booth?
  5. TD’s Green Room Campaign. Here’s a novel idea: financial services advertising that doesn’t play on your fears and insecurities—but instead, makes you feel like everything’s going to be okay. These new commercials for TD Bank’s investment arm, TD Ameritrade, portray a funny, relatable advisor talking money with ordinary people at various stages of their financial journeys. And somehow it’s as comfortable as the green velvet couch they’re sitting on.
  6. Green Dot Bank’s Uber Checking by GoBank. The word “Uber” has become a cliché, in that every innovator in the world now aspires to be “the Uber” of their field of endeavor—whatever that might be. Now Green Dot Bank has created the Uber of business accounts. Literally. This new product is specially designed for Uber drivers, and brings together technology, banking, and payments to give drivers instant access to their money—as they earn it, fare by fare. One of ten finalists for the 2017 FinXTech Awards, this sets a new bar for on-demand banking.
  7. IDFC Bank’s Micro ATMs. Problem: Massive populations of consumers in remote areas of rural India lacked access to basic banking services. Solution: India’s IDFC Bank developed a network of “micro ATMs,” which combine tablet, biometric reader, printer, and ATM functions. These cutting-edge machines enable paperless account opening, service requests, government welfare transactions, and utility payments, as well as cash in and cash out. Another 2017 FinXTech Award finalist, this promises to be a life-changer for the unbanked.
  8. OneUnited Bank’s #BankBlack financial literacy videos. The country’s largest black-owned bank has launched this educational series as a part of its larger efforts to leverage the collective economic power of the African American community. Regardless of your core demographic, pay attention to this. Every bank has something to learn from this effort to rally an entire community around the cause of its own financial betterment.
  9. Wells Fargo’s Daily Challenge app. You’ve heard about the gamification of financial services. Here it is in action. This new app allows customers to set their own savings goals, and then invites them to accept specific challenges—like maybe brown-bagging their lunch for a week. Push notifications remind users to transfer any money saved into their savings accounts, provide progress reports, and congratulate successes.
  10. USAA’s Austin Design Studio. Financial services can be complicated and frustrating for the consumer—especially in an online setting, without an expert to help navigate. That’s where impeccable design comes in. Complex transactions can be made simple, intuitive, and even enjoyable. With this new investment, USAA is creating a mechanism for continuously improving the customer experience—and changing the face of banking.

Kate Young is the content editor of ABABankMarketing.com. Email: kyoung@aba.com.

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