Building Financial Foundations For Your Banking Customers

Insights
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Erinn Steffen

Senior Vice President, Insight
02.06.2024

It’s time we talk about money.

Economic uncertainties are impacting Americans’ savings at alarming rates, according to a 2023 study from Forbes Advisor: as of April 2023, personal savings accounted for 4.1% of disposable personal income, a sharp decline from a reported 33.8% just three years prior.1 Even more concerning, about a quarter of Americans don’t have any emergency funds available.2

Declining financial health means that people are looking for advice from their friends, family and colleagues—but it’s a conversation that’s primed for banks and credit unions to join. The J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Retail Banking Advice Satisfaction Study3 found that financial customers are likely to support whoever can best help them navigate economic hardships. To retain their business, banks and credit unions will need to deliver solid financial education and strengthen customer engagement.

However, many (most) financial institutions get financial education wrong, with three main problems rearing their heads:

1. Lack of relevance: Thought leadership articles that are too technical, jargon-heavy, or focused on industry-specific topics may not be relevant or easily understandable for the average customer. People are more interested in content that addresses their needs, concerns, and financial goals in a practical and relatable manner.

2. Over-promotion: When thought leadership articles come across as thinly veiled marketing materials, customers are likely to view them as self-serving and not genuinely informative. People seek content that adds value, educates, and provides insights rather than content that aggressively promotes the bank’s products or services.

3. Absence of customer-centric approach: Many banks and credit unions fail to fully understand their customers’ perspectives and preferences. Thought leadership articles should be tailored to the target audience with consideration for their financial literacy levels, interests, and pain points. Failing to engage with the customers’ needs can result in articles that feel disconnected from their everyday concerns.

The bland, one-size-fits-all content of the past won’t cut it. To truly make a positive impact, financial institutions must provide personalized, relevant, timely, specific, and actionable financial education. And the banks and credit unions that do this can differentiate themselves by creating lasting benefits for their clients.

This all sounds great, but what’s a financial institution to do?

1. Invest in personalized financial education. Use transaction data analytics and AI to inform and tailor content to specific customer segments and situations, providing specific guidance and avoiding platitudes. Go beyond thinking about a young professional looking to invest, or a newly married couple planning to buy their first home, or retirees seeking to maximize their savings. Banks and credit unions must create relevant content that speaks directly to their audience’s unique circumstances.

2. Be practical. Answer actual questions and delve into the details: Things like what to expect, how to manage the process, what’s the timing, what information will you need to provide, who is doing what at each stage. When you’re facing a challenge, the details matter.

3. Simplify. Then simplify again. Sure, you know what an ARM is and what HELOC might mean, but that doesn’t mean everyone does. And bankers are notorious for using jargon to describe jargon. Give your content the eighth-grade gut check. The best banks excel at breaking down these barriers, using simple language, visuals, and storytelling to explain intricate concepts. By doing so, they empower customers to make well-informed decisions without feeling overwhelmed.

4. Keep it up to date. Keep the financial education content fresh with the latest market trends, regulatory changes, and financial innovations to ensure relevancy. This isn’t set it and forget it. You might call your content evergreen, but it can still be fading.

5. Take advantage of different content formats. Leading banks are turning to interactive learning tools that make the educational journey engaging and enjoyable. Gamification techniques can help to engage customers, turning learning into a fun and interactive experience. Online calculators, quizzes, and games allow customers to learn at their own pace while reinforcing their understanding of financial concepts.

6. Lean into omnichannel. For those who crave in-person interactions, financial institutions can organize practical workshops and seminars on specific financial topics. These events allow participants to interact directly with experts, ask questions, and gain hands-on knowledge. Personalized learning experiences create lasting impressions and encourage customers to engage further with the bank’s educational resources. But there are also those who have a DIY mentality, who want access to the information they want when and how they want it—so make sure your website has robust tagging and search capabilities to help people get to the answers they need and want quickly. Ensure your SEO tagging is up to date so those searching for specific challenges are sent to your pages, and not those of competitors. If possible, add a click to chat option (whether with a bot or a human) that’s persistent. This saves the searcher time and energy, at a moment of need where they might really appreciate it.

7. Get techy.  Cutting-edge banks are developing personalized mobile apps and online platforms that cater to individual customer needs. These platforms use data analytics and artificial intelligence to offer tailored financial advice and insights based on customers’ spending habits, financial goals, and life stages. Robo-advisors can provide personalized investment advice based on the customer’s risk tolerance and financial goals, making it easier for individuals to invest wisely. A few banks are experimenting with AR and VR technologies to create immersive financial education experiences. Customers can use these technologies to visualize and understand complex financial concepts in a more interactive and engaging manner. To promote healthy financial habits, some banks are exploring the integration of financial wellness information with wearable devices and IoT gadgets. Customers can receive personalized spending alerts and budgeting tips on their smartwatches or smart home devices.

As the financial landscape continues to evolve, banks that prioritize personalized financial education stand out as true allies in their customers’ journeys toward financial well-being. By understanding individual needs through data-driven insights, offering interactive learning experiences, and addressing specific pain points, banks create meaningful connections and build trust with their customers. Empowered with knowledge and supported by their financial institutions, customers can confidently navigate the complexities of finance and shape their brighter financial futures.

  1. Forbes Advisor, “Savings Statistics and Trends in 2024”
  2. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), “Making Ends Meet Survey and Consumer Credit Panel”
  3. J.D. Power, “2023 U.S. Retail Banking Advice Satisfaction Survey”

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