The Friendly Face of Fintech
February 26th, 2019 • 5 minute read
How people-centric branding has given fintech the edge.
Finance is a dry topic for all but the rare few — the Financial Times readers, the investment bankers, my dad.
For most of us, it’s a stress-inducing, jargon-filled nightmare. It’s spreadsheets and interest rates and percentages seemingly pulled out of thin air, then applied to our life savings without much explanation.
And that’s where fintech startups began.
With this very problem.
They put customers at the heart of their businesses, looking outside the financial sector towards user-centric brands like Amazon and Apple for inspiration.
By doing so, they humanised financial services, without ever having to show their faces.
It’s branding at its finest, balancing problem-solving with intuitive design, every aspect from communications to brandmarks capturing who they are and how they’re different.
Let’s take a look at how they managed it…
The old adage, ‘fall in love with the problem’ may be overused, but for good reason. It not only focusses product design, it also identifies a clear market from the beginning.
Fintech startups did this exceptionally well. They realised that people wanted easy-access, easy-to-understand financial services. Businesses like Monzo, Starling, Revolut and Atom saw these problems as opportunities and addressed them, firstly, by building user-friendly digital products.
Below are two mobile interfaces — one for HSBC, one for fintech startup, Revolut.
HSBC’s interface, stagnated by their traditional bank branding, looks complex, dull and hard to navigate.
On the other hand, Revolut’s app is colourful and simple with rounded buttons, icons and plenty of white space, more similar to the layout of an Apple product than a banking product. Revolut’s brand as a ‘radically better’ bank is carried through into all of their identity. It’s smarter, clearer and better suited to mobile use.
They also realised that people with traditional banks struggled to keep track of their spending day-to-day. So what did Revolut do? They gave their customers daily piggy-bank updates, quick transfers and neat savings tips on the go. They turned another problem into an opportunity!
Another essential asset for businesses is a brandmark. Think of it as the short-hand for the business. It symbolises who they are, what they do, how they’re different and it’s what customers come to recognise.
Traditional banks have fairly standardised logos. Reds and blues are used to show authority and trustworthiness, while simple colours and geometric symbols convey a sense of order. And you’ll often find that their names are quite literal or linked to their country of origin, like RBS and Santander.
Startup fintech banks break that mould. They have exciting, colourful brandmarks that reflect their inclusive, friendly brand propositions. Monzo, for example, refer to themselves as a ‘bank for everyone’, so their visual identity is softer, with pastel colours and rounded, lower-case lettering. Atom follows a similar formula, using gender-neutral colours and a soft typeface.
It’s worth bearing in mind that 83%¹ of UK consumers are nervous of fintech companies. Without the traditional physical branch to walk into, these businesses have to find ways to build trust digitally. To gain this trust, fintech banks don’t emphasise their rigidity or conservatism like RBS or HSBC, they emphasise their inclusivity and that they understand who their customers are and what they need. It’s this friendly design that helps them reach through the screen and reassure their customers.
The way businesses talk to their customers is as much a part of their identity as all the pretty design stuff. And no fintech company does it better than Monzo.
They speak openly and clearly, explaining everything in the simplest terms for customers to understand, and they use contractions (we’re, they’re, don’t) to mimic the way customers themselves speak. They don’t speak like bankers and financial big wigs, they talk like real people.
Monzo realised that to build trust, they needed to create a friendly tone of voice. By doing this, they take the fear out of digital banking.
We spoke to Monzo’s own lead copywriter, Harry Ashbridge, who said…
Trust comes when you really follow through with what you say you believe. Most banks write nicely when they’re trying to sell you something, but not so much elsewhere… We try to sound the same way from the front page of the website to the last line of the Ts&Cs, so people hopefully see that we really believe in being transparent and inclusive. The way you write is tangible evidence of your values in action. If you really care about people, the bare minimum you should do is try to make things easy for them to understand.
By avoiding jargon and waffle, customers feel more in control of their finances and sets them apart from traditional banks.
The Friendly Face
It may not be a literal face. But fintech has a friendly face.
With colourful interfaces, brandmarks, pictures and words, they’ve built something truly disruptive.
They’ve built brands that give customers the same sense of security as a person sat behind glass, in-store, counting out your holiday cash.
They’re clearer, smarter and answer all the issues with traditional banking, and now those banks are playing catch up.
But as every finance business falls in line, providing more people-centric services, being friendly may lose its differentiating force.
And so they will have to find a new problem to solve and new, innovative solutions. That’s what we did with Chetwood, a new player in the fintech market.
They wanted to change banking services for the better and asked us to help. We’ve worked with them since day one, beginning by defining their Organising Idea as a bank who wants to change lives by using technology to make people better off.
Since we started working with Chetwood, they’ve launched LiveLend — their first financial product- and received £150 million in investment from Elliot, one of the best-known investors in the financial services sector. On top of that, they were the only retail bank in 2018 to receive their full UK banking licence.
Want to know more? Read our full case study.
Overall, it’s an exciting time for finance. Exciting, not just for Financial Times readers, or investment bankers, or my dad…but for me, the user.
The more they push to answer problems, the better our experience becomes.
As a branding company ourselves, we’re thrilled to be tackling this new challenge with a number of fintech startups during our twelve week Minimum Viable Brand programme.
If you want help bringing your startup brand to life, get in touch.