Why Most Banks Should Not (Yet) Roll Out Bots

Peter Wannemacher

Companies of all stripes are getting bot happy, rolling out bots for third-party platforms like Facebook Messenger, Kik, WeChat, Slack, and more. Firms like Yahoo, H&M, KLM Airlines, and others use these chat bots — software built to simulate human conversation and to help consumers complete tasks — in an effort to better win, serve, and retain customers.

A few banking providers are beginning to dip their bank-shaped toes into the bot space: Capital One allows customers to take actions like paying bills via Alexa on Echo devices; Bank of America has announced plans to roll out a bot on Facebook Messenger; and numerous Chinese providers offer banking services via WeChat.

But while a few banks are in a position to experiment, digital business executives at most banks must decide whether to use precious resources to build or buy a chat bot offering. Forrester’s brand-new research report argues that most of these executives should hold off on launching chat bots for messaging platforms. This is because:

  • Today’s bots often lead to uneven — or worse — experiences for customers. In our research, we found many instances where a chat bot offered a quick and effective answer to a consumer’s question; however, about one-third of the time, existing chat bots either failed to complete the consumer’s request or provided a clunky, awkward experience.
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Bank of America Redesigns Email Alerts

Peter Wannemacher

Few things are as unsexy as emails from a financial services company. But email alerts play an important role in the world of digital banking: Forrester’s new research report shows that alerts drive mobile banking usage and engagement.

Too few digital banking teams allocate significant resources to their alerts efforts — as evidenced by the mixed results in the Alerts category of Forrester’s Digital Banking Benchmark scores. But some banks have recently sought to improve their email, SMS, and in-app alerts (also called “push notifications”).

Bank of America has now launched the latest updates to its alerts. Just a couple of years ago, the bank’s email alerts were text-heavy, unwieldy, crowded messages with little clear guidance for customers. But through multiple iterations, Bank of America redesigned its alerts to be clean and simple with a clear call to action based on the purpose of the alert (see images below).

Forrester spoke with  Alex Wittkowski, VP and senior product manager of mobile banking and commerce at Bank of America, who discussed how the bank redesigned its email alerts “to focus on just those few crucial elements” at the heart of an alert’s value to the customer. According to Wittkowski, the redesigned alerts are now:

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The Wounded Unicorns Of Fintech

Oliwia Berdak

Finovate, KPMG, and CB Insights are all reporting on record investments in financial technology (fintech) in 2016.[i] According to Finovate, the total number of deals year-to-date stands at 737, double last year’s 371. The amount invested has more than doubled, too — from $8.4 billion raised during the same period a year ago to $17.4 billion year-to-date.

There seems to be a lot of optimism in fintech, especially when you consider this chart:

Source: Yahoo Finance.

The share prices of fintech darlings in peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, small-business lending, and mobile payments have collapsed post-IPO. And devaluations aren’t affecting only publicly owned companies. Zenefits — which offers cloud-based software to manage payroll, health insurance, and other benefits — was valued at $4.5 billion in May 2015. Since then, Fidelity, which led the funding round, has written down the value of its investment, now estimating Zenefits' share price at $5.60 — down from $14.90 a year earlier.[ii]

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Counting Down To Forrester's Next-Generation Financial Services Summit Sydney

Zhi-Ying Ng

Despite being geographically far away from the rest of the world, Australia's financial services sector has found its place on the world stage. Australian banks are some of the most innovative in the world. As our 2016 Global Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark has shown, some Australian banks have overtaken their global counterparts, with Westpac taking the coveted top spot.

The question that I often get asked from Australian digital banking teams is, "so what's next in financial services?"

And I think that's a great question. As uncertain economic conditions, wavering markets, and tight budgets continue to increase the pressure on Australian digital teams to deliver better experiences and increased sales through digital touchpoints, we believe that digital business executives have to drive digital transformation. And this means far more than simply developing a "digital strategy". 

Digital banking executives must make mobile the hub of customer interactions, and not treat mobile as if it were just another channel. They should develop mobile banking as a platform to engage customers. To continue to win and retain mindshare and increase wallet share, the next step digital banking teams must focus on are ways to create new sources of value for their customers, not just meeting their basic needs.

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Join me in Sydney for a Dose of Product & Service Design Thinking in Financial Services, August 4th

Ryan Hart

I started my corporate career in financial services – working for several large, global high street banks in Asia. During my time “in the trenches” of wholesale and mass affluent consumer banking, I watched a number of ambitious and well-intended new product and service ideas rise through the ranks of budget approvals and stakeholder support only to make it to market and then die a slow death on the vine when customer adoption or planned value failed to meet expectations.

Notwithstanding, the ideas were good – many smart people worked on these projects. However, equipped with the clarity of time, I reflect back on some of those projects today and see a common thread between them. Fundamentally, those shipwrecks all shared one thing in common – they were never properly vetted with the customer before they were commercialized.

Today, while financial institutions are getting smarter at collecting quantitative data around channel experiences; the qualitative validation piece, the ethnographic research piece, the co-creation with customers piece is still missing in most organizations. In some cases, it’s only happening at the bleeding edge. While agile methodologies and minimum viable product-quick-to-market thinking has closed the gap on aligning with customer needs and expectations, the industry as a whole would benefit from an injection of human centered product and service design thinking to move the industry’s CX from good to great.

Join us for our inaugural invitation-only Next-Generation Financial Services summit in Sydney on Thursday, August 4 where I will delve into the topic of design thinking for financial services with my presentation, Fix your Products and Services with a Dose of Design Thinking.

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The Downside Of Digital Labs For Financial Innovation

Diego Lo Giudice

The race to digital is heating up in financial services (FS) organizations; increasingly, the engine making this happen is Agile. Why? Quite simply, it is software that makes any financial business truly digital. Organizations are therefore in a rush to become great at rapidly innovating, developing, and delivering new software products to win new clients and retain and serve existing ones.

Oliwia Berdak and I have just published twin reports — one for eBusiness and channel strategy professionals, and one for AD&D leaders — that share our findings on how FS organizations are trying to ramp up their digital innovation capabilities rapidly by leveraging Agile and other innovative models. 

Our key finding comes in response to a question: Are you building a digital lab that contains great developers but is isolated from key business leaders and other technology management teams? If the answer is yes, don’t! If separate digital units pursue disruptive opportunities, they will often end up with just front-end apps or proofs of concept that are impossible to integrate and scale with same speed they were developed.

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Splitwise Is A Fintech Disruptor That Shows The Potential Of Shared Finances

Peter Wannemacher

Note: If you’re a Forrester client, you can jump straight to the full report here.

Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to spend 10 days in Italy on a vacation with my wife and some friends. As we walked the Path of the Gods, made our own Neapolitan pizze, and enjoyed the gorgeous views of the Amalfi coast, different people in our group would pay for a limoncello here or a glass of aglianico there. As such, our financial activity was a mix of different individuals spending various amounts for a range of stuff. But our group was often too busy having fun to carefully track who paid how much for what and when.

Enter Splitwise* a non-bank mobile app that lets groups of people easily track their spending and settle their short-term debts to each other (see screenshots below). We used it throughout our trip, and it was a breeze.

But why didn’t a bank build this kind of convenient digital offering first? Or why don't more financial providers integrate with Splitwise and other disruptors to build ecosystems of values for their customers? Many bank executives and digital banking teams say their goal is to help customers better manage their finances (and increase retention and engagement by doing so). But too few financial institutions have focused on what Forrester calls the shared finances opportunity. Forrester defines shared finances as:

Any situation in which a person acts as an observer of, partner in, or proxy for another person's finances.

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Banks: Your Customers’ Cross-Channel Experiences Are Shoddy (Or Worse)

Peter Wannemacher

Note: If you’re a Forrester client, you can jump straight to the full report here.

The other day, I stopped by my bank’s ATM to get some cash. After entering my card and PIN and while waiting for my money (during which I was a captive audience), I was presented with an ad for a new service from the bank. Unfortunately, the ad’s call-to-action was a message telling me to call the bank’s 1-800 number to find out more.

I had just encountered one of the broken or inadequate cross-channel experiences that millions of customers face every year.

This is a lose-lose situation: In this case, the bank knew — or should have known — a heck of a lot about me as a customer, yet it failed to use context* to design a better experience and guide me seamlessly across touchpoints. And as a result, the bank also failed to cross-sell me any products or services.

Forrester defines cross-channel behavior as any instance in which a customer or prospect moves from one touchpoint to another when completing an objective. Today, cross-channel goes way beyond online-to-offline transitions; going forward, these interactions will only increase in frequency and importance. Digital executives at banks are left with a tangle of customer journeys across various touchpoints (see image below).

In our new report, Design Better Cross-Channel Banking Journeys, we show that:

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Where Will Disruption Happen Next In Financial Services?

Zhi-Ying Ng

Digital disruption has hit retail financial services in Asia Pacific (AP). In 2014, fintech investments in AP totaled US$880 million and skyrocketed to a staggering US$4.5 billion last year. Just as payments innovation has been a darling of venture capital investors in the US, the picture is not so different in AP as payments took the largest share of fintech investment deals at 40%. This is followed by lending at 25%. However, the next frontier of disruption doesn't lie in payments and lending. FF16, AP's first fintech competition, featured an array of fintech finalists offering a wide array of capabilities that signal what is to come in digital disruption in financial services.

We observe that the next frontier of digital disruption for the financial services sector will take place in investment, security and authentication as:

  • Data access, predictive analytics, and machine learning drive investment innovation. Exploding volumes of data are driving new, disruptive products and services in retail financial services. While predictive analytics isn't new, it has now entered the mass market, becoming more ubiquitous to retial investors. Smaller, nimbler players such as 8 Securities are now using algorithms to help customers derive insights from data, making predictive analytics more affordable and accessible. There are also B2B fintech companies such as BondIT and ShereIT that help financial advisors and brokers maximize their clients' portfolios. 
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Digital Wallets Are Poised For Growth – But Adoption Will Be Slower Than You Think

Jacob Morgan

Digital wallets appear to be so compelling – simplifying life for the customer (check), always present (check), location marketing (check), loyalty and rewards (check), multiple payment types (check), digital delivery (check) adoption…hmmm, not so good.

So why are consumers not flocking to the promised land of Apple Pay, Android Pay and other digital wallets?

Well they are...sort of. You have to look to China to see the promise of a wallet fulfilled, where Alipay has left its humble payment origins behind and now moved into smart cities. It lines up alongside the lifestyle platform WeChat; as well as shopping, paying bills and taxes with WeChat Pay, you can also schedule hospital appointments, order a taxi, apply for a visa or file your taxes. The numbers are staggering: according to this article by The Drum, 420 million people used WeChat to send 8.08 billion “red envelope” digital payments over Chinese New Year alone, almost double the transactions that PayPal had during the whole of 2015. But China is a special case – born straight in to a digital world, wallets arrived without legacy, without competition. Head back to the West and you start to understand some of the challenges – highly competitive markets, fragmented providers, disintermediation fears from banks and card issuers, trust issues from consumers – it’s just not China.

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