TSB and the new world order

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As TSB prepares to be taken over by Banco Sabadell, their focus on physical branches is a notable move. In the face of increasing tendencies toward digital services, the purchase of 30 new outlets to add to a network of 265 flies in the face of many other high street banks’ strategies.

History

TSB has had a chequered history. Having been absorbed into the Lloyd’s network in 1995, it was wiped from the high street in an era when digital banking was just a pipe dream. 20 years later, with a government bail-out and a return to profit under the Lloyds TSB banner in 2013, it has been sold to Spain’s Banco Sabadell at a loss to Lloyd’s of over £660m.

The old model

The focus on physical branches may indicate a decision to remain a “local bank” in the old model, when one knew one’s bank manager and perhaps experienced a more personal service. Regulation, trends towards customer service efficiency and changing public attitudes to banks have altered retail customers’ requirements, but in the UK at least TSB are not alone in focussing on “Local Banking on Demand”, as Peter Navin, Managing Director for Branch and Business Banking, says. NatWest have also spend significant resources focussing on their expanded opening hours and abolition of ‘new customer only’ offers, in an attempt to improve loyalty and attract new business from retail customers who find traditional ‘banking hours’ and policies impossible to work with.

Disruption

The retail banking space in the UK has been disrupted by the Metrobank model in recent years – whose approach includes seven day opening and simple account opening services. They are also pet-friendly.

The assessment of what a high street customer wants from their bank has been the focus of much discussion in the post-GFC world. Scandals, reputational disgrace and bail-outs have required banks to abandon the stalwart and haughty attitude they had in the ‘golden era’ of high street banking between the 1970s and 1990s.

TSB may appear bold, but it’s hedging its bets. In addition to the expansion of physical branches, they are doubling their digital team, and claim to be the “first UK bank to appoint a chief digital officer to the executive team” according to Finextra.

What customers want

If TSB can meet customer needs in physical branches, there is much to be gained for their new owners. The latest World Retail Banking Report from Capgemini and Efma lists several negative trends for retail banks:

  • Globally, likelihood of changing primary bank is increasing.
    • Customers are less likely to make a referral.
  • Digital service alternatives are not satisfying customers.
  • Innovative and disruptive players including Apple and Google are piquing customer interest.
  • Complex integrations to create personalised service are increasingly straining legacy security systems and processes leading to low levels of satisfaction from customers.

If the “bricks and clicks” model is to be successful for TSB, we recommend they use the plethora of fintech platforms and opportunities rather than relying on Sabadell’s existing suite of platforms and services. Perhaps this way, they can become a truly modern bank.

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Carl Sagan: users of the universe

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Professor Carl Sagan was a visionary. In his seminal TV series and accompanying book Cosmos, he sought to teach the general public not only about cosmology and more general science, but about the impact we are having on Earth. His ability to take an atemporal perspective on the impact of humanity on the planet was way ahead of its time in late 1970s, and still has it detractors 40 years later, but is essentially one of user experience. He warns us of the huge damage our desire to ‘improve’ our user experience of the planet will have for hundreds of thousands of years after we (as a race, let alone individuals) are gone. He reminds us of our insignificance in the history of Earth, and hopes to teach us to consider more than our own satisfaction in the way we live our lives.

Continue reading Carl Sagan: users of the universe

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Derisking trading

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Risk has become a topic for constant discussion and assessment in investment banking. In an environment where instant messaging, process automation software and recording voice instructions increasingly via direct instruction from investors are just some of the methods by which orders are placed, good user experience design presents an opportunity to reduce risk for fund managers, traders, institutions, intermediaries and the end investor.

Creating an intuitive, usable and pleasing product using cognitive science and design thinking reduces the risk of errors made by end users, high training costs, user frustration and potential project failure, not even taking into consideration the business risk associated with the changing systems.

Continue reading Derisking trading

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Good design is an investment

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How much money you’ve spent and how much more money you’ve made as a result is not the only, or even the most important, way to gauge return on your investment. Making things great is not just about delighting peoples’ senses, but can produce a measurable gain.

  • A reduction in the time a business process takes is a return on your investment: you’ve saved time, and we all know that equals money.
  • Making processes easier for people to complete, reducing their required energy or commitment adds business value whether those people are staff or customers.
  • Artists make something look better, designers make it work better: making something look better is only half the battle. UX is about improving the feeling you have at the end of an interaction so it has to look good, and work well too.
  • In a world where there are lots of choices that all achieve much the same thing in the same amount of time, to look and behave exceptionally is a differentiator that counts.

At T&T, we believe that people are at the heart of most businesses and therefore, if you can make them feel delighted by using your product or service, you’ll do well. We design things to add value not only to your balance sheet, but your reputation too.

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Defensive experience design

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By making our environment more hostile, we become more hostile within it.

In cities across the UK, homelessness is a often problem that we choose not to see. It’s on the increase, as people struggle to make ends meet in austere times. Homelessness is not necessarily the fate of those who have made poor choices, but can simply be due to rapidly changing circumstances. The author of this piece in the Guardian tells us that he went from a six figure salary to homelessness in less than twelve months.

Architecture is user experience design in the most physical way: the structure should please our bodies and our minds. When it is deliberately designed to prevent people from stopping in those places, there is a greater effect than simply discouraging ‘loitering’.

Continue reading Defensive experience design

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Being a catalyst to customer satisfaction, not a blocker!

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In our day-to-day lives we often encounter challenges in getting to our desired and often essential goal, especially when dealing with service providers. You may have a choice but in the end you have to do it somehow, e.g. choosing a pension provider or paying your council tax. In both cases you go on a ‘customer journey’.

The feeling you are left with can range from real satisfaction (“well that was cheaper and easier than I thought it would be!”) to outright frustration (“but I updated my address with you, and you’ve billed us – why don’t you have a record?”).

Just as we’ve talked about in another post recently it is still essential to provide several methods of going on this customer journey: face-to-face, over the phone and online. Doing it online can be the quickest and most empowering experience. Continue reading Being a catalyst to customer satisfaction, not a blocker!

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Cockney Rebels

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12 Bar Club
Image by Mel Pressmen
Seeing this article in the Guardian today about the eviction of the squatters on Denmark Street in Soho, London made me think a bit. A few years back the 12 Bar Club was one of my regular haunts. It was a chaotic and dirty, but personal and charming in a rock ‘n’ roll kind of way. Its demise is indeed indicative of what for me is a ‘paradigm shift’ (horrible phrase) in how we live now in London.

Continue reading Cockney Rebels

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Dark Patterns Banned By EU

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Dark Patterns are user interfaces (UIs) that are intended to trick people. We’ve probably all seen them, and likely been victims of them. Ever booked a Ryanair flight? You’ll have seen dark patterns, and likely screamed at your screen trying to remove the added insurance and speedy boarding(!) from your basket. Continue reading Dark Patterns Banned By EU

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