SXSW 2016: The big-bank catch-up crisis

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If there’s one mantra we practice at Olson, it’s “think like people.” That's something banks are going to have to start doing more authentically to compete with the bevy of venture-backed brands in play and on the horizon. Simple, Mint and Venmo, along with both PayPal and Apple, are changing the way people view financial management—in an ideological and practical way.

The PayPal spot in the Super Bowl this year spoke volumes about that.

According to the panel of experts we heard from at SXSW this year, big banks need to first and foremost evolve to meet the expectations of people, as those expectations are changing en masse.

Here’s a sobering stat for the major financial firms:  In the past year alone, nearly $20B were spent on “FinTech” (financial technology)—and $13B of that were spent by venture-backed companies. 

The shift can be clearly seen in this most recent content-focused digital era: When it once was something you’d pay for, it’s now free for all. Banks like Chase and our client, Commerce Trust Company, are providing helpful content suited to both laymen and advanced investors.

At a panel on Monday hosted by TechCrunch, called “The Future Of A Fully Banked World”, Uphold Inc. CEO Anthony Watson was a bold voice for change. “Banks have innovation challenges. Many take three years to put a PowerPoint presentation together. They sense there’s an issue, but can’t address it. The banks that will thrive are wealth management firms because they offer a very bespoke service.”

Who can afford those bespoke services, and who is being taxed 12% on money transfers? They’re two very different sets of people.

At a time when 100 million people in the U.S. currently do not have a traditional bank account, and Millennials are the banks’ outspoken critics, steps need to be taken to bridge the gap between the fledgling startups and the “old money”, as PayPal so boldly put it. Watson is convinced one of the best steps the big banks can take to retain customers is provide better, more authentic transparency. 

One thing’s for sure: It will be an interesting space to watch in the next 5 to 10 years.

-Jen Boyles

Content Strategy Director, Olson