Digital innovation dinner

Last night I attended another Digital Innovations dinner, which are held irregularly by Conchango. Apart from the interesting discussion, a quite spectacular feature was that the venue was the Gherkin in London. Probably the best views of the city available.

Anyway, at this dinner, a topic that came up was customer perception of value of bank services.

I suppose we must just accept it: practically nothing we do makes customers love us. I can’t remember who it was that said it to me first, but the fact is that customers talk to us when they have a life event or when something goes wrong with their relationship. These moments are stressful for the customer, and, of course, it is critical that we handle them right.

Making sure we do so ever time is not that simple.

However, I was asked what my thoughts were on whether this perception of value might change in the future? My initial reaction was that I couldn’t see anything at all coming up that would be so remarkable that it would change such a perception.

Earlier this year, for example, I had a debate with a  relative of mine about why his banking wasn’t free: he hands over his money as a deposit, we lend it out, and make a profit. Why should we charge fees in that kind of arrangement? Of course, anyone can do a bit of digging and find out why the numbers don’t work like that given the thinness of margins we presently experience.

But then, just before I answered in the negative, I realised that there is just such an event that might galvanise a perception of value and turn the tide of customer ennui: the Olympics in 2012, for which we are a principal sponsor.

Everyone loves the Olympics. And, if we execute our role in that event well, they may love us as well. Realistically, we have a lot to contribute to the success of that event.

And, having made that small leap, it isn’t so much further to generalise: if we want our customers to love us, we can’t only provide great banking services. We must be active and positive partners in the community of our customers as well.

Is there a leading bank in this area? I’m not certain about locally, but last week I had the chance to meet with Pablo Armedariz, from Caja Navarra in Spain. They’ve got a programme that’s all about the community. I’ve previously posted on Caja Navarra here. But, if Pablo lets me, I’ll write up some of what we talked about in our meeting as well.

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