As anyone with a bank account can attest, the customer-side experience with financial institutions leaves much to be desired. Cognizant recently collaborated with ReD Associates on a study, “The Future of Money” which examined people’s experiences with money and banking to reveal areas of opportunity for financial institutions to better understand their clients’ needs, and through that understanding, better serve them. We caught up with Philippe Dintrans, Global Consulting Leader, Banking/Financial Services for Cognizant to shed light on the study and talk about the role consulting firms can play in improving those lifelong financial relationships.
Consulting: What was the core purpose of the Future of Money study?
Dintrans: The crux of the study is to really understand people’s relationship with money. The thing that’s different about this study compared to other research that may have been done is that we really tried to look not at what people tell us, but what people actually do and how they behave in their own environment, their own ecosystem, as it relates to money. The study was really done with an anthropological mindset to be able to observe what are people really doing when they think about their insurance, when they think about their retirement accounts, when they think about preserving and increasing their wealth.
Consulting: What was a key finding?
Dintrans: Ultimately if you look from a client’s perspective their relationship with money is really complex. It’s unwieldy, they don’t really know how to manage and optimize it. It’s a high source of stress. Ultimately there’s clearly an opportunity to make this way better. When you see that people are more worried about money than about their health, to me it was kind of surprising. Clearly it’s incredibly hard to keep up with. Financial institutions should be figuring out how are they going to be able to escape the utility trap—being just places where we keep our money and not really providing the type of guidance customers are expecting to help guide their own financial future over time. Hence the opportunity for financial institutions to be really helping their customers and working closely with them to make it happen.
Consulting: What role can consulting firms play in restoring consumer trust in financial institutions?
Dintrans: Working with the financial institutions and helping them understand what their customers truly need and advising them on some of the strategies around financial advice, around digitization, that need to be put in place. From a consulting perspective, there’s a clear need to make sure we improve the way we’re looking at clients, which historically might have been done through typical research programs. I think we need to take a step up as consulting firms and really do more of those anthropological type studies, which to me is kind of a new form of consulting, where we really observe how people behave. This will result in deeper, more precise observation than would come out of a focus group or the typical kind of research generally done. Thinking about the level of sophistication in terms of understanding true behaviors, true customer needs, is certainly a role consulting firms can play. There’s an interesting perception that the people we interviewed and observed basically came out with, which was to say a lot of the banks, from their perspective, are interested in getting more money from them, but they’re not interested in helping them get more out of the money that’s already at the financial institution.
Consulting: What are some of the consulting opportunities you see for financial institutions around this renewed customer focus?
Dintrans: Help financial institutions gain a greater understanding of the clients’ needs and behaviors. That’s what we did as part of the study; try to understand how some of the findings were tied to different generations as well as some of their behaviors. We saw there were very different perspectives between people who had a fixed lifestyle vs. a fluid lifestyle, such as customers who change jobs more frequently or participants in the gig economy, etc. As a result we also saw they had different expectations, and the ones that were more flexible had more digital penetration and digital needs than the ones with a relatively fixed lifestyle. That’s clearly one area for consulting opportunities.
Another is around defining those potentially new products as well as new services that are required to solve the financial needs we’re talking about. If we’re talking about providing more advice, if we’re talking about those life events, clearly there is a need to change the target operating models of the organization, the process, the systems. That to me is a very big consulting opportunity to help the client, how banks are supposed to get more out of the data that they have. There are also clearly consulting opportunities around trying to build more predictive models about the behaviors and needs people may have. There is a huge focus happening around artificial intelligence and machine learning to come up with more accurate, better predictive models.