The Importance Of Humans In Fintech

Fintech startups are revolutionizing old industries with new technology. But the most successful brands in this category are and will continue to be those that recognize the importance of human-powered service. These brands will win customer trust for the long run by supplementing and enriching their tech solutions with knowledgeable human employees.

Let’s examine why humans are so important to the success of fintech, and I’ll offer tips for fintech brands hoping to succeed over the long haul.


Money is personal.

We’ve all heard personal finance experts insist that money is a tool. But for most people, money is also deeply emotional. Our perceptions of and attitudes about money are affected by our upbringing, society, personal experiences and moment in history. 

Then there’s the reality that the things money allows us to do are often deeply emotional: Buying a home, for example, is commonly referred to as the “American Dream.” 

When it comes to these highly emotional transactions, most Americans don’t want to rely on technology alone: While 72% of people prefer a digital mortgage application, for example, 65% also want a human around to answer their questions.

This isn’t a phenomenon isolated to generations that grew up before the iPhone, either. A recent study of Gen Z (those born after millennials) found that 79% expect to want to conduct the homebuying process face to face when they’re ready for that milestone.

The takeaway for fintech startups: Know the benefits and limits of technology. Because of the emotional nature of the kinds of transactions we enable in fintech, it’s crucial to support experience-enhancing technology with experienced human support.


Relationships — and trust — matter.

Fintech gets a lot of attention for the way it’s changing established industries, but its wallet share remains relatively small in many areas, in part because it hasn’t fully cracked the nut of customer trust.

Consider, for example the findings of a 2018 Fannie Mae survey: While just 4% of people trust payment services providers most with their money and only 3% trust big tech companies, 69% trust banks. This is remarkable, in part because only 28% of millennials agree that they can trust banks to be fair and honest. 

How can we interpret these apparently contradictory numbers? While Americans may distrust individual banks and bankers, they seem to have faith that the banking system as a whole is strong and will adequately protect their money.

The takeaway for fintechs is that while delivering the best solution does matter, it’s important not to underestimate the importance of earning and keeping customer trust. This might mean finding a balance between setting ambitious, aggressive, growth-focused goals and aiming to maintain the basics like stability and consistency.

Robinhood floundered only this last year when it announced a high-interest checking account, only to have to rescind the offer a few days later when it became apparent that the company lacked the necessary regulatory backing to make that offering viable.


Experience matters.

We’re living in the age of customer experience. Three-quarters of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations, and three-quarters of banks rank customer experience as a higher strategic priority than sales origination, cost cutting and compliance.

But when it comes to fintech, there’s more to creating a great customer experience than developing the best tech. This is most easily illustrated in the banking space: 28% of banking customers are digital only — and they’re the least satisfied customer group.

This is likely because of what I like to call the clean window problem: When your window is clean (i.e., functioning as it should), you don’t notice it at all. You focus on whatever is outside it. Similarly, when tech works well — even innovative tech — customers don’t notice it. They simply do what they need to do. When it’s buggy, though, everyone notices and quickly grows frustrated. 

Technology can make people’s lives easier, but it’s not likely to inspire emotional feelings of gratitude, connection or wellness in the way that human interactions can.

The takeaway for fintech startups? When focusing on customer experience, broaden your definition to include more than the digital, in-app or online experience. Every interaction customers have with your brand — and the service it delivers or enables — is part of their experience. 

As you seek to improve that experience, remember that it includes every time your solution falls short, every time a customer has a question your site doesn’t answer and every time they just want to talk to a person.


Changing the ‘how’ of finances doesn’t change the ‘what.’

Technology continues to make financial transactions — from buying insurance and making claims to investing, saving, transferring money and more — easier and more convenient. But changing the “how” doesn’t alter the “what,” which is that money matters are deeply personal. 

To deliver solutions customers feel comfortable with and confident in, fintech startups need to be sure they focus on developing real, person-to-person relationships with their customers throughout the customer experience.

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