A financial brand needs more than just a makeover

Without apologising for financial institutions, I wanted to put some context against Richard Clayton’s article about the financial sector (News Analysis, DW 11 April).

It did not make three key points about financial service brands that I feel underpin their difficulties to be customer-centric and champions of design in the way other industries claim to be.

First, finance is about managing risk, therefore addressing customer

needs is equal at best to prudent behaviour. That often translates into ‘not listening’ to the customer.

Why? Because the economy is so sensitive to banks’ behaviour. That is why there is so much governance of risk taking by banks.

Second, because of the unique complexity of the products, regulatory environment, fluctuating cost of production and sale, there is little room to shortcut the service issues without increasing the risk. If this is done it is usually reflected in poorer pricing or more unfriendly terms and conditions, or subsidised elsewhere in a group.

Third, consumers rightly take financial service purchase more seriously than that of any others (and those that don’t are protected to the Nth degree by legislation). If loans were available like soap powder, many consumers would not buy them because the process is not reassuringly long enough.

Brand and design might oil the wheels a little, but they will never determine the buying decision – witness the failure of financial service providers to achieve the holy grail of cross-selling without the notorious practice of bundling products. Price and service are both key.

Understanding these factors is crucial if design is to play an integral role in the financial industry’s development of its proposition. Because otherwise it will just be lipstick on a pig.

Matt Smith


WPB Creative

London EC2


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