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For the last five years, banks have been battling with their ‘legacy’ technologies and fighting to keep pace with the needs of modern consumers. In many cases, it is true that they have been doing what they can to keep pace with the likes of Apple, Uber, Netflix, Amazon etc… who set the benchmark for customer experience excellence, not only in front end, customer-facing experiences, but also in the way their back-end technologies inform their decision making and insight, driving better and better experiences as a result.

It is normal with any dramatic change in distribution, for organisations to race toward the ‘new’, perhaps forgetting that human behaviour should be the starting point for any customer experience… in doing so, mistakes have been made. I am reminded of gesture-controlled banking in branches, phalanxes of iPads, huge touch screens and other expensive wastes of money that have been deployed in bank branches recently.

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As banks have struggled to redefine their purpose in a consumer-driven, young, convenience-driven, loyalty free world, where everyone is bombarded with messages, offers, and digital noise, where customers are not motivated by what they are told to do, but by what they discover or what is recommended, we have seen some banks get it right…. And how have they done this? Well, it would be a gross oversimplification to suggest they did it through design… but perhaps not so to suggest they have achieved this through a philosophy. By creating smart, intelligent and adaptive experiences that customers want, and continuing to evolve those experiences through informed decision making, speaking personally, to customers individual tastes as they evolve and change, smart banks have created brilliant solutions and begun to redefine what the term ‘bank’ means in the minds of customers - especially young customers.

Those of you who read my blog will know that I am a big fan of EmiratesNBD’s Liv digital bank, a brilliant solution which is seeing a massive uptake in the Middle East, especially amongst young customers and women. In Europe, Pekao Bank is leading the way with another brilliant digital banking offer, recently recognized by Accenture. In Latin America, Banco Original are doing wonderful work to create an experience that is engaging and useful.

With so much exciting work going on in the digital space, I am left wondering what role the physical environment has in the future of banking… One thing is for sure, it will not be the stuffy, dental surgery type of experience we were used to until recently.

There is a widely held belief that digital banking is brilliant, but it is supercharged when combined with some form of physical experience, and it is in this area where I am anticipating some activity from banks in the coming years. Frankly, most bank ‘branches’ I see are so boring. The challenge faced to improve these is not inconsiderable and many attempts up until now have failed. Banks are not places customers go for a cup of coffee, yet they expect a cup of coffee… Banks are not places people go to use iPads, but they expect to be able to use the internet… generally, banks are places people ‘have’ to go, not places they want to go… Again, as leading banks have set about, and resolved the digital challenges, they will need to apply themselves to solving the relationship between the physical channels and the digital channels. Banks, why not set yourselves the challenge… how do I get my customers to bring their friends to my branch?

A friend of mine who works for Accenture coined the phrase ‘Phygital’ and although it is an awkward word, the term describes the future of retail banking… the need for physical and digital channels to work together. Yet somehow banks are not achieving this balance digital has delivered adaptability, personalisation, convenience and simplicity… for banks to create meaningful physical environments, they need to apply the same philosophy as was previously so successful in the digital world to the physical spaces they create. How do you make spaces that are whatever people want them to be, that are convenient, smart and adaptive, that facilitate interactions, seed growth, support communities and deliver business results - and most importantly have a meaningful purpose? Perhaps this does not mean a 'branch' in the traditional sense (or even the modern sense), at all? Perhaps the term ‘Phygital’ means that the bank's physical experience is just part of an eco-system of physical experiences that come together under the facilitation of a ‘new world bank’?

Whatever the solution, and it will be different from bank to bank. There are exciting times ahead, where everything we know in the physical world will be turned on its head and redefined, in the same way, it has with digital - and when all these channels work together - that is when amazing will really happen.

P.S. Forget about talking to segments… that term is so old-school speak to individuals all the time - not segments.

About the Author

Nicholas Griffin is Managing Director at Principle Global ( Information on how to contact Nick is in the footer of this web site.

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