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Look Back to Move Forward: Tribal Banking in the Digital Age

A renaissance in banking is occurring before our very eyes. Technological advances that delight us have intersected with an increased consumer demand for transparency and fairness leading to the massive unbundling of products and services in financial services and insurance.

A new generation of bankers and technologists are questioning every string of code and product that make up incumbent banks across the globe. As the pendulum swings from analog to digital, the unbundling of the incumbents is begging the question: “now what?” — or worse, “so what?”

The current crop of neo and challenger banks such as Revolut, Monzo, N26, Monese, and Twisto are providing elements of the traditional bank account to a digital-native crowd that prefers the branchless experience and simple sign up. Money is moved from point A to point B.

Job done!

Eh, not so fast.

Digital natives are no different from our parents except that we want everything faster, cheaper, and catered to us. We’re still getting married, having children, buying homes, and of course investing for our futures.

We’re looking for brands that will embrace us, understand us, predict where we may make mistakes, teach us something, reward us, help us change our lives and our world.

My airline app knows that I require a gluten-free meal and prefer an aisle seat. My music app designs playlists based on where I am (and I love it!). Why can’t my bank understand that my vocation means that I travel constantly? Shouldn’t my bank know that I’d much rather donate my points than waste them on junk I don’t need?

These questions keep innovators, entrepreneurs and investors up at night. In order to deliver on the promises made to investors and consumers alike our industry must delve deeper into consumer satisfaction, loyalty, and deconstruct their financial lives in order to deliver the level of service that the digital age is showing us is possible.

Digital first offerings are solving for easy account opening, relatable customer service, and a decent level of personal finance management. There remains incredible opportunity in purposefully rebundling a deeper set of services and advanced consumer offerings that we will need as our lives become more complex.

To purposefully rebundle financial and insurance products we must deepen our understanding of the customers we aim to serve — their pain points, and the points that delight at a deeper level. Traditional customer segmentation does not go deep enough and, only recently — with great thanks to the digital revolution — have we started to recognise the tribes that make up our human family.

We’re looking for brands that will embrace us, understand us, predict where we may make mistakes, teach us something, reward us, help us change our lives and our world.

As in the case of the Renaissance that gave us innovations in art and literature, we must look to the past to continue to accelerate the banking renaissance we find ourselves in.

Before we lived in huge cities, enormous dots connecting our ever internet-powered world, we lived in small communities — our tribes. Way back in our cave-dwelling days we formed these tribes based on need — a need to outwit nature, a need to protect our beliefs, and our inherent need to connect. While we no longer live in tribes as our ancestors did, today we are brought together by common interests, our battles, and our joys.

Our urban centres are melting pots of tribes united by our sports teams, our employers, our passions, and our vocations. Vegans, carnivores, chefs, gig-workers, travellers, entrepreneurs represent some of the tribes that make up our human family. In order to create financial service and insurance platforms to cater and delight our tribes we, as an industry must:

  • Accept that tribalism is a natural human behaviour that represents deep value for our industry.
  • Deconstruct the financial needs of our tribes.
  • Purposefully rebundle products and services that truly evolve with each tribe’s journey.
  • Streamline technology in order to efficiently deliver and evolve on the back end while providing cutting edge front end experiences.
  • Stay nimble, aware, and obsessed with consumer satisfaction.

“In the US and Europe there remain small credit unions and community banks that offer more favourable loans to their clients than ‘main street’ banks. These community banks cater to specific types of people united by region or vocation,” says Matej Ftacnik of Vacuumlabs, which is involved with the technology development of several global banks. “These smaller, nimbler banks are able to build an arsenal of services and offerings that meet their customers’ specific needs — a reality that incumbent banks and their younger digital siblings cannot meet due to their design.”

Fuelled by open banking initiatives and substantial improvement in obtaining virtual banking licences, technology pioneers are hedging their bets in this direction. Germany’s Solarisbank and the UK’s Starling are making it easier to launch customised financial services platforms creating prime examples of the bank as  a service.

At the forefront of building the technology required to quickly launch and scale tribal banks is the design and development studio Vacuumlabs. The Slovak based firm has worked with incumbents like Erste and Raiffeissen Group, game changers like Railsbank, and challengers like Twisto. Currently, they are hard at work creating new virtual banks in Asia. The goal remains the same: find the right balance of a beautiful user experience and depth of service to deliver on clearly defined customer tribes and their financial lives.

At the forefront of building the technology required to quickly launch and scale tribal banks is the design and development studio Vacuumlabs.

“We are about to launch with American and European players that are excited about our ability to design, build, and launch tribal banks at a fraction of the cost and time it once took,” says Marcel Klimo, the key designer and architect behind a new Vacuumlabs spinoff called TribeFS. “Our mission is to ​forge financial services and insurance solutions for tribes all around the world.”

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg recently announced to the world that the future is private. What is more private than my money and my financial well-being? With whom am I willing to share the intimate details of this crucial part of my life?

You guessed it. My Tribe.

What’s your Tribe?

To figure out how TribeFS can help serve your Tribe, reach out to the team at TribeFS.com. They’re scheduling tribal strategy sessions throughout the year, so schedule a call or visit one of their offices in Europe, Asia, or the Americas. To learn more about their parent company visit Vacuumlabs.com.

Talk with the team directly on Twitter @MarcelKlimo @MichaelCallas and @Ftacnik or find them on the Money 20/20 App

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