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New World Banking | Winners

Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple (GAFA), have changed the way we live, how we share, how we shop and how we manage just about everything. These organizations have succeeded because they understand what we need and provide it instantly in a convenient and astoundingly simple way. They manage complexity for us and present it in a way that helps us get the best deal, communicate with friends all over the world, share experiences and focus on what matters to us. I believe it is true to say that from a customer experience perspective, they are setting the benchmark (good or bad), and if your experience is not as simple as theirs, then you have a problem.

Whereas we used to talk about what and how to transform your business to ‘be digital’, it is my strong belief that if your business is not already on the transformation journey, you are in trouble. Internal systems and processes should be being reconfigured, teams should be more agile, multi-disciplinary, you should be focussed on your identity, and on delivering un-compromised, convenient services to customers.

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I am very pleased to see that in the Middle East, companies are leading the way in this revolution… be it in the adoption of new and innovative formats or refreshing customer experiences, the hunger for ‘the new’ is driving organisations to re-think who they are and how they can serve their customer better.

Banks have listened to research which indicates that 80% of banking customers in the Middle East will be prepared to consider shifting a part of their wealth to a bank that offers a compelling digital only proposition and organizations like EmiratesNBD, who have launched the excellent Liv (, which if reports are to be believed (and there is no reason to doubt them), saw a slow start, but is now growing exponentially. As a digital-only bank, Liv and the team at EmiratesNBD have built a customer friendly eco-system around their banking offer that is focussed on lifestyle, experiences and convenience. The interface is excellent and the service works beautifully. EmiratesNBD has been clever in their approach. By creating a new brand and service that sits alongside their ‘traditional bank’, they have created a service that not only enables them to focus on, and win new customers, but empowers the bank's knowledge of customer behaviour which can feed into the parent group enabling that to improve too. As I have said many times, understanding behaviour and configuring your business to deliver against customer behaviour is the not-so-secret, secret of succeeding in the modern economy. It is purely speculation, but my hunch is that this excellent digital-only bank is not only attracting young customers but is also attracting older customers… why, because, like GAFA, it works, and works brilliantly.

It is no longer enough to digitise your bank branch and think that you are now a digital bank. Banks that are able to provide anywhere, anytime banking are the ones that will win… and there are examples all around us of organisations who are capitalizing on this ethos for example, in China, Alibaba’s Yu’E Bao is the largest money market fund in the world with the majority of its 300m users under the age of 30, in South Korea, Kakao Bank has seen incredible growth by offering customers what they want, when they want it, through an experience they trust and are familiar with.

This does not mean that the physical bank branch experience is dead. As I have said many, many times, people like people, people like to know there is a physical branch they can visit if they have a problem or need to seek advice. However, in the race to reinvent the branch, to make it a destination, I am seeing some banks struggling creating experiences that really resonate with customers. Dare I say it, some banks are trying too hard to be different and in doing so are confusing customers - with some visitors to a bank in the UK saying ‘it looks great, but I didn’t know what it was’.

With strict regulatory requirements being placed on banks that require them to have a physical presence, set against the need to cut costs, banks really have to concentrate in creating physical experiences that complement their digital offer and vice-versa. This means not just focussing on customer-facing experiences, but also focussing on back-office processes. Convenience is key, location is key and an unwavering focus on who you are, understanding customers, what they want, where and why will help… just like when the banks took the journey towards digital re-invention, they have to rip up their thinking on branches and take a holistic look at their whole distribution model and think eco-system… remembering that if their experiences are not as good as GAFA, customers just won’t get it.

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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