Defining the Digital Future of Financial Services

Asset-light thinking, “little” data and bundled services are all responding to changing customer needs.

Remember when “digital”, to most banks and financial institutions, simply meant getting online? Mobile apps, online banking, digitized systems for claims, servicing, etc. – this was the first wave of the digital agenda. But those days have quickly moved into the rear-view mirror, as new enablers and disruptors present opportunities, and challenges, for financial services firms to tackle.

“New enablers and disruptors present opportunities, and challenges, for financial services firms to tackle.”

Here, we’ve highlighted the four differentiators that financial services organizations should be considering over the next 5 years and beyond. We have identified the A, B, C and D of disruptive forces seen from the perspective of the customer, the key shifts affecting them, and consequently how financial services companies can adapt to these disruptive factors to drive their business forward.

A: Asset-Light: From Ownership to Access

Banks that will succeed in the next 5 years will make the pivot towards being asset-light. First, this will require becoming asset-light as a company, e.g., smaller real estate footprint, fewer branches, less human staff in place of e-tellers, and so on. It used to be that you had to build it all yourself. Then, you could rent IT-as-a-service (IaaS), and over time you could rent products-as-a-service (PaaS), and eventually software-as-a-service (SaaS). Today, you can pretty much “rent” the entire business-as-a-service (BaaS), freeing you up entirely to focus on your core business. This is why asset-light companies have an advantage – they focus their full attention on their core business while building and scaling faster than ever.

Why Build the Foundation When You can Rent it?

But beyond the physical footprint, asset-light also means adapting to a customer who is more asset-light than ever – fewer houses, mortgages, cars, etc. Creating a more flexible and adapted product range to meet the needs of today’s asset-light customer will require a re-think of your firm’s product and service offerings.

B: Bundling: From More to Less

For years, big banks were a one-stop shop for all your financial needs – from your first savings account to credit card investments, mortgages, loans, and wealth management. These financial institutions had advantages in size (assets under management and customer count) and their global networks added a multiplier effect. They also had strong, globally-minded compliance systems in place to manage the difficult regulatory environment. So, they were hard to disrupt…if you tried to disrupt them in aggregate.

To overcome this competitive advantage, companies disrupted piece by piece, niche by niche, service by service. In the past 10 years, we’ve seen an emergence of niche players who entered the market and disrupted a very specific part of the value chain — Monzo (debit), Robinhood (investing), WeChat and Momo (payments), Revolut and Transferwise (FX), Stripe (B2B), etc. And they won share by being asset-light, freeing them up to deliver a better, more convenient (and sometimes affordable) experience.

But these niche players are no longer babies – they’ve grown up, raised billions, acquired millions of customers, and over time, have begun offering more comprehensive bundling of services.

For the first time since the fintech market took off 10-15 years ago, the big banks are no longer being disrupted in niche areas, they’re facing bigger threats as these formerly-niche-players bundle a more comprehensive set of services. It’s a global trend that customers are far more likely to refer a friend to a fintech than to a traditional bank.

So, today, who’s David and who’s Goliath?

C: Community: From Insular to Interoperable

For nearly a century, banks have thrived as closed systems, keeping data and assets in-house. But the rise of digital gave way to a new way: open source. It started in software, but over time open source became foundational to pretty much all businesses, none more so than financial services.

Meanwhile, openness isn’t just a customer nice-to-have, it’s becoming a regulatory norm. APIs that build and bridge communities and financial ecosystems will become a must. In this environment, financial services firms will need to strategically identify which data sources to share, based not only on what they can monetize, but what customers expect from a financial experience today.

But take note: openness is NOT about creating connections. It’s not simply enough to connect player A to player B.

Success comes down to creating community, which is about much more than connections. It’s about experiences. It’s sticky. Connections are a commodity – anyone can get access to APIs and connect things. But those who really create community do so in a way that creates stickiness, retention, loyalty. There’s a real value exchange, a real reason to come back time and time again.

D: Digital Identity: From Big Data to Little Data

For the past decade, the hype has been on big data. Collecting as much data as possible, storing it, and analyzing it. But the value actually lies in the “little” data — the data exhaust that you as a n=1 give off every day. Your daily schedule, shopping choices, patterns of travel, temperature preference in your home or car, physical health, emotions.

Google coined the term “ZMOT” a few years ago, with the idea that there was a single/zero moment of truth. That critical point when a decision is made. However, the reality is with little data, there are millions of moments of truth. When viewed in aggregate, they provide a much more compelling and interesting perspective of a person’s overall digital identity.

Millions of Moments of Truth

Companies that track, analyze and engage around “little data’ will be – and already are – the big winners, because they know you fully, not just in the realm of their industry or one-off interactions with you. They are becoming stewards of your digital identity.


As we undergo a shift from placing value on share of wallet to share of data, financial services companies are uniquely positioned to be those stewards of our digital identities. What we spend, where we travel, what we save, who we transact with, financial services companies are entrusted with millions of data points. And as trust in social media firms erodes, financial services firms are strongly positioned to be the owners of our digital identities for years to come.

If you would like to assess where your financial organization sits on the path to transformation, and where it can go next, connect here.


3 Ways to Build Brand Relevance for Financial Services in 2020

Consistency, trust and emotional engagement can help companies impress and inspire their audiences.

Financial services companies have a relevance problem. Consumers – who will often be heard enthusiastically talking about everything from kitchen appliances to Band-Aids – yawn when they think about banks and insurance companies. Our research shows that consumers are more interested in just about every other category compared to the companies that are working to safeguard their financial stability and helping them plan for the future.

It doesn’t have to be that way. At Prophet, we’ve spent years exploring the science of relevance, surveying 51,000 global consumers each year about thousands of brands. Our Brand Relevance Index quantifies how indispensable a given brand is to people in their daily lives. And we do it by ranking each brand against four key drivers of relevance:

  1. Customer obsessed: brands that know you better than you know yourself
  2. Distinctively inspired: brands that win your head and heart, often with a strong purpose
  3. Pervasively innovative: brands that find new and inventive ways to engage
  4. Ruthlessly pragmatic: brands that are right where you need them, making your life easier

We’ve found that relevance drives business impact – the most relevant brands outperformed the S&P 500 average revenue growth by 230% over the past ten years. We help clients use these insights to be more relevant in their customers’ lives by engaging with them in ways that build more excitement, trust and loyalty, whilst also building their bottom line.

Why Do Financial Brands Disappoint?

Companies like Apple, Amazon and Netflix consistently dominate our ranking, generating almost endless brand love. But financial services brands have consistently underperformed compared to other industries. Only one brand – Intuit TurboTax (No. 37) – breaks into the top 40 in our U.S. index. And just four more – PayPal (No. 43), Vanguard (No. 44), USAA (No. 46) and Zelle (No. 48) – manage to sneak into the top 50. While consumers do find financial-data companies moderately relevant to their daily lives, property and casualty insurance, life insurance and retail banking occupy the three lowest rungs of all 27 categories we measure.

Familiarity isn’t the problem. These are brands with high levels of awareness. And, in the case of retail banking, consumers constantly interact with these companies, from paying their mortgage to buying their morning latte. But, there are three primary reasons people feel so detached from these brands:

They’re Inconsistent

Except for financial data services, where 77% of consumers say companies deliver a consistent experience, people say financial services companies are all over the map in terms of their performance. For instance, only 29% say retail banking and investments are consistent, 23% for P&C insurers and just 15% for life insurance companies.

They’re Not Trustworthy

The days when people found financial service companies inherently honest and reliable are long gone. Amid daily headlines about privacy scandals, security hacks and breaches, consumers rank trust as the second-most important attribute for financial data services. Assessed simply on trust, some soar – PayPal, TurboTax, Vanguard and Fidelity are seen as the most trustworthy of all brands. But others fare terribly, with Wells Fargo, Liberty Mutual and PNC among the lowest-performing brands.

Indispensable? Yes. Inspirational? No

Consumers certainly understand that financial services are essential. When we rank brands by “Meets an important need in my life,” for example, TurboTax comes in third, and Visa, Vanguard and Fidelity are in the top 20. But, all stumble on measures of inspiration and emotional engagement, and our data shows that those misses can create a real risk of customer turnover.

3 Ways to Increase Brand Relevance

In our work with financial services companies, we’re helping clients focus on the levers most likely to boost relevance. Take a look at three ways we’re guiding brands to develop richer, deeper and more meaningful relationships with their customers:

1. Impact When It Counts

Brands like Zelle and PayPal have made consumers’ lives infinitely easier by being there for them at every single payment moment that matters. Both brands score more than 95% for “makes my life easier.” Many financial services companies are failing to address the pain points in the customer experience journey. Increasing focus should be given to simplifying processes and exchanges and identifying opportunities to create those all-important memorable and meaningful moments for customers that are tailored personally to their needs and to their lives.

2. Tap Into the Power of Purpose

We help cultures and organizations evolve to find a higher order purpose, that is unique to their company and genuinely resonates with customers and employees. As consumers, particularly younger ones, flock to brands that support their commitment to sustainability and fairness, financial services companies must stand for something more than profits.

Among insurers, for example, brands like USAA and Aflac have built strong relationships by making consumers feel that they can connect on more than just a functional level. USAA, for example, with its deep commitment to the military community, earns an enviable 99% on “has a set of beliefs and values that align with my own” – the third-highest of all companies we track in the U.S. And Aflac and Vanguard aren’t far behind. By comparison, only 1% say that is true of MasterCard.

3. Cultivate Emotional Engagement

With the right experiences and innovations, financial service brands can radically improve their emotional connections with consumers. We might even argue that they have an inherent advantage here, given how often customers interact with their brands.

“We help clients use these insights to be more relevant in their customers’ lives by engaging with them in ways that build more excitement, trust and loyalty, whilst also building their bottom line.”


We’re realists. Will paying a quarterly car-insurance bill ever make someone as happy as seeing a Pixar movie, shopping on Etsy or going to Disneyworld? No. But companies as varied as AARP, Lemonade and John Hancock have made sure that each touchpoint makes consumers “feel emotionally engaged”. By comparison, only 21% can say that of TurboTax, and just 13% about Visa.

There are many roads to relevance. Let us help you find the ones that will resonate most with your audience, and translate that into meaningful revenue growth, talk to our expert consultant team today.


Digital Marketing Priorities in Financial Services for 2019

Our research shows that lead generation and customer experience top the list. And hiring is a major headache.

It’s clear that emerging Fintech and Insuretech entrants are shaking up financial services. Across the board – from large to small-scale companies – we’re observing an accelerated need for more digitally fluent marketing organizations to tackle new challenges in an evolving market.

To understand the challenges and priorities impacting the insurance and banking industries today, we turned to Prophet’s digital analyst group Altimeter surveyed 68 global financial services executives as part of their industry-wide 2019 State of Digital Marketing report that spoke to over 500 executives in North America, Europe and China.

“Altimeter surveyed 68 global financial services executives as part of their industry-wide 2019 State of Digital Marketing report.”

The report surfaced three primary digital marketing insights specific to where financial services executives are betting their marketing investments to address business challenges:

  1. Lead generation and customer experience are the
    top digital marketing priorities.
  2. Scaling marketing innovation, the right talent and proving impact
    are the greatest challenges.
  3. Data analysis, marketing automation and UX design are the
    most sought after skills.

Let’s dive into the results.

1. Lead generation and customer experience are the top digital marketing priorities.

Lead generation and customer experience came out on top (see Figure 1) – ranked higher than brand awareness and brand health – a top priority across other industries.

To measure digital marketing success, financial services companies are placing greater emphasis on customer loyalty/customer lifetime value (CLTV) – even before direct revenue (see Figure 2).

We see these forces working within financial services companies that are investing more to acquire customers through digital demand-building activities. Specifically, with the increases in the promotion of banking, investment and insurance products going more digitally direct-to-consumer. We also see loyalty as a rising metric to diagnose and resolve potential attrition challenges before being confronted.

2. Scaling marketing innovation, the right talent and proving impact are the greatest challenges.

Financial services marketing organizations are navigating several challenges with their focus on lead generation and CX development, particularly around scaling, hiring and proving business impact (see Figure 3).

In addition, we learn that compared to other industries, financial services companies are experiencing a much greater challenge in seeing a return on investment for their marketing technology spend with 32 percent saying that it took a long time before they saw any return. Consequently, it is now considered to be their top Martech challenge.

3. Data analysis, marketing automation and UX design are the most sought-after skills.

Financial services companies are now focused on building capabilities in data analysis, marketing automation, and user experience design (see Figure 4) to enable the scaling of marketing innovation across the full enterprise and ultimately to prove business impact.

Financial services companies as a consequence are finding the need for capabilities to apply digital marketing in new ways previously not considered.

These evolving digital marketing priorities are making way for the future


What’s clear from the findings of Altimeter’s 2019 State of Digital Marketing report is that as financial services companies place greater emphasis on driving customer acquisition and shaping customer experiences, marketing must bring in new capabilities formally nascent within the organization, invest in the right marketing technology, and prove business impact on a small – yet scalable – way.

At Prophet, we help our clients drive uncommon growth through transformation. We work with leaders across the insurance and banking categories to understand where to play and how to win to unlock the full potential of the brand and customer relationships. Learn more with our guide to digital marketing excellence here or get in touch today. 


6 Actions to Build an Insurance Service Strategy that Drives Growth

Our research finds that consumers expect more, and want products combined with services.

Over the past several years insurance companies have faced increased product commoditization due to ubiquitous online presence, more sophisticated aggregators and the increased availability of insurance products. They are faced with the challenge of driving growth while managing their risk profiles to be less capital-intensive. In a market with heightened expectations for digital experiences – which the COVID-19 pandemic raised even more – the likes of Oscar, Lemonade and other new DTC market entrants are raising consumer expectations, spurring companies to develop more experience-led strategies to drive engagement and value. Then there’s other players like American Express and Chase making their play.

Where should insurers look to drive growth?

Against this backdrop, Life, Health and P&C insurers are turning to new services to drive growth and engagement. Services create more compelling and differentiated solutions that focus on customer needs, going above and beyond basic insurance coverages. This enables insurers to identify new streams of less capital-intensive revenue and increase demand for existing products – especially in a category that has historically struggled to drive engagement at moments outside of the core product moments (e.g., purchase, premium payment and claim).

Based on our extensive experience and research within the industry, integrating a services strategy also translates into impactful business outcomes for insurers globally – from initial purchase intent to long-term customer retention. The results speak for themselves:

  1. Customers were twice as interested in an insurance product when sold with relevant services (Source: Prophet Insurer Research)
  2. The presence of services impacts broker interest with three-quarters of brokers stating that services are critical to their choice of provider when recommending to clients (Source: Prophet Insurer Research)
  3. Insurers who offer three or more services on top of the core product see NPS increases between 20-40 points.

When it comes to services, who is doing it well?

Insurers are already recognizing the value services can bring both to their customers and their business. However, as many insurers do not have exclusive relationships with services providers, avoiding services replication across the industry is key. Insurers are therefore partnering and acquiring across the services ecosystem to uniquely deliver new customer value.

P&C providers are already seeing strong integration of services into their offers given their ability to utilize customer tracking and connected devices, not only providing product discounts but also additional services on-top. For example, Progressive Insurance has partnered with TrueMotion to launch Snapshot, a service that monitors and measures driver data through either their smartphones or a plug-in device. This enables customers to understand their driving habits and generate personal discounts. Progressive is continuing to explore expansions to the program and invest in partnerships to combat distracted driving.

“Integrating a services strategy also translates into impactful business outcomes for insurers globally – from initial purchase intent to long-term customer retention.”

Health and Life are also now capitalizing upon the opportunity to integrate services into their portfolios by exploring the way they can utilize health tracking to adjust premiums through improved health. From a global standpoint, Vitality is one example of a brand that has developed a personalized customer health and wellness tracking and support platform. In the U.S. specifically, John Hancock has partnered with Vitality to provide discounts and tailored recommendations to their customers based on their health tracking. While in Asia, AIA has made a focused push to expand the solutions they offer to customer across the region.

Health insurers also are exploring the role of partnerships with preventative health start-ups to help customers manage chronic illnesses. For example, Cigna has partnered with Omada Health to offer customers a personalized preventative health solution to mitigate risk against diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Six actions for insurers to create impact and drive growth through services

We believe there are six actions insurers take to develop a winning services strategy:

  1. Understand what customers want. What is the foundational understanding of customer wants and needs to guide services development?
  2. Identify the business opportunity. What role could and should services play for your business and what business objectives should your services strategy inform (i.e., acquisition, incremental revenue, retention, efficiency)?
  3. Prioritize unique and relevant services. What are the set of unique services most relevant to your customer base that you will prioritize developing?
  4. Drive engagement. Where and when within the journey do customers become aware of services and how do we improve interest for them?
  5. Improve the experience of access and use. What is the right experience behind driving easier services access and use to deliver greater customer value?
  6. Identify the right internal owners. Who within the organization is responsible for funding, building and managing our services strategy?


Insurers are falling short on delivering value to customers. A well-defined services strategy can nurture customer relationships and earn loyalty to fuel growth.

If you’d like to learn more about the role of services and how we have helped leading insurance companies execute experience-led strategies that drive impact and engagement, get in touch.


Five Ways to Design Impactful Experiences in Financial Services

Our research shows that brands should prioritize changes that focus on growth, agility and holistic perspectives.

Historically, product and price were the go-to levers for financial services leaders looking to drive growth, however, the importance placed on experience innovation today means it is now the most critical area of investment. Strategic and thoughtful experience design addresses the evolving expectations of digital-first customers, the increasing complexity of channels and business models and the growing reserves of untapped data across financial services relationships.

The industry is already taking notice. As uncovered in Altimeter’s State of Digital Transformation report, two-thirds of financial services organizations say ensuring a more consistent experience across touchpoints is a top internal priority, compared to just over half across other industries. But less than half of financial services organizations have taken the crucial step of mapping the end-to-end customer journey.

Designing effective experiences requires following a deliberate process that balances external and internal considerations, and creative analytical approaches. Over the course of working with hundreds of financial services clients around the world, we’ve found that the companies who best capture opportunities in experience innovation exemplify five key principles:

  1. They are human-centric
  2. They are growth-oriented
  3. They are operator-obsessed
  4. They bring a holistic perspective
  5. And they are designed for agility

The 5 Key Principles Required For Experience Innovation

Let’s dive deeper into what these principles look like in action:


In the past, financial services companies might have designed customer experiences from the inside out, building a profitable experience first and then finding a market for it. But experiences today must start with the needs of the people for whom they are designed – whether mass affluent consumers, high-net-worth individuals, captive agents, branch employees or independent advisors.

Established financial services firms can learn from newer players who have adopted a human-centric mindset to design for latent needs. Ellvest, for example, is an investment company that recognized most providers cater to a definitively male audience and saw an opportunity to build a brand designed for female investors’ unmet needs such as clearer access to female advisors, and a broader range of investment strategies. Ellvest has designed experiences that directly address these challenges, from providing tailored recommendations based on gender-specific salary curves to including larger retirement targets for longer female life expectancies. Taking a human-first approach has positioned Ellvest to capitalize on significant economic opportunity, given that women are expected to hold $72 trillion of private wealth by 2020.


While better catering to customer needs and behaviors, experience investments must drive business growth. In financial services especially, legacy business models can hinder brands from moving quickly enough to capitalize on growth opportunities to get access to new revenue sources and untapped customer data.

One way in which incumbent brands can better shift to market dynamics and customer needs is through strategic partnerships or purchases to get access to new platforms and technology, rather than building entirely in-house.

AXA recently partnered with insurtech company, Slice, to offer on-demand cyber insurance to small businesses – specifically, taking a policy normally sold with a $5-$10 million limit, and bringing it down to $250,000 to $3 million. The platform, powered by Slice, allows small business customers to purchase comprehensive coverage in a matter of minutes, submit the first notice of loss through claims bots and offers insightful data to help SMBs understand their cyber risk exposure. Customers also see an individualized dashboard with an overall cyber risk assessment and scores along with benchmark scores of their industry peers across each risk category. By partnering with an emerging player, AXA was able to bring the first-in-kind product to market in just three short months – delivering unique value to a new customer base while growing the business and tapping into new data.


Experiences must be designed as much for the people and operators responsible for delivering them – employees, agents, call center reps, front-end developers or data scientists — as for the end-user, keeping feasibility of implementation and management top-of-mind.

When Prophet redesigned the treasury management experience for a large US bank, we took operators’ considerations into account throughout – understanding the business context, technical constraints and needs of the users responsible for serving the target clients. Through key use cases for both operators and clients, we designed and delivered a reimagined digital treasury management experience that followed an ideal journey with a responsive and mobile-first interface.

Holistic Perspective

While considering the needs of internal operators, financial services companies must also ensure organizational silos don’t lead to fractured ownership of experiences. Ultimately, financial services customers don’t care about organizational complexity; they just want solutions that consistently meet their needs across channels and touchpoints. Part of addressing internal challenges well means taking a holistic perspective to experience design.

The largest legacy banks in the US recognized this opportunity when they partnered to create Zelle, a peer-to-peer payments platform that integrates directly into existing banking apps. Eliminating the need to leave the secure environment of users’ personal banking apps, Zelle enables seamless money transfer through a single, trusted experience. Beyond successfully collaborating across internal groups—analytics, IT, marketing, and more — to bring this to market, these brands managed to break down competitive siloes to create greater value for the end-user.

“Ultimately, financial services customers don’t care about organizational complexity; they just want solutions.”

The result? Last year alone, users moved $119 billion through Zelle – nearly double the $62 billion moved through Venmo, which requires users to connect their bank account with the external app. And the holistic nature of the experience only continues to improve, with the number of participating regional banks increasing by over a third in early 2019.

Designed for Agility

Perhaps the most obvious difference between legacy financial services companies and their younger, fast-growing competitors is the rate at which they can move and adjust. Yet even the largest financial services firms can design experiences adaptable to rapidly evolving customer expectations and market conditions.

For example, Chase invested in new tools and processes to move with greater agility when launching experiences. The strategy included adopting an open API store and micro-services in its digital development, capitalizing on the rich data of its 47 million digital customers and implementing Scrum work processes. Chase’s agile design process led to the complete overhaul of its online and mobile experience in just 18 months.

Designing for agility should not be confused with the “move fast, break things” mantra of many Silicon Valley digital disruptors. In legacy financial services businesses, breaking things is not an option. Chase’s agile transformation has only improved its operating efficiencies, achieving a 99% straight-through processes rate on more than $5 trillion daily wholesale payments and lowering the cost per check deposits by 94% through digital transactions.


As legacy financial services brands continue to focus on building experiences that allow them to challenge and surpass their disruptive competitors, these five principles can serve as north-star guides.

If you’d like to learn more about how experience-led innovation can drive growth in your business, please contact us today.


How to Measure Customer Experience in Financial Services

It’s time to listen closely to customers, build better models and look beyond your industry for comparisons.

As customer experience (CX) becomes a central battleground for financial services companies, a number of new questions have been hounding experience leaders, product owners, marketers and operations heads:

  • How do I measure what truly matters across the experience?
  • How might I align a mix of functions, business units and regions behind a unified view of what matters?
  • How might I motivate these groups to coordinate in delivering a superior experience where it matters most?

We have worked with clients across a broad spectrum of measurement sophistication. On the one end, some have spent millions on sophisticated measurement software, only to then struggle with translating their firehose of data into actionable insights. And on the other end, some still rely on a mix of CSV files and manually-generated reports across disparate systems – and struggle with finding meaning across the disjointed, hard-to-compare data.

“In our work, we have sought to make measurement more actionable by defining a unified CX measurement framework.”

We have found that there are five key tenets that can help companies measure CX in ways that provide clarity, improve decision-making, and ultimately drive business impact.

1. Start With What Matters Most To Customers

Leaders at large organizations will know all too well that it’s tempting to only measure interactions and transactions that sit within their domain. Yet, this common mindset produces an incomplete view of what truly matters to customers across their entire journey.

For a large financial institution in North America, we discerned what was meaningful to measure by starting with a customer-led view of what truly mattered to them across their end-to-end experience journey. We used qualitative techniques such as in-depth interviews and ethnographies to reveal pivotal moments across the experience. We then used quantitative research to sharpen our understanding of customer behavior at key moments and clarify how these influenced specific business outcomes.

2. Define a Unified Framework Across Levels and Functions

Most large organizations have multiple CX measurement frameworks, techniques, KPIs, and reporting mechanisms. While each of these might serve the purpose of distinct management levels and functions, they also create multiple and different versions of ‘what truly matters.’ This makes it particularly difficult for cross-functional teams to translate insights into action.

In our work, we have sought to make measurement more actionable by defining a unified CX measurement framework. Such a framework can typically span different management levels and functions while also identifying relationships across key measures that allow a more cohesive view.

With such a framework in place, senior executives, managers and front-line operators can all form a shared narrative about the firm’s CX performance, issues and opportunities. Executives can use high-level KPIs to measure the overall company CX priorities. Managers can use more detailed KPIs to define actionable milestones in service of the overall priority and allocate investments. Front-line operators can leverage a highly detailed subset of metrics to mobilize plans, establish service-level targets and track progress.

3. Build a Better Model with Leading and Lagging Indicators

The process of developing a unified CX measurement framework requires a sharp eye toward identifying the right measures that accurately describe customer impact and eventually business impact. Getting this part right often falls on ensuring we consider a broad range of data (ideally, data related to operational measures, customer sentiment/perception, customer behavioral response, and business outcome) as well as robust econometric models and analytics that connect CX measurement explicitly to financial value.

For example, in developing a model that derived relationships across different CX metrics for a large U.S. financial services firm, our data and analytics team made sure to:

  • Account for time dynamics where observations in one time-period are linked to observations in different time-periods
  • Capture interaction and endogeneity by allowing variables that are jointly determined to ensure estimates account for simultaneity and interaction of variables
  • Measure non-linear relationships and account for diminishing returns to ensure true influence is isolated
  • Control and capture influence of macro-economic changes and shocks that influence the business (e.g., shifts in interest rates or regulatory changes
  • Account for uncertainty based on probability — identifying expected outcome, what’s possible, and likelihood through Monte Carlo simulations

Our analytics team was also able to parse out what leading indicators managers should frequently look at (such as engagement, digital activity) and how these eventually predicted lagging indicators (such as customer acquisition, retention, advocacy) and ultimately financial performance. Most importantly perhaps, the model was translated into a what-if simulator that allowed our client to assess the likely financial impact from a variety of potential CX improvements.

4. Look Within, and Beyond, Your Industry for Comparisons

Competitive benchmarks are useful when trying to understand the areas of the experience to invest in. However, we believe it’s a mistake these days to compare your CX to just your competitors alone. Your customers are certainly going well beyond and comparing it with leaders across multiple categories – and this is especially true in sectors where satisfaction is systemically low.

For example, for a large global insurance provider, our research revealed that their CX scores within a key market in Asia were higher than most of their competitors – especially in parts of the journey that mattered most. However, a closer look also revealed that industry-wide scores in this market were significantly lower than other comparable markets, reflecting a more systemic, sector-wide level of customer dissatisfaction.

Despite temptations of proclaiming that they were providing a “leading experience,” managers at this insurer quickly agreed that they had no appetite for being “the best of the worst.” Instead, they recognized this as a clear opportunity to leap-frog their competitors and newer disruptors by doubling down on their relative strength in CX.

5. Invest Disproportionately in Defining and Developing a Measurement Governance Model

The most sophisticated of measurement strategies can end up failing if they are not accompanied by a governance model to deploy, maintain and ultimately act upon insights that evolve or transform the CX.

In our experience, a successful governance model typically solves for three key questions:

  • What people across what organization/functions will deploy, maintain and act on experience measurement reporting and insights?
  • What management processes will be required to drive systematic deployment, maintenance and actionable CX improvements?
  • What data, technology and interactive tools will be required to acquire, store and provision KPIs at the various levels of fidelity required across the organization


Ultimately, we believe that in the battle for winning on experience, firms that are able to combine a cogent experience measurement strategy with a robust governance model have a significant leg up. Such firms can see their end-to-end experience through the eyes of their customers. They can spot customer needs and opportunities in areas that matter most.

They can empower the right teams and executives with this insight quickly so they can act in real-time. And when they act, they can use customer insight to go beyond fixing what’s broken and deliver experiences that surprise and delight customers – and may even self-disrupt their model with more transformative innovation.

Learn more about how Prophet can help with customer experience to increase impact on your business.


Building Relevance in Financial Services – It’s All About Customer Experience

People crave the kind of holistic experiences that can only come from cross-collaboration and plenty of data.

We believe relevance—how meaningful brands are in people’s daily lives—is the single biggest determining factor of a brand’s long-term success. It’s what makes companies like Amazon, Android and Netflix, which are at the top of Prophet’s Brand Relevance Index™ (BRI), successful. They have made themselves so indispensable that their fans can’t imagine a day without them. But relevance is a currency most financial brands just don’t have. Only three financial services companies crack our top 50: PayPal, TurboTax and Visa. And the bottom of the list is a different story – it is jammed with banks, insurance companies and wealth-management firms that struggle to achieve meaningful engagement with their customers.

The Pragmatism of Financial Brands

The BRI, which is based on a survey of 15,000 U.S. consumers, measures what we believe are the four drivers of relevance: customer obsession, distinctive inspiration, pervasive innovation and ruthless pragmatism. Financial brands scored the best in ruthless pragmatism—as they should. Pragmatism is measured by consumer responses to statements like “I know I can depend on this brand,” “it makes my life easier” and “it’s available when and where I need it.” Consumers are sending the message that basics matter: if a bank can’t handle mobile deposits or an insurance company doesn’t pay claims, what good is it?

But this pragmatism doesn’t stand on its own, and for the brands that ranked higher than most,  pragmatism was coupled with high levels of customer obsession. Meaning they took the millions of data points at their disposal and translated them into relevant services, products and experiences that make consumers’ lives run a little more smoothly.

Examples of Successful Financial Customer Experiences

The financial brands that embrace ruthless pragmatism and customer obsession can be just as fiercely beloved as those in other categories. Let’s look at three brand examples:

  1. Most people only turn to TurboTax once a year, but they love how it makes a difficult task in their lives easier. More people in the U.S. said TurboTax “meets an important need in my life” than any of the 300-plus brands we measured.
  2. Visa is an “old reliable” that has become a digital-first thinker.
  3. PayPal, which emerged as a super-dependable way to make online payments when it was still on the eBay platform, is safer and faster than ever.

All three excel in mobile technology. And most of all, they understand that they are not in the business of creating financial products. They know their role is enabling better customer experiences.

Build Experiences, Not Products

In our work with financial companies, we push toward experience-led thinking by asking our clients to reimagine the industry and what their brand would look like if they were starting from scratch today.

It would probably look something like Mint, Intuit’s personal finance software, which lets customers see all their money and expenses in one place.

It would likely include something like Venmo, the PayPal-owned payment app millennials love so much, or SnapCash, the payment platform preferred by Gen Z.

It might even borrow elements from WeChat, which ranks as the second most relevant brand in our Brand Relevance Index in China. (Started as a chat app, WeChat added digital payments, e-commerce, fundraising and microloans.) From this platform, what’s needed next is translating all that information into personalized products, services and experiences.

It’s the Holy Grail. No one has done it yet, and many branding experts can’t believe mainstream financial services companies, with all that marketing muscle, are still so behind the curve.

“Internally, there is no unified view, which makes creating one for their customers very difficult.

That’s a little glib. Those of us working in the industry know that the obstacles are real. For one thing, changing regulations, like the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, have created challenges. For another, unlike start-ups from Silicon Valley that can get away with years of losing money, the investors who own these established companies demand profits, not losses.

But the biggest problem they face is their own organizational structures. Historically, each type of product—retail banking, mortgages, retirement, and various policies—are housed in distinct silos, governed by separate profit-and-loss statements. Internally, there is no unified view, which makes creating one for their customers very difficult. And the reality is that employees are incented to focus on products, not experiences, in order to meet their product sales goals.

Think Holistically About Customer Experience

Solutions can only come from thinking holistically. At companies that are becoming more customer-obsessed, there’s a growing understanding that “brand” isn’t something that comes from the marketing department. It develops and grows in every department—sales, distribution, product, and technology. Similarly, the mindset throughout the organization needs to shift from “what can we sell?” to “what value exchange can we create?” In building long-term relationships with customers, what types of products and services make people say, “This brand isn’t just out to make a quick sale—it really has my back?”

This requires taking giant steps away from “business as usual” thinking. Ford CEO Mark Fields, for example, shook up the automotive world with the announcement that the company is striving to be “a mobility company,” not just a car manufacturer. This has enabled it to develop brand-new approaches to the way today’s consumers think about urban transportation. What will be the equivalent shift in financial services?

The most important step financial companies can take to gain relevance is getting every division on the same page: Improving customer experience and engagement. And that can only come from customer obsession, constantly pushing all departments to work harder to see things from the consumer’s point of view.


Most financial companies aren’t able to do this yet, but they are trying. That’s evident in the widespread acceptance of multichannel offerings, with banks understanding that customers expect to be able to have their needs met no matter where they are or what time it is. And many are closer to making their offerings channel-agnostic, with ultra-pragmatic mobile solutions.

Sometimes, companies ask us about increasing the other drivers of relevance– distinctive inspiration and pervasive innovation. We discourage them unless they are already performing well on more pragmatic measures and customer obsession. If a bank is staffed by surly tellers or brokers who provide confusing statements, even the best performance on other measures can’t help. These may seem like table stakes, but our rankings prove otherwise.

For today’s consumers, relevance requires delivering useful and engaging experiences powered by technology. The only thing that will work is improving the experience at every touchpoint, providing relevant content and taking the broadest view of customers. It’s not about making a better financial product. It’s about making consumers’ lives better. Relevance doesn’t come through branding. It’s built on these rewarding experiences.