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Why heart and soul are equally as important as technology for financial services providers today

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9th April 2024


Without a doubt, technology is one of the great enablers of a truly accessible financial services sector.

The ability to access your money, review your savings account and even apply for a mortgage or purchase a car, is available 24/7/365. In terms of accessibility, we’ve arguably never had it so good. After all, we no longer need to venture out in the pouring rain to meet our customer relationship manager, we don’t have to root around the back of our cupboards to find birth certificates or other forms of ID that don’t wish to be found and we no longer need to visit car showrooms to look for a set of wheels.

Thanks to the digital world, we can do virtually everything electronically, at any time of the day or night, without leaving our homes. Even organisations that quite rightfully pride themselves on sitting art the heart of their community, and welcome their customers in person, such as building societies in the UK and credit unions in the US, are investing in their digital transformation strategies to sit nicely alongside their traditional platforms.

However, long-gone is the traditional bank manager who knew many of his or her customers by name. And what about the role of the traditional high street insurance brokers? Thanks to the online aggregators, their role is becoming much more reduced.

Indeed, is there now an argument that financial services providers recognise they have become too emotionally detached? Certainly, we are now seeing providers wanting to seem less remote and are, instead, using technology to figuratively embrace their customers.

The rise of banking hubs

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority has calculated that running a bank branch costs hundreds of thousands of pounds each year. However, with less people walking through the doors of a branch, it is not hard to see why many branches are busy closing branches across the country.

Nonetheless, there is still a need for some degree of face-to-face functionality.

There are still people who prefer to carry out their banking in person. For older customers, people with complex queries, and those with limited access to digital channels, face-to-face interaction can be a lifeline when they are dealing with financial transactions or concerns.

How are banks addressing this, while the programme of branch closures continues? Many of the UK’s 11,000 Post Office branches now have agreements with banks, allowing them to provide some core money-management services.

Campaigners have also started opening shared banking hubs across the UK to preserve access to offline banking services, face-to-face support, and cash withdrawal.

Building societies are often more embedded in their communities than their banking counterparts—and amping up that physical presence can help make the most of that local advantage. Nearly three quarters of members agree that building societies are pillars of the community, significantly higher than the 52% of major bank customers that agree.

Going above and beyond customers’ transactional needs is vital, both to stand apart from competitors and give customers the level of support and experience they’re looking for when they arrive at a branch. Hosting digital skills classes, drop-in advice sessions, or even specific community events can create a hub where customers know they can seek support.

Blending technology with the personal touch

Younger people are demanding accessible digital banking services from their providers. They are increasingly turning to neobanks and fintech unicorns to conduct their banking, payments and investing.

The emergence of ‘FinTok’, a community on popular app TikTok for sharing financial advice, in recent years has proved the value of the human touch. It has now established itself as a source of education for younger generations, doubling as a video app and search engine. Amongst many other topics, FinTok is a community of advice on personal finance, investment and crypto, or saving money in the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

Digital development tips

To blend technology and the personal touch, you must get customer engagement right. It shouldn’t be an afterthought to your digital transformation journey, it should drive the development of the technology in the first place.

Here are a few tips.

  • Be personable: Be conversational to build trust and confidence, adopting a personal tone that avoids being overfamiliar.
  • Correspond regularly: Use digital methods, such as email, in-app messages and well-considered automation. However, NEVER spam.
  • Get to the point: Be clear, concise and uncomplicated, and show a human side rather than a corporate drone.
  • Be customer-specific: Know who your customers are and send messages that relate to them.
  • Be culturally aware: Show that KYC knowledge to its full potential.


The tables are starting to turn, and the boundaries are blurring. Technology is vital – but it hasn’t totally taken over, not just yet anyway.  There is still room for that human touch – albeit powered by digital methods.



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