Banks should be taking cues from how their customers interact with nonbanks, Andy Vitale, head of user experience design at SunTrust said during a panel on designing a dynamic customer experience at Bank Innovation Build in Atlanta on Thursday.
When it comes to customer data, Vitale said, "If Amazon is doing something, and it works, we should at least try it."
Dan Mecher, lead design catalyst at Fifth Third Bank, said it’s good practice to emulate companies that receive high marks for user experience, regardless of industry.
"I think it’s really starting to sink in for our organization and everybody else’s. We're not just competing with the bank across the street anymore," Mecher said. "It's the customer’s last best experience that we're being compared to."
Fifth Third Bank’s customer research questions don’t just aim for feedback on their own products, but actively seek input about a customer’s experience outside the bank, Mecher said.
"We're not just asking, 'How do we make a better banking experience?’ We're asking them, 'What are your favorite apps to use? What is the best product and worst product experience that you've ever had?" he said. "We’re trying to get an understanding of what we really are up against."
As nonbanks expand their offerings to include services similar to traditional bank products, financial institutions are encountering competition from companies outside the banking sphere.
Shawn Rose, Scotiabank’s executive vice president and chief digital officer of digital banking shared a story about how his 11-year-old son recently "entered the banking system" after depositing his change into a Coinstar machine, which enabled him to convert the cash to an Amazon card.
"Facebook, despite their recent challenges, Apple, Amazon and Google already provide bank-adjacent activities," he said. "I would say if we compare ourselves to any group, it would be that one. We learn pretty significantly from the fintech industry, but those four in particular, they’re already there."
But how far can a bank emulate a company like Amazon before customers are "creeped out to the point they no longer want to associate with the brand?" Suman Bhattacharyya, deputy editor of Bank Innovation and the panel’s moderator, asked.
Vitale said he doesn't think that’s the case.
"People aren't that freaked out by Amazon. So how much of that can we leverage?" he said.
However, Vitale did express reservations about banks following in the footsteps of social media giant Facebook, whose handling of customer data has faced major scrutiny recently.
"There are a lot of things that they’re doing that you don’t want to copy," he said.
Rose agreed, and shared a story about Scotiabank’s former partnership with Facebook’s Messenger app, a venture it ended after encountering what the bank considered to be questionable terms and conditions.
"In fall [of] 2017, we built a chatbot function between our bank and Messenger, and it was primarily a very small beta community, mostly Scotiabankers, less than 20,000 participants," he said. "What we got weirded out by, were the terms and conditions and how flexible they were through the Facebook environment. But they always said one thing. And that's that they owned everything."
Rose said he feels the bank "dodged a major bullet" when it bailed on the project just two weeks before Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal came to light.
While the bank believes it made the right move for the purpose of protecting customer data, Rose said banks can be put in tricky situations when customers expect services similar to what they can get elsewhere.
"Our customers want us to engage them in platforms that deliver the most experiences during their day, and Facebook is one of them," he said. "We get hundreds of requests to add the feature back in."