May 2019

The modern banknote was formalized in the 17th century. Paper currency, however, dates as far back as the 7th century.

Modern banking came into existence in the late 16th century.

Cut to a couple of centuries later –

Commercialized Internet happened to us in the 1990s.

Digital Transformation became a buzzword probably in 2017.

So what really happens when a centuries-old established world order meets a new paradigm shift in human behaviour, just shy of two decades old?

The human history of evolution suggests that human behaviour usually trumps any established order. Remember that time when the French were asked to “have cake”? The rest is history as they say.

Laws of business don’t stray too far either. Think about it, do you bank the same way that your parents did? When was the last time you wrote a cheque versus how many times a month did your mother empty out her cheque book in 2000?

Ask a 23-year-old about updating their bank passbook and you are sure to be met with a too-old-to-talk-to quizzical eyebrow raise.

Compared to other industries, Banks have changed their business model drastically within the last 2 decades that the Internet has been around. Online banking was first introduced in the 1980s in the USA and it was implemented en mass in the 2000s. Before online banking, there could have been no e-commerce so don’t be too quick to applaud only the Amazons & Alibabas for innovation. Adds a whole different perspective, doesn’t it?

There is however a hidden struggle in this success story. Do you remember that scene in the film Titanic when the captain turns the rudder 360 degrees to change course off the iceberg? You think he just about averts disaster but when the camera pans out, you see that the ship has hardly moved an inch. Because the rudder is only a level-1 change visible to everyone, the invisible change takes a much longer time to come into effect to move the entire machinery.


Replace the rudder with online banking and you’ll quickly see where the next phase of digitisation lies for the banking industry – Transforming internal systems for seamless digitisation across functions, building greater agility in processes, boosting their armour against a new breed of competitors.

There’s a new sheriff in town – Fintechs

80% of India’s 1bn population has a bank account, but 48% of those are inactive. What makes it interesting though is that 66% of the inactive account holders have mobile internet access, they are more likely to transact through mobile wallets than bank accounts.

Fintechs have disrupted the banking industry within the span of a year. Traditional banks now need to think, act and move like Fintechs to compete in this game. Agility, fail-fast culture and customer centricity are now the first order of business.

The move from tradition to innovation affects all functions from product to finance to marketing to legal – the ship now needs to go beyond the rudder to avoid the iceberg, but how?

A new breed of unbanked but digitized consumers

Recently during demonetisation in India, there was a unique problem in middle-class tax-paying households – the matriarchal figure of the family had stashes of cash hidden under their mattresses that were rendered useless, savings for a rainy day.

This is the same person who shares “good morning” messages on Facebook every single day and now pays even her grocer through PayTM.After 20 years of online banking, why doesn’t your marketing message speak to her?

The term “digitized audience” tends to immediately create an imagery of millennials and gen Z but the truth is that digitisation of the larger population has created a variety of customer ‘personas’ that cut across traditional ‘segments’.

Customers who have more exposure to the digital ecosystem than to the traditional banking one has drastically different expectations of service, product and functionalities.

Banks need a solid game plan to address and capture this market – one that involves data synthesis, product innovation and messaging personalization. But first, how to change the mindset of traditional marketers who are running the race with blinders on?

Data, data everywhere, not a drop to use

Banks are a heavily regulated industry and for good reason. They literally have the most detailed and sensitive customer information which you definitely don’t want to leave unregulated.

Necessary data privacy and protection systems protect consumers but blanket implementation of regulations without contextualisation may also hinder innovation.

To implement data-driven decision making in their acquisition and retention activities banks are grappling to find that balance between regulations and restrained usage. The need of the hour is to find intelligent ways to work within the constraints with the right technology stack and partners.

Design Thinking in UI/UX

Websites are the new bank branches. What Interior Designing is to offices, Design Thinking is to UI/UX. You want your branches to look inviting, hospitable, helpful, easy to navigate, why not apply the same principles to your website?

When crafting end-to-end customer journeys, websites are the crucial acquisition point, and yet in the digital journey of banks, they seem to have got the least attention. Design Thinking is a unique combination of qualitative human behaviour and quantitative usage data. The applied usage of this theory has helped Fintechs crack the code of customer acquisition at an unprecedented go-to-market speed.  

Imagine what great distances this disruption can propel you towards. Creating this seamless data journey requires breaking out of siloed data ownerships & consumption. How do we enable these processes to become more agile?

What’s next?

Happy Marketer is working with many of our financial industry clients to uncover these latent challenges on the path to digitization, and design customized solutions to accelerate digital transformation.

If these challenges hit close to home, then we would love to strike a conversation with you. If they don’t then all the more reason to tell what we missed because we at Happy Marketer love healthy debates, simply for the selfish reason to learn more.

Let’s make the comments section lively!

Srotoswini Roy
Srotoswini Roy

Director Digital Transformation, quick-witted 🧠 with a silver tongue and a knack for getting things done ✅

At work, she channels her empathetic listening and articulate solutioning skills to cultivate strong, symbiotic relationships with clients 🤝, keeping a sharp eye on business growth both for her clients and her firm 📈

Off work, you’ll find her whipping up new dishes 🍲 inspired from her travels and her mother’s cookbook, planning her next vacation 🏖️, lost for hours in a book 📚, or dancing away to her heart’s content 💃🏻