The Future of Banking Is All About Context: Brett King

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What do banks need to do to compete with nimble and high-tech financial services newcomers? Brett King, founder of Movenbank, BTN's 2012 Innovator of the Year, author of the new book "Bank 3.0" and sometime bank critic, sat down with us and shared his current thinking on where the industry needs to go, and the latest on Movenbank's delayed launch and the moving target that is his company's intriguing CRED reputation score for assessing creditworthiness.

What's the difference in message between your earlier book, "Bank 2.0," and your new book, "Bank 3.0"?
In "Bank 2.0," I was trying to raise awareness that multichannel banking is not an option or an add-on, it's going to become the primary way people bank, so you've got to get the infrastructure in place. It's only going to get harder for you to engage customers if you don't have a competent digital strategy.

Then I realized — and part of this came out of experience of building Movenbank and knowing the guys at Simple — that customers just want solutions to their day-to-day financial problems. For most financial issues, people need a bank product or service to be very contextual. Right now banks have the luxury of saying, "You can't buy that car or house until you come to us, fill out this paperwork, let us complete this risk assessment and then we'll decide whether or not to take you on as a customer." That's not efficient and it's not a friendly process; it's focused on KYC and traditional distribution mechanisms.

It's a myth that you can visit a banker and get great advice. We surveyed customers and 95% of them said they couldn't remember ever receiving any advice from a bank in a branch.

Banking has to work when and where you need it. The best advice and the best service in financial services happens in real time and is based on customer behavior, using principles of Big Data, mobility, and gamification.

When you talk about being contextual, are you thinking of things like USAA's and Commonwealth Bank of Australia's apps for home and car buyers, which guide the user through the entire purchasing process with an embedded real-time loan process for those who are interested?
I think those are great examples. You'll probably find two approaches to this. One is the relationship approach taken by CommBank and USAA, where they have a strong consumer base and can use these tools to build brand loyalty. But given the way the market is moving, your bank may have to detect you're in a car dealership and that you're in the market for a vehicle, so some of it may be driven by search and location. Car dealers and realtors may become great partners for banks.

Senator Al Franken is trying to reintroduce a bill that would govern the way companies use geolocation data. A lot of bankers are hesitant to start tracking customers' location data out of concern about what their own regulators will say. If Congress acts, that may put more pressure on the regulators.
I think you're right, there's going to be pressure. But keep in mind, there's always going to be an option for opting in where the customer willingly shares her data. I can't see an environment where Congress or regulators would prevent people from sharing their own data. We're moving into an economy where sharing this type of data in a tradeoff for some kind of value or service is becoming extremely acceptable, especially to Gen Y. We've got a billion people on Facebook sharing stuff we would never have thought people would share in the past.

How do you provide banking in context at Movenbank?
We want to be a bank that helps people. When you pay with your phone using Movenbank's contactless sticker, you get a receipt in real time displayed to the phone. You see your balance adjusted in real time, how much you spent at that merchant over the last 30 days, and how much you spend in that category. That's combining geolocation, PFM, and data we classify in real time. But the behavioral side of this is where advice is helpful. I grab a coffee and a bagel every morning for about $5- $7. If you asked me how much I spend at the coffee shop, I'd probably say $60-70 a month although I'm really spending $250 a month. That's shocking.

I was horrified to find out how much I spend on taxis every month in New York. I had absolutely no idea.

Are you taking the subway everywhere now?
I try to take it more. I still get in a taxi probably more than I should. I've stopped using Uber as much as I used to.

This is about taking control. We've got this rich data emerging about so much of our lives, but banking has remained passive and dumb in respect to this sort of information. Banks rely on our ignorance and overdraft fees. That environment can't survive.

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Comments (2)
I have been in banking since 1952. Started development of systems and writing software for banks in 1959. From hand sorted end point distribution to electronic sorter readers; from hand written general books to automated one;from checks hand sorted by signature to account numbers, to proof machines and now entry at the teller station; from reasonable regulations and regulators to volumes of regulations with regulators now involved in telling owners and mangers how to operate their banks, I have seen it all. There are numerous potentials for doing a better job of supplying financial products and services except for the interference of government and the uneven playing field for financial institutions including favorable tax positions of Credit Unions. I hope that Mr. King has reviewed and obtained some approval from regulatory agencies. If not, I can envision some ambitious regulator criticizing the process. We were one of the first banks to use BOLI as the means to fund retirement. We went through the process of obtaining accountant and legal advise, sharing the program with our regulators. Never a problem from the state but about 3 or 4 years after placing the progam in place, a new FDIC regulator spent two weeks challenging the activity primarily because she thought it unfair that the bank could use resources for such a plan and she couldn't. Anything new and not understood by each examiner seems to get challeged. Good Luck Mr King. I hope to have follow up information.
Posted by Oldtimer | Monday, January 14 2013 at 9:37PM ET
Oldtimer,

I'm happy to confirm that we've consulted regularly with the FED, US Treasury and the CFPB on our plans and they've been extremely supportive, particularly with our transparency and our customer financial wellness approach. While there may be some zealous state regulator who doesn't get the whole mobile thing, the support at a national level has been extraordinary. One that makes us very bullish about the potential for real, positive change.

I would quote one of the key regulators who said to me "As regulators we never 'kill-off' new initiatives like this, despite what the incumbent banks might hope for. Our job is to regulate the industry and protect the market from risks, so we might need to put some structures or rules in place to do that, but we'd never kill off an innovation that keeps the US market competitive on a global basis."

Brett King CEO - Movenbank
Posted by Brett King | Friday, January 18 2013 at 1:12PM ET
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