Years ago, I worked in a real bank –a high street one with current accounts and mortgages… and lots of branches and overhead costs.
Back then, the credit crunch wasn’t even a twinkle in someone’s eye. It was still fairly easy to wow people with talk of telephone banking, let alone ecommerce and online account access.
In many ways, times were good. Yet, even then, banks knew that they had a fight on their hands to stay relevant to their customers.
Flavour of the day to achieve that in those days was an obsession with “behaving like a retailer” or “convenience banking” which basically meant opening up mini-branches inside coffee shops or supermarkets.
It was almost as if people believe that seeing a glimpse of your bank’s logo as you foraged for the prime spuds could trigger that long overdue action to sort out your pension or open an ISA.
The rise… and fall… of convenience banking was just one attempt at reconnecting with customers. Like many others than came before or after it, it was not an unqualified success.
After all, customers still remain cut off and distant from the banks that look after their money. That’s what really allowed “bank bashing” to dominate the headlines for so long. Yes, newspapers sold copies on the back of headlines about huge bonuses and evil bankers but banks in themselves aren’t so bad. In fact, they’re vital to a functioning economy. We all benefit from a well run financial system.
But what allowed the headlines to run and run was the fact that banks have lost the battle for the hearts and minds of their customers and, it seems, largely given up.
The Occupy protests which followed the global economic crisis had legs due to popular appeal. Even if most people didn’t want to camp on the steps of St. Paul’s, most people could understand why some people did. Most people could understand that the banks had been severed from the people they were meant to serve.
Re-connecting, re-establishing relevance. That’s the real priority for UK financial services. The way we lend and borrow money has to change. It has to adapt to the real needs of real consumers – be they everyday savers like you and I or small owner managed businesses who need business finance to grow.
Change is needed. Fast. After all, ignore the voice of your customers for long enough and you tread a path to certain doom. History has taught us that. FundingKnight is determined to use peer to business lending to make change a reality.
Photo used under creative commons license