The world of banking is changing, bank branches are no longer the stuffy formal places they used to be. We as customers are demanding new and innovative ways in which to connect with our service providers - the people who manage our finances for us.
In many ways, the larger banks are struggling with this notion. They have large branch networks that are, on the whole, loosing money. Out of town bank branches are empty, whilst mall branches are overcrowded. In developed and developing countries, we are seeing a trend towards mobile banking and e-money, taking the place of traditional banking services as banks reach out to the ‘un-banked’. Mobile network providers are using technology embedded into handsets to help us - time poor customers - find convenience in the way we interact with our Bank.
Banks are struggling to make the transition from bricks and mortar to technology - to make a seamless experience between the online and the physical environment.
We are not saying that the branch is dead, we are saying that the branch has to change. Customers have to be at the centre of this change, and Banks have to jump out of the category, begin to think with a service oriented head if they are going to survive in a changing world.
What does this mean for brand? In the UAE alone, there are 56 banks all competing for the same customers. It is fair to say that some offer a different kind of product or service. ADIB for example, have recently re-evaluated their brand and branch network and have focussed on customer experience in bank branches this is a forward thinking maneuver.
We have seen other banks re-visit their brand offering and, if one is to follow the proper business practice when approaching a re-brand, one would imagine that the brand element has been executed in partnership with a new or evolved business strategy.
What are the drivers behind a new business strategy?
a changing demographic
the introduction of new technologies
a desire to move towards a regional or global business
to be first?
to attract new customers?
to connect better with existing customers?
to increase profits?
All of the above apply to banks in the region, with varying degrees of relevance.
As we see convergence, so we will see a simplification in brand messaging - where a brand is no longer purely about the name, but it is about the experience. Where banks look to create an experience that is personal, meaningful and relevant to each and every customer and goes beyond pure banking. By shortening names to an acronym, in many cases, loosing the word 'Bank' from the organisations name, the Banks are setting themselves up, through brand to become more than just banks. Brands like ADIB could for instance now be considered better placed to offer an holistic Banking experience now they have dropped the word 'Bank' from their name.
What does this mean for you and I? I see Banking experiences converging with shopping experiences in one digital platform. I see banking experiences converging with lifestyle choices - where you by clothes, where you shop online, where you buy a home for example - in one digital and physical experience I see a plethora of opportunities for banks to leap out of their poor profit businesses and move to create integrated experiences that push up profits, help the banks to better understand their customers and help customers get a better deal.
Banks already know our spending habits, our most private and personal information - from where we buy, to what we buy - all that needs to happen now is for banks to realise the value of the information they have and use it to create profound and meaningful lifestyle experiences that are personal to us all - individually... and in the Middle East, where organisations are struggling to find accurate data on customer behaviour, the banks are holding all the cards. Remember this the next time you order a pizza... your spending habits are profiling you and smart banks will realise this.