I am a connector and community builder by trade. I have built communities around ethical food and clothing, renewable energy and shared geography. I love researching but I am also an empath, which is good and bad. I feel deeply and connect with stories of the human condition, the non-profit sectors and social enterprises were a natural fit because I connected to the problems we were solving. Then I worked in financial services marketing.
The financial services marketing campaigns made me feel nothing. It was not aspirational, emotive, appealing or relatable. I was an unmarried woman in my 30s with no children who until recently had still lived in a sharehouse and only just completed my first degree. According to where I was in the life stages of marketing, I should have been married with young children, settling into my first mortgage, with a good base of superannuation, and so they are the marketing communications I received.
When you don’t feel included, it’s easier to switch off. Talking to your bank or super fund is right up there with having to talk to your mobile or energy provider. We all know there is a tier of service that exists beyond the norm. You glimpse the doors that open and the direct line to managers when someone is considered a high-value client. You don’t have people banging down your door when you only have small amounts of money to invest. You certainly don’t have people offering to lend you money or help buy a home. You don’t get the special welcome and private room unless your net worth is of value to someone else. Financial services are not traditionally inclusive and certainly not welcoming unless you’re in the top 10% and that’s being generous.
Financial technology interests me because of what it’s doing for the 90% and also how it has made me feel. This is not something I expected when I started researching and downloading multiple apps to see what’s out there. Not all fintech is equal but when a product or service talks to the masses and addresses the problems of the majority over the few, big banks and super or pension funds should learn and apply. These are some of my learnings from the multiple products I tried including Navag8.
- Knowledge is shared along the way:
When you don’t know what you don’t know, it’s overwhelming and you don’t really know where to start. Personal finance management or budgeting tools and investment apps generally have small educational prompts during set up but also as regular communication. You can take it in at your own leisure and the more self-aware you become, the more you want to keep learning and at your own pace.
- The right questions are asked:
When you sign up, often you are asked personal questions about your life stage, whether you have family, own a home, are studying or working and talks you through risk profiles whilst explaining exactly what that means. Being asked how you feel about your financial situation is important because finances are more than numbers. That’s why humans are not considered natural investors, we are too distracted by emotion, so making us aware of how we feel about our money is a good thing.
- Micro is welcomed:
Micro-saving and micro-investing feel inclusive because it invites us into a system that is built for small increments and savings goals, which is more relatable. I have read forums and blogs from industry professionals criticizing apps like Acorns because the annual fee is very high when measured against the $1,000 that might be saved and invested over that time. They underestimate how this kind of platform makes users feel; welcome and included at any level of investment or savings.
- Achievements are celebrated:
It’s nice to get a message of encouragement, congratulations on reaching your goals or a compliment on how little you spent compared to previous weeks. It makes you feel good. Paying off debt, saving for a holiday or any other goal-focused savings is a big personal achievement that should be celebrated. When was the last time your bank or superannuation fund congratulated you on any type of milestone? Even if you do manage to get a home loan, the banks’ interest is 100% gone once you sign those papers and that’s the biggest investment of most people’s lives. Feeling good about achieving financial goals makes you keep going and it also makes you like who is handling your money.
- It feels more honest:
People are not honest about their finances to anyone, not even themselves. The need to exaggerate your personal savings or omit guilty spending is gone when using fintech for saving or personal finances. I am pretty sure I am not the only one with multiple bank accounts and spend profiles. I would love to have just one bank account, but so far there is no single bank giving me what I need. This means each bank has a different profile and no real honest overview of my situation. Using account aggregation and adding both banks and all bank accounts means an honest overview of my debt and spending. Some services are better in person but with this, it’s less confronting when it’s not a person. It allows me to feel joy or shock or satisfaction instead of total avoidance and denial.
So can feelings be considered by our financial service providers? Absolutely if they want to really understand the behaviour of their customers and provide better services or products. Encouraging us to face our financial situation means acknowledging how we feel about it and the emotional connection we have to earning, saving and spending. Having the tools to help us do that is a fun part of this journey.