Online Financial Management Community

The online financial management community enables commercial banks, insurers, investment firms and others to create unprecedented loyalty and profit by facilitating business or consumer clients’ effectiveness at managing money. It accomplishes this in two stages: first, it engages clients [prospects] in private discussions about their goals and results. Secondly, it offers members the opportunity to benchmark their results by uploading financial transaction data.


Summary

Concept

  • Engage existing customers in private community to discuss financial goals and strategies.
  • Subject matter experts and relationship managers add perspective and insight, but the focus is encouraging members to interact.
  • FSI host validates member (clients, prospects) identity. Once verified, members may be anonymous.
  • Bank gains unprecedented insight into customer results.
  • In Stage Two, members either upload or agree to let bank import select spending or investment data into the community; this enables members to benchmark results—based on outcomes of their spending and investment decisions.

Outcomes

  • Add 10x value to customer relationships when they see better financial results.
  • Subject matter experts and relationship managers develop strong reputations quickly and inexpensively.
  • Evolve strategy and execution in fast cycles.
  • Create a unique destination for clients and prospects to ask key questions & contribute advice that affects business.
  • Get real-time insights into client business issues, and use to cross-sell more services.
  • Gain permission to use financial spending and investment data.
  • Innovate faster with community input.
More social business
in financial services

Expanded Description

Concept

Mint, BuxferWasabe and other startups have tried to create online financial management communities to  help businesses and individuals pool their spending and saving information, to learn from their data and to manage their money better. They address this by enabling their members to 1) encouraging discussions about financial challenges and solutions and 2) upload their financial data to the site in order to create data to empower the community, which enables them to benchmark the result of their transactions against the group’s results. As a group, “personal financial management communities” have had mixed results; two of their biggest difficulties have been developing the trust necessary to import users’ financial data and creating the technology to import data from banks and credit cards.

Banks already have the data, relationships and trust to do this much better. Their main challenge is reimagining their relationships with customers. They have to learn to put customers first, before products, services and profits. Those who do will earn unprecedented loyalty and profit.

Since most FSIs have limited ability to work with their transaction data, the Online Financial Management Community delays the benchmarking until Stage Two, when community size and engagement have been proven.

Key Features of the Online Financial Management Community

  • This is a private community, only available to customers; it leverages existing privacy and security solutions. It could be created for any group of customers: retail, small business or corporate.
  • Authenticated customer members choose their usernames; based on their interactions in the community, they build reputations; these may or may not be recognizable outside the community.
  • Analyst bloggers offer helpful posts on how to refinance a car or plan for college, even when your kids are in high school; the goal here is to add value and to encourage discussion.
  • “Expert” bankers with relevant knowledge areas also engage selectively in discussions and/or offer blog posts. Imagine college finance bankers, bankers specializing in small retail businesses, wealth management bankers, etc.
  • Community managers encourage, facilitate and moderate discussions.
  • [Stage Two] Based on community activity and demonstrated interests, introduce benchmarking via data that members could provide or enable the host to provide, if feasible. Introduce benchmarking in stages, as a way to add value to discussions and collaboration.
  • [Stage Two] Automated categorization of spending and investment transactions that can be invoked by customers who elect to participate. May use existing technology.
  • [Stage Two] Granular sharing of categories of financial transactions; a customer could decide to share only investments, only household or transportation expenses, for example. Or all expenses. May use existing technology.
  • [Stage Two] Data mining technology, analysis and algorithms to discern spending and investment patterns and outcomes by analyzing community data. May use existing technology.

Process

The purpose here is to outline the process of building a personal financial management community, just to provide an idea of the concept; please post questions using comments, or email us for more detail.

Strategy and vision

  • Audit the online ecosystem to determine clients’ and prospects’ willingness to have relevant conversations online. The general concept is quite well proven, but you need specifics on the kinds of customers you want to engage. Do not ask them; people mean well, but their real behavior usually differs from their responses to hypothetical situations. Studying real online interactions is a much better indicator.
  • Analyze your bank’s organization, product portfolio and personalities. Which area(s) are feeling the most pain? Which have a few client-facing bankers with innovation experience?
  • Assuming you find relevant conversations and at least one area of the bank that is motivated and able to contribute, define your pilot(s). It is best to scope two to three pilots in order to reduce risk (one or more will succeed).
  • Your strategy is based on real proof that the clients you want to engage are online talking about relevant topics, and it assesses your bank’s readiness to engage. Your audit of the ecosystem will teach you a lot about what’s available and how your bank can distinguish itself. Use pilots to test and evolve the strategy.
  • Strategy will prioritize and sequence the “Concept” bullet points; pilots would start with the minimum possible to validate/evolve the concept before scaling the effort.

Execution

  • Select teams carefully; remember, you are starting small, so you don’t need more than a few people to contribute a few hours each.
  • Expect that even the most enthusiastic relationship managers and subject matter experts will need mentoring in how to act online to increase trust and business. The beautiful thing about social business is it’s transparent; once you model behavior and results, you serve as your own example for good and bad practices.
  • Create tools like pilot charters that explicitly define goals, processes, resources and roles, but don’t boil the ocean. Ours are typically four pages long. Also create templates for each role, so they know exactly what to do. Creating templates for each role (for example, maybe one role specializes in contributing links, while another one sparks and manages conversations) takes the biggest risks out of the pilot. People need guidance, so give it to them, but don’t be formulaic; social business gets the best results when people are free to be themselves.
  • Focus conversations on solving specific problems in which people in your ecosystem audit have shown interest. You are creating a new space, which has to prove relevance to hold people’s interest. It’s not about interacting for its own sake. You need a clear vision of how you will create uniqueness. Your strategy addresses this explicitly.
  • Avoid the “content trap.” Business leaders have been conditioned to think that clients/prospects want “content,” and that is seductive because content scales so easily. However, now information is free; most clients/prospects see far more value in individualized interactions. Don’t use your community as a dumping ground for marketing fodder. Use “content” sparingly where it adds value to specific situations, but focus on interacting.
  • Determine the comfort level of your clients with existing technologies; do not build custom for your pilot; use existing tools, and aim for simplicity. Don’t let technology be a barrier. CSRA has learned repeatedly that simpler is better.
  • Do not assume that the personal financial management community has to be entirely private. You can create a taxonomy of posts and interactions, some of which can be public. This can attract prospects.
  • This opportunity can succeed where other “general” personal financial management communities have had tepid results: where they address broad consumer markets, this opportunity proposes to focus on specific problems and opportunities for defined high-potential clients; for example, independent French restaurant owners, dog breeders, adventure travelers, US treasury officers with significant Asia operations, etc.
  • This approach calls for creating the community and delaying technology investment until desired goals have been met. Depending on the FSI’s data model and other factors, the barrier to using transaction data can vary widely. We suggest positioning the data sharing as “benchmarking” for specific purposes, which would further limit exposure to I.T. limitations since you would be working with less, more specific data.

Projected Outcomes

Outcomes happen over time, and these are given roughly in order. Please note that this is a generalized suggestive list.

  • Real experience in the online financial management community will enable you to validate and evolve your strategy in fast cycles, inexpensively.
  • Your team will learn how to interact online to increase trust and depth of relationship. Since social business is digital, you can analyze interactions to determine whether trust is increasing or decreasing, based on how people really act (not on how they say they act). Here’s one measurement model.
  • If you do two or three pilots, you increase the chance that one will succeed, and you can scale success based on real-time feedback. For example, you could pilot very defined communities for small business, high net worth individuals, college students, etc.
  • Your online financial management community becomes a destination for clients when you provide consistent, reliable, unusual help and information. Based on culture and results, you can scale the community by allowing members to invite other people.
  • Banks, insurers and investment management firms already have access to this information, but they don’t have client permission to use it in this way; by letting clients benefit from their financial transaction data, banks will earn the right to use the information themselves.
  • Relationship managers and product management have a rich sounding board for developing new products and services after you have built a rich forum. Since you have access to real-time, trusted feedback, your bank can innovate much faster than competitors.
  • Building a trusted community can take time, but that adds to your bank’s advantage. When you are the first, you become the destination, and the time required serves as a barrier to entry for competitors.

More Information

CSRA social business opportunities are the highest impact opportunities that we see in the market, so we are actively pursuing work in these areas. They enable leaders to transform their business processes ahead of the market, putting competitors at serious disadvantage.

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