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HSBC: Ensuring Digital Banks are a Step Ahead of Customers

The last 18 months have acted as a catalyst for the emergence of new ideas, new opportunities, and new ways of thinking – particularly among small businesses 

Martin Hyde heads up HSBC Kinetic, a mobile banking app for SME’s. He has worked within the Business Banking space undertaking a variety of customer-facing and Product roles across major UK banks. Martin has worked on the HSBC Kinetic proposition since it was being developed as a concept in 2018, designing and leading the implementation of a variety of products.

He has headed up HSBC Kinetic since July 2020, and here he shares his thoughts on how digital banks should stay a step ahead of their customers. 

Martin Hyde, Head of Kinetic, HSBC UK

Even prior to the pandemic, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) were all too familiar with having to rapidly adapt and innovate. Often reliant on a smaller range of products or services compared to larger counterparts, they are constantly battling to meet the changing needs and wants of their customers – something only made harder by COVID-19 as it removed the vital in-person interaction between staff and customers. Many SMEs have risen to this challenge and transformed themselves and in many cases of capitalised on the changes as an opportunity. 

As SMEs adapt successfully, it has been critical that their financial providers also transform in order to support them. During this period of upheaval, SMEs have required more financial support than ever before, which became one of the driving forces behind the development of HSBC Kinetic – a digital-first banking app that has been built for SMEs, by SMEs. 

As the pandemic fundamentally changed how SMEs carried out their business, many looked to digital banking services to provide a quick and convenient way to get control over their finances. But the pace of change continues to be swift. So how did we go about ensuring that our latest service both maps to SMEs’ current needs and anticipates where they might go next? And what advice would we give others entering the digital banking realm?  

Get to know your target audience

The first requirement when developing any new product or service is to base your design on what your customers truly want, not how that service or system typically works. It is important to steer away from existing processes and well-worn routes – at least until you can validate them. That is why during HSBC Kinetics’ development and beta, our team set out to learn as much as we could about the challenges and opportunities for UK SMEs.

Throughout the app’s development we worked with over 3,000 SME owners to hone in on what they needed from a business banking app – via a range of 1:1s, focus groups, market research and surveys. When did they do their banking? Where did they do their banking? How do customers typically pay them? These sessions were incredibly useful, with customers resoundingly telling us they wanted a simple, quick platform that helped them stay on top of their finances and understand what actions to take as a result. But they also wanted that continued human connection – so it became critical to blend automated access to information with the follow-up offer of adviser support.  

Listen to the customer 

While the information gained from these exercises was great during the set-up of HSBC Kinetic, that doesn’t mean we are done with gathering insights. As any customer-obsessed business leader is aware, listening to customers is a continuous journey. Luckily, with a digital service, there are many ways to keep a close eye on how your customers think you can improve or what more they’d like to see. 

Since the launch of HSBC Kinetic, we routinely use the App Store, Google Play Store, social media and surveys to monitor for feedback. We know how customers are rating our product, but we’re also seeing what they’d like to change about it. As a team, we host a weekly discussion, or the ‘Weekly Voice of the Customer’ to talk through, in detail, how best to act on the feedback and any changes that need to be made. It has been fantastic to get feedback from customers, implement their suggestions in app and to hear their delight at the fact we have listened and that their suggestion has helped improve the proposition for both themselves and others.

Offer more than just run of the mill banking services

When it comes to today’s digital banking services, providing customers with more than just simple transactional banking products is vital. 

In this age of technological innovation, SMEs will fall behind if they’re unable to harness financial data and insights to diversify their services and offering. Within the app, we decided to leverage banking data to offer relevant and timely information that gives business owners the information they need to spot new opportunities.

But we’ve also thought about how we can bring in complementary services – setting up HSBC Kinetic as a true one-stop shop for business management via relationships with third parties such as accounting platforms, insurance providers and digital services. 

Harness your existing strengths 

All too often the temptation, when developing a new digital service, is to start from scratch – to throw out the existing infrastructure. But we believe that you need to be just as open to working with legacy systems as new technology – if they can be used to your advantage of course. At HSBC Kinetic, we consciously decided to blend the agile nature of a FinTech with the capabilities of a global bank. 

Having built the app with Google Cloud technology, we’ve been able to leverage HSBC’s existing infrastructure to migrate customers across and also assure them of the same security features that protect some of the biggest companies across the world. The notion of being semi-involved in a highly complex global organisation may at first seem like it would throw up more hurdles or challenges, especially in the FinTech space, but there has been a real appetite within the organisation to support what we are doing. This blend has, in our opinion, allowed us to offer a truly unique service offering a customer-focused challenger experience with the benefits of a global bank

Note too that this notion of harnessing existing strengths also extends to where you look for talent and inspiration i.e. pulling in the best practice, expertise and people from other areas of the business. 

It’s been a fun ride so far, and one which is by no means over. While I hope these tips come in handy, our learning has only just begun! 


  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

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