What Consumers REALLY Want From Their Financial Services Provider

Brad_strothkamp [Posted by Brad Strothkamp}

American Banker published an article last week that Mint.com and Wesabe were adding "unwanted fee finders" as a part of their services.  About a week later, I received the following notice from Mint related to my Wells Fargo account (BTW - it is a bill payment fee)

Mint

I always have to laugh when I see new services like this. I laugh not so much because it is a bad idea (quite the contrary in fact), but more because so many services and sites we see that are popular and useful are born out of a consumer need or desires that companies fail to see or more likely don't want to address.  What firms fail to recognize is that their unwillingness to recognize and meet a need doesn't make it go away - often they become companies onto themselves.

Here are some of my favorite ideas that come directly out of customer needs:

  • Bankrate.com, Creditcards.com - For year's Forrester has surveyed consumers on how they research financial products. Always topping the list is the obvious "product information", but the second and third items usually have to do with information to compare products and providers. Yet only a handful of times over the years, have I seen any recognition of this clear customer goal on financial firm Web site - Progressive Insurance is one. Today, firms like Bankrate.com and Creditcards.com are filling that need by allowing consumers to compare products and providers. The result is commoditization of financial firms - precisely what firms have tried to avoid all along.
  • Mint.com/Wesabe - Figuring out and delivering smart and well integrated financial management tools has been a struggle of many a financial services sites. The 90s were filled with failed experiments around aggregation and eWallets.  Yet getting a better sense of "how am i doing" is a goal for many financial services consumers - especially today. The result is Mint.com and Wesabe who have taken the financial information financial firms have held so dear and actually made it useful to consumers to track and improve their spending habits.
  • Esurance/Geico - Auto insurance was (and to a large degree still is) sold by your local broker or agent. Many traditional insurance firms turned a blind eye towards the Web - assuming it was just a fad (I guess). Just like discount brokers a decade before, Esurance and Geico recognized the cost benefit and potential reach of the Web channel. But they did not just offer products via they Web, they instead understood the Web's ability to deliver product faster and more conveniently than traditional channels. This goal is perfectly aligned with consumer's goals, who use the Web more for convenience today in financial services than trying to save money. The result are products and more importantly processes that are the envy of the industry.
  • eBay/paypal - Ten years ago, there were dozens of attempts to crack the ePayments market.  Anybody remember C2IT from Citi or Flooz? These services missed one important element, they tried to create a need where there wasn't any. Paypal on the other hand recognized the need of payments as a part of the auction process. They recognized that there was a clear benefit for integrating payments with auctions.  The result was an enhanced the auction buying experience both for the buyers and sellers.

Are there any other stories out there like this?  If so, please share.