For many years, consumer groups have banged on at us to stay on top of which banks and other financial institutions can offer us the best rates, the best mortgages, the best current accounts and so on. But although things are changing, the vast majority of us stick steadfastly with the same bank.
I've been with my own bank NatWest for over forty years and to be frank I have no idea why. My parents banked with the National Westminster as did their parents. Despite government initiatives to make the process of changing banks much easier, I guess there is still a perceived hassle factor in making the change - 'better the devil you know' and all that.
I have twice been fortunate enough to see Chris Brindley speak about the banking industry and how he has been part of the drive for change. Chris was the former MD of Metro Bank and talked us through how they do things differently - a lot differently. If you ever get a chance to see him speak, I can highly recommend him. Look out for when he talks about banks that still chain pens to the counter, and you suddenly realise how this industry just HAS to change.
Quite apart from Metro Bank, this article gives us insight into some of the reasons why more of us WILL start to change banks - and soon. Indeed, alongside my NatWest current account, I recently opened an account with one of the new so-called Challenger banks, so that I can get a sense of what they offer and how they are changing the customer experience.
The first thing I noticed? It took me precisely thirty seconds to open the account and my card was with me within a few days - albeit Metro Bank can give you your card within minutes in their branches.
Granted, people open bank accounts for different reasons, so Challengers won't necessarily be appropriate for everyone, but if my recent experience was anything to go by, I predict big changes coming soon in the traditional banking industry. Their own attempts at looking into innovation initiatives better hurry up, or they risk serious competition from the newbies.
Financial Advisers too are also changing, with many adapting their service proposition to more closely meet the needs of today's consumers - both young and old. Technology is a driver for change in the financial advice profession too. Some, like Serenity Financial Planning are keen to embrace the opportunities presented by technology, whilst also adopting a much more holistic approach with their clients, where the focus of the relationship is on the life goals of clients rather than simply selling them pensions or investing their money. It's about getting the balance right.
The key word here is 'change'. Financial Services remains the least trusted industry in the world (source: Edelman Trust Barometer), so it HAS to change - and technology may well be the fuel that forces the industry's hand.
While some are saying that interest in fintech is slowing, I don’t personally believe we are even scratching the surface. From where I’m sitting, it is clear that the nature of financial services is undergoing a fundamental shift to meet the needs of younger, technology-savvy generations in a much broader pantheon of activities. Millennials, who have grown up using technology, simply won’t adopt old models if it isn’t in their interests to do so.