Going Digital


Digital rocked my world. It was 1985, and I was finishing high school. My parents got me a gift, a Texas Instruments TI-1100 II portable digital display calculator—and it was amazing. But this new technology was dangerous; I was curtly reminded by my mathematics teacher that my new calculator was not welcome in her class. (That’s right, Gen-Yers; we had to write our equations out in full, in Cuneiform on clay bricks.)

Digital is rocking the world still today, but in even more profound ways. UPS delivered a package recently and I got a “Your package has been delivered” e-mail even before the guy returned to his truck. Meanwhile, in South Korea, commuters waiting for a train wave their smart devices at supermarket billboards, and have the groceries they’ve picked out delivered to their homes. That’s impressive.

But I can’t help thinking that for all this, my parents never quite figured out how to update the digital clock on their VCR.

This is important because when their local bank, to which they’d belonged, well, forever, recently informed them triumphantly that they were soon going digital – my parents reacted with dismay. For them, this implied that another part of the world was becoming inaccessible, just like the blinking 00:00 on their VCR.

Now, to be sure, my parents are Baby Boomers (with all that entails) and some banks are just as baffled by digital as my parents. But the consumer question, ‘What does digital mean for me?’ is key. A bank will answer that digital can make their behind-the-scenes processes work quicker, more efficiently, and more accurately—helping the bank keep rates lower. And there’s an argument for banks using consumer data to become an important partner in our financial lives. But ‘digital’ to my parents still means Smartphone apps they’ll never fathom.

And this is where I think the white space is today in consulting to banks. There’s a need to better make the B2C case for digital by emphasizing how digital can help consumers manage their financial needs, rather than as a nifty new app. For consumers, it’s a question of the real impact of digital on their rates, and the quality of services. (Five days to clear a check in 2015? Seriously?) Helping consumers integrate digital into their financial lives in a meaningful way is a business challenge for banks, not a technology one.

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