Digital Banking Puts You Closer to Your Cash

March 21, 2018 | Michael Mayton

A few decades back, the client/bank relationship was a simple one, with a single touchpoint. A customer would drive to the bank to pass a paycheck to the teller, and pick up any spending money they needed. And when the time came to secure a loan for a big purchase like a car or a home, they’d visit the same branch to discuss the terms.

This arrangement has been disrupted. Today, the range of services, array of access points, and the sheer speed at which it all happens have radically reoriented the industry. “Instant” is the new “two to three business days.” Consider the convenience and omnipresence of services like peer-to-peer payment, digital investing, and smartphone-enabled checkout. In the course of a few years, they went from novel to the norm.

The trend lines are clear: digital has put the customer in control, and the most effective financial institutions no longer act as managers, but as facilitators. They provide platforms that enable their customers to make intelligent, expedient, and confident decisions with their money.

Some institutions have thrived in the midst of this upheaval, while others are struggling to keep pace. Here’s a look at two factors that contribute to success in this turbulent, but opportunity-rich, environment.


The brick and mortar of yesteryear had a major advantage over today’s digitally driven institutions: people. Customers weren’t just doing business with a bank; they were interacting with a financial professional they had a personal relationship with. Their banker understood them — their history and their goals — and could steer them accordingly. There was trust.

The challenge for digital banks is to replicate this human touch, and craft communications that build a personal relationship between customer and financial institution.

This project begins with an understanding of the customer need state. If I’m ready to buy a house, my bank can serve me with content that advises would-be homeowners on how to proceed — savings tips and targets, credit management tools, and loan options — connect me with digital services that make the process as pleasant as possible, and give me a celebratory pat on the back when I make my first mortgage payment. Delivering a moment of delight, even after an ordinary transaction like an on-time payment, can have a positive impact on the customer.

In these instances, how banks speak is as important as what they say. They need to humanize their message. They must create the impression, for their customers, that they’re not engaging with a bot, or an algorithm, but that there’s a person who knows them, and cares about them, on the other end of the exchange. And this exchange can happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week—whenever it’s most convenient for the customer.


With the ascendance of digital banking, your local branch is open anywhere, and any time, you can get a cell signal.

Because people can, and do, bank from anywhere, these interactions often happen when there are other things competing for the customer’s attention. Distraction is the rule, not the exception. This makes ease of use a primary design target. This isn’t surprising: Nearly every user interface is focused on simplicity, and creating an easy and intuitive experience for customers. But when additional complexity is introduced to the picture, this becomes especially important.

It’s also essential that the available technology is deployed thoughtfully. Consider voice. It might be a great tool for bill payment and delivering balance information—but it’s less well suited to do so in certain settings. For example, hearing you just overdrew your checking account at a cocktail party would be less than ideal. The technology shouldn’t dictate the experience, but facilitate it.

Soon, the level of service will be even more personalized and useful. Today, your bank will send you a push notification that reminds you a bill is due. Tomorrow, they won’t merely serve you with this information, but they’ll ask you for approval to instantly pay it. The app, in other words, isn’t just a passive instrument you can use to manage your finances. It becomes the concierge of your banking experience.

Looking forward

Increasingly, the most satisfying banking experiences are digital. And these experiences will become even richer in the future.

Imagine a relationship with your bank. You and your banker talk often. You know what their voice sounds like, what you like to talk about, and when they’ll reach out. You like them too: They anticipate and meet your needs, and help you achieve your financial goals. You’ve never met, but you speak every day, and you really feel as though you know them. Except they don’t really exist. The technology, your digital banker, has evolved to feel nearly as real as a person.

This future is on the way. And while it, in many ways, represents a shift from banking as it’s traditionally been practiced, it hinges on something familiar: relationships.

Some things never change.