Building a society for FinTechs

The building society sector is one of the many financial sectors looking to engage with FinTech’s to enhance innovation. However, there are some distinct differences to this sector that organisations seeking to engage with them need to be aware of. The impact mutuality has on building society’s decision-making being one of these. We are delving into these unique nuances over a series of articles.

Below we interview Jay Evans, a PR and marketing professional of over 20 years. During that time, Jay has worked with clients across the financial sector including banks, payment services, pension providers, Fintech start-ups and most recently as Head of PR and Communications with Saffron Building Society. Jay has launched his own consultancy that provides public relations, content marketing, social media and strategic consultancy across the property, mortgage, and construction sectors. Jay has a passion for social value and integrating ESG, CSR, cultural and community strategies into the foundations and culture of businesses.

Jay Evans, Director, One Brick Communications

How have you seen the relations between Financial Institutions and FinTechs changing over your career?

I suppose you can look at this in a variety of ways, but simply is has been about supply and demand. The last decade in particular has seen the delivery of some amazing technology that has already begun to change the landscape across Financial Institutions.

“Having specialised in the mutual sector for some years, Building Societies and Credit Unions had a much longer journey to modernise and incorporate tech to appease a new generation of customers than their banking counterparts. It has been a pleasure to see the number of FinTechs who are developing products that are designed to retain the community aspect of mutuality, whilst also understanding the nuances of how such Financial Institutions deliver their services.”

How do you think Financial Institutions and FinTechs could work better together?

As a communicator, this may seem like an obvious statement, but there needs to be better communication between both parties. FinTechs, understandably, initially focused on the big Banks and high street names. Where this falls, is with the assumption that smaller financial institutions operate in an identical way. This is simply not the case.

He went on to say “The frustrations I hear from my clients is the “one size fits all” approach FinTechs have historically taken when approaching them. Bringing case studies of how a piece of technology has worked for a bank may seem a useful starting point when approaching a building society, but in reality, the processes are evidently different and as such the society will see little value in what you are pitching.”

“There is also the question of manpower, and key decision makers. Firstly, the key decision maker in an international Bank will not exist in a regional mutual. They don’t have the resources to have a department or even a person dedicated to finding new technology solutions. It is therefore vital that you do your research. Don’t waste time and effort hounding a new business development manager because they are active on LinkedIn. It will do nothing but cause animosity and will hold back the FinTechs chance of success.”

“One last area that needs improvement is understanding who the organisations customers are. Not all organisations, no matter how similar they appear, will have the same customer profile. Something I learned early on as my client base changed moving around agencies in London.”

What can be done to ignite innovation in the industry?

Without a shadow of a doubt, innovation is ignited by collaboration. Positive partnerships with customers, offering two-way communication, the sharing of ideas and the engagement of networks, is what will ignite the passion for innovation more than anything else.

He highlighted “Everyone wants what someone else has when they see it has evolved their business, services, processes, or outcomes. That is human nature. But it is the collaboration with your existing customers that will stretch the reach of your messages through the good work that is done. When dealing with smaller companies, of which most fintechs also are, you can make a bigger and noticeable impact in a shorter time with demonstrable results. It is how you communicate this result, and who with that will grow your opportunity for more engagement. Small financial institutions are full of networking people, everyone knows each other, attends the same events and often remain contacts as they move around institutions. With a case study, a well-connected customer and some creative thinking, the opportunities will become fruitful if you collaborate with them to communicate outwardly. Engage with industry podcasts and webinars.”

“Lastly, and importantly, engage with industry bodies and associations. They have contacts and influence. If your innovation is set to change their sector, why not engage with them first and let them bolster your efforts to engage with potential customers.”

And, most fundamentally, how can the sector ensure that it is innovating in the most efficient way possible?

Collaboration, cooperation, and communication. This is mantra that has limitless benefits.

“Collaboration will allow a FinTech and Financial Institutions to adjust, improve and streamline the product to suit the purchaser. This will provide efficiencies in the sales process for the fintech whilst still benefiting the Financial Institution.

Cooperation – being flexible and collaborative will work to achieve innovation goals across the sector, as the FinTech, the FI and their network all work together to reach a common goal.

Communication – this collaborative and cooperative approach will open opportunities to share findings, build case studies, produce thought leadership, even holding or attending collaborative events to share findings and widen the communication with limited resources, and highly efficiently.”