Humanizing FinTech #1: The case for empathy in FinTech and how to bake it in your products

Shamolie Oberoi   /    Content Marketing Specialist    /    2022-10-11

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Off the many remnants COVID has left lingering in our lives - the odd mask lying in our pockets, the half-used bottle of sanitizer, and the half-hearted attempts at social distancing - the biggest possibly is our limited physical contact with service providers that were, and continue to be, a major part of our daily lives.

When was the last time you walked into a brick-and-mortar grocery store to pick up vegetables? And, for the purposes of this piece, when was the last time you went into a bank and interacted with living, breathing people? The answer is, probably a long while ago.

Currently, there’s a significant number of people who have no interest in walking to a bank branch at all - a PwC survey revealed that 32% of participants prefer complete digital banking. This move towards digital banking has been a boon for up–and-coming FinTechs - snazzy apps that offer financial products in just a few taps.

The ease and speed have made fans out of millennials and gen Z segments, and India today has the highest FinTech adoption rate in the world - 87% as opposed to the global average of 64%.

The benefits of FinTechs’ digital-first approach are there for all to see. They’ve made it infinitely simpler for consumers to make bank transfers, pay bills, get loans, invest… you name it.

But there’s also a clear downside - at least for FinTechs - of this approach. The lack of physical touchpoints creates distance from the customer. And when you forget there’s a flesh and blood human on the other side, empathy gets lost in translation.

Why FinTech needs to be more human

It’s an interesting conundrum that characterizes the finance space. Most consumers want a completely digital experience - the hassle of waiting around at a branch is simply too much. But at the same time, this is an industry where trust is paramount. And trust is best built face to face. In fact, the Prime Minister himself recently stated that the FinTech sector needs to work on reliability to uphold the trust of the people.

Despite its popularity, clearly this remains an issue for FinTechs. And while data security,  compliance, and transparency go a long way in building confidence, it must be supplemented by an empathetic, people-first approach.

How can FinTechs be more human?

  • It starts even before you secure your first customer. Weave empathy into your marketing. People are trusting you with money, and you need to show them that you have their best interests at heart. While the technical aspects of your product are important to showcase, craft the problem-solution statement in a way that people can relate to. Stay away from jargon, and bring your brand personality into your messaging - ideally, the right mix of formal and playful. To put it succinctly, move away from being a product provider to being a partner/ ally.

  • Leverage data to be proactive. An Accenture report on banking with empathy says that one of the steps towards achieving empathetic banking is ‘anticipating customer intent at the zero moment of truth.’ It’s simple. Banks - and even FinTechs - have an abundance of customer data at their fingertips. This should be used to anticipate when a customer is in need of a financial product. Here’s a great example - back during the 2020 wildfires, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia proactively reached out to customers who were eligible for government assistance, instead of waiting for them to ask for help. They also raised awareness around benefits and rebates customers may not have known about.

  • Use technology to simulate a human-like experience. Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI and ML) make it possible for FinTechs to hyper-personalize products and experiences to each user’s context. By analyzing data, AI/ML and natural language processing (NLP) can assess a customer’s circumstances in real-time and recommend a course of action. Backed with solutions such as voice recognition, chat bots, speech and text analytics, even the most hyper-digital app can recreate the experience of a face-to-face interaction, without the inconveniences that come with it. Take for example, Puerto Rico-based FinTech Celligence’s ‘Morgan’, a people-powered technology and AI platform for loan origination. The solution leverages customer data to intuitively assist user queries as and when they arise - a more empathetic and function-driven chatbot, you might say.

Conclusion

Empathy isn’t just good for the customer. Several studies have shown the benefits of empathy for business - and the cost they suffer from lacking it. According to Neilsen, successful product launches are a result of “walking in the shows of the consumer to uncover key demand-driven insights.” On the the hand, the empathy deficit in business costs the average brand over USD 300 mn in lost revenue per year.

The lesson? It’s pretty basic - be kind.