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Banking is the Next Personal Assistant

We envision banks as these massive vaults filled with money. While there’s some truth to that assumption, your average bank is so much more. We can expect that banking is the next personal assistant.

Banks are massively complicated institutions that operate on a lot of different (often proprietary) systems working seamlessly in conjunction with one another. Anyone working in IT for a bank will tell you every day is a challenge.

Daily, banks manage to overcome a litany of internal and external obstacles — all while providing service with a smile. Long before anyone used online data and social media accounts to track people, banks could collect that sort of insight by following the money. Banks have access to a treasure trove of information about our financial preferences, which puts them in the position to act as concierges in our lives.

The ubiquity of solutions such as AI, blockchain, and machine learning can only serve to contextualize the future of banking further. Instead of focusing on terms and conditions, it’s time for banks to leverage the wealth of information provided by these solutions to engage people and help improve customers’ financial well-being.

Disrupting the Old Guard

Most banking decision makers see the role technology and innovation can play in upending the status quo. PayPal’s mobile platform prompted several legacy providers to work on their own mobile offerings, and Bitcoin showed the value blockchain brings to the transaction process.

The banking industry’s dated processes and operating systems are so entrenched that implementing widespread innovation is a challenge.

In the past, IT was just one part of banking. Now that IT is such an integral part of the banking business model, legacy providers must rethink their customer engagement tactics and reimagine their internal infrastructure. That new vision should start with reframing the purpose that modern banks serve.

For years, customers leveraged banks solely for their core financial services. That mindset persists through banking apps — users only see financial service apps for what the services they provide. The user doesn’t consider the banking app as entities that improve their financial decision-making.

Banking’s future isn’t in the actual products banks provide but in how they’re serving those products to customers.

We don’t need to understand the fine print of a mortgage or insurance policy if we can understand the value it brings to our daily lives. For example, mortgages documents, insurance, CDs, stocks, 401(k)s, and numerous other products come with polished banking terminology and drawn-out contracts that can perplex even the best lawyer.

But imagine a banking platform that breaks legalese down into digestible bits. Instead of prompting you to click forward to complete the process, envision using an app that compiles all your past and current financial information and advises you regarding potential next steps.

Banking that can genuinely help us live our lives a better way — or any fintech company in this mold are going to be the next big thing.

Technology can be the catalyst to kick off this shift, but banking decision makers must reconstruct the roles they play if they want to bring this tech-reality to life. Instead of cold, numbers-driven institutions, consumers wish to have banks that offer friendly, knowledgable and familiar faces. A familiar and friendly help is where banks can start to become our personal assistants.

The Next Frontier of Banking

People like to say money isn’t essential, but it’s the fuel that runs our lives. That makes our banks the engine, and financial institutions that genuinely figure out how to steer us toward better lives will become the Ubers and Teslas of the financial industry. Thankfully, there are already financial companies pushing to provide better personal assistance.

Manulife, for example, can tie Fitbit and other fitness tracking data into its Vitality program. Life insurance companies have a vested interest in keeping people healthy, and Manulife uses discounted premiums and other loyalty perks to encourage its members to lead healthier lives.

Back in the banking arena, TD Bank’s “TD for Me” feature uses mobile data to send customers real-time, contextual offers while they’re on the go. Using a feature while on the go gives consumers peace of mind to make financial decisions no matter where they are.

The Royal Bank of Canada is taking things a step further, integrating an Airbnb-like product into its offerings. The Canadian bank is constantly innovating its tech offerings to ensure the brand stays relevant, creating person-to-person marketplaces and ecosystems that align with current consumer expectations.

Consumers still want banks for the same basic needs they’ve had for generations — to finance houses, cars, businesses, vacations, etc. The way we think about those basic needs has evolved, though. The key moving forward is for banks to understand what truly motivates people to spend money.

Right now, we have more data available to accomplish that task than ever before. Companies that figure out how to leverage data and bridge the trust gap between consumers and banks will become the next big unicorn companies.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Hossein Rahnama is the founder and CEO of Flybits, a cloud-based, context-as-a-service solution with offices in Toronto, Redwood City, and London.

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