Why banks need to stop behaving like teenagers under stress

Written by on September 23, 2013 in BillingViews, News with 0 Comments

From the outside it seems as if the banking and finance worlds are calm and orderly. In fact they are in chaos. A couple of conversations with people are ‘close to their sources’ have provided examples of banks spending millions on new ideas that are doomed to failure.

Banks, like telcos, now have something called a Mobile Strategy. They also have a Social Media Strategy. Both might remind you of holding your nose, shutting your eyes and jumping into the deep end. The reason that both may well be flawed is the extra, huge investment that is needed in what has to the most secure of environments to support a plethora of new channels. That, plus the knee-jerk ‘we need an app for that’ mentality as they realise they are – like telecoms – in a completely different world.

BillingViews talked to one disgruntled customer, more ‘grumpy old man’ by the end of the conversation, who was relating the unfortunate incident of him trying to buy a car, via his tablet, in the showroom when the bank’s online system crashed. In the middle of transferring a not inconsiderable sum to the company, he was thrown out of the system. When he tried to log back in, instead of saying an error had occurred, it said the system did not recognize him. His first thought was that he had been hacked, the second was that a teenage daughter had hacked him (which is same thing, but nicer). He phoned the call centre. The phone rang and rang. Then disconnected. In an effort to find out more he resorted to Twitter, always the first to know. This is where the grumpy old man really emerged as he witnessed a thread of tweets chatting away meaninglessly to customers. Why, he thought, does a bank suddenly feel the need to discuss what customers had for breakfast and whether they feel better after a jog? As the meaningless banter continued, he began to see, amongst his own increasingly grumpy tweets, others demanding to know what was going on. Or more accurately what was not going on.

There was a pause in the inane chat while the ‘social media team’ realized that something bad was happening and that being part of the gang they should probably know about what it was. Eventually, a polite announcement was posted apologizing for the inconvenience caused. The customer almost exploded at this point, not only because it had taken so long for the information that something serious had happened to get out, but because the announcement was almost as irritating as ‘your flight is delayed by the late arrival of the incoming aircraft’. No? Really? Not by something that might be an actual reason then? That you could explain to grown up human beings?

Although amusing – in hindsight, the story points up some rather serious issues.

The issues are very simple. Banks are reacting like a bunch of teenagers who have been given 15 different priorities. They are being panicked into launching and therefore having to support Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Tumblr this, Pingit that and SeeYou the other (that is fictional, by the way). And of course they have to have apps that support all of this, because of the rise and rise of mobile banking and not getting left behind. And it has be as secure as ever.

They are spending millions in misguided adventures into mobile apps and a bunch of social media channels and they are in real danger of making banking systems as full of holes as a holey thing on a holey day, with extra holes in them.

The key word should be ‘strategy’, surely. Not social, media or mobile.



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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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