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WELLNESS SERIES – PART 1 : WELLNESS IN FINANCE 18th March 2020

Acknowledging a Holistic Role in Consumer Banking

By I-AM Insights 

Introduction: Our Wellness Series

Consumers are increasingly pursuing products and experiences that encourage wellbeing and healthy habits, with today’s “wellness” referring to holistic, healthy lifestyles reflected as physical, mental, social, and spiritual wellbeing. Wellbeing has become a pivotal aspect of peoples’ lives and has subsequently affected various industries. Acknowledging the broad meaning of wellness and its ties to consumer lifestyles – Here we analyse 3 core sectors: Finance, Hotel & Travel and Food & Beverage to explore how brands are catering to this ever-growing consumer expectation. This first part will explore wellness through the lense of the finance and banking industry.


The ever-changing retail environment is seeing a significant shift from product-based stores to immersive, brand-building experiences – drawing direct parallels between issues faced by retailers and high street retail banks. As banking becomes increasingly digital, physical spaces require a radical shift in thinking. A redefined approach would see inspirational branches that serve visitors at the heart of customers lives through shared learning and collaboration as well as relevant brand partnerships.

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Money permeates almost every aspect of people’s lives. By knowing a customer’s broader life experience, including an array of personal and business goals, financial brands can better understand people more effectively and better cater to their needs.

By moving to a holistic-based advisory approach, there is a vacuum within society that banks, and commercial brands could occupy to adequately address current customer needs and aspirations, especially those of the new generations.

One example of a bank aiming to integrate themselves within peoples’ lives is Barclays. LifeSkills, a platform created by Barclays, supports young people with skills to become financially independent and resources for when entering the work force.

The platform helps manage finances, approach investment and provides interactive job-seeking tools CV building, virtual practice interviews and apprenticeships.

“MONEY PERMEATES ALMOST EVERY ASPECT OF PEOPLE’S LIVES. BY MOVING TO A HOLISTIC BASED ADVISORY APPROACH THERE IS A VACUUM WITHIN SOCIETY THAT BANKS & COMMERCIAL BRANDS COULD OCCUPY…”

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Image source: Tom Atkinson, Barclays Campaign

Money worries are a primary contributor to mental stress and if left unchecked, the pressure can lead to physical illness. Banks have a chance to lead the way in addressing mental wellness and stress caused by money issues. Seminars focussing on how to handle stress, one-to-one sessions dealing with real life issues or talks from experts can all help create an environment where discussing mental wellness is OK.

Aiming to shed light on stressful experiences regarding money, SoFi, the USA based online personal finance company, showcased the relation between mental health and finance through its campaign “Money Talks”. The campaign’s short videos share real, intimate stories by SoFi’s members’ about struggles with money; capturing unfiltered conversations about their lives, money, and their future views.

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Image sources: SoFi Campaign Aims To Destigmatize Debt and Financial Insecurity In Powerful “Money Talks” Video

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Education and information can accelerate peoples’ abilities in achieving their goals, and banks can become educators delivering this knowledge. Whether it’s TED Talks, free podcasts from business experts or seminars by local entrepreneurs, bank branches can reclaim their status at the centre of the community by becoming custodians of social learning.

Dynamic learning initiatives can help remove the stress from day to day life and bring greater financial confidence to customers. Moreover, these types of initiatives also drive engagement from consumers subsequently building further brand loyalty.

“EDUCATION & INFORMATION CAN ACCELERATE PEOPLE’S ABILITIES IN ACHIEVING THEIR GOALS & BANKS CAN BECOME EDUCATORS DELIVERING THIS KNOWLEDGE.”

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Image source: Financial Gym

One example, the Financial Gym, a New York-based company, offering financial trainers to set out a personal strategy for financial issues and financial-led life goals like salary negotiations, buying a house, saving for a wedding or paying a debt. This advisory and training concept satisfies a growing demand for financial support and education. The Financial Gym approach includes ‘financially naked’ sessions, “Wine & Learn Wednesdays,” and “Budgeting Bootcamps” initiatives designed to revolutionise financial literacy and a fantastic example for how banks could approach financial education programs.

At first glance, the idea of banks engaging with wellness programmes and physical fitness seems absurd; however, it’s not as outrageous as some might think. The relationship between mind and body is intrinsic to wellbeing. Banks can choose to merge these two features into one seamless experience that capitalises on the demand for fitness classes and exercise before or after work. Activity space can turn under-used increasingly irrelevant spaces into a vibrant hub within the community. Umpqua Bank, Caixa Bank and Virgin Money (their latest branch in Manchester) are all integrating morning yoga classes, lunchtime workshops and evening events into their retail branches. By creating environments that offer such facilities, banks can far better serve their local communities and provide services and areas that have significance to people.

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Source  Image: Virgin Money, YOGA Manchester

Talking about money is often difficult for many people – the jargon, the fees, the regulations and the conversational formality combine to create significant stress. Younger customers, especially millennials, are turning to self-driven strategies and rely on their checking and savings accounts to manage personal finances.

“More Millennials turning to self-driven financial wellness strategies as we learn from our past and work with our present to take control of our financial future.” – The Atlantic

Barclays launched an encouraging Money Mentors program, allowing people to get free and impartial help from a Money Mentor about anything from budgeting solutions to buying a first home. Conversations take place in-branch, via video conference or over the phone – one doesn’t even need to be a customer.

Traditional banks have to jump on opportunities to educate and better support their clients through their financial objectives, especially when challenger banks have shaken up the meaning of banking and managing finances.

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Source Image:  Revolut Campaign

Digital banks have raised the bar in regards to giving consumers control and access to financial tools. Offering options such as saving your money by rounding up your daily spends or setting up anti-gambling blocking card features.

The likes of Starling Bank, a digital, mobile-only challenger bank based in the United Kingdom, integrates financial services into one app-account. Revolut, a British fintech, offers banking services including GBP and EUR bank accounts, a prepaid debit card, fee-free currency exchange with the ability to exchange currencies on your card on the spot. And Monzo, the UK-based mobile bank, first led the ability to budget and categorise spending automatically on the app.

Challenger banks understood what people needed, wanted and aspired to with banking, introducing their own brands as ‘banking made easy’, ‘getting more’ and ‘feeling good about money’  – in other words, they satisfied a market gap.

Banks have a fundamental role to play in taking the stress out of banking and making people feel in-control about money and helping people regain power over their finances.

Banks already have many of the tools to deliver the rational aspects of this approach, conversely what’s missing are the more emotional aspects. That is why it is important to integrate emotional touchpoints through initiatives that can range from hosting local team events, awards ceremonies or even dance classes, again putting themselves at the centre of local life in an honest, relevant way.

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Source Image: Umpqua Bank

As Eve Callahan, CCO at Umpqua Bank says “There’s a huge and growing gap between good self-service capabilities and the actual passing on of human knowledge and connection and expertise that people are craving.”

Umpqua Bank cleverly approached both their digital transformation and brand experience. “The goal then and now was to remove barriers for our customers to talk about their finances, to go beyond the transactional side of banking to those moments where life and money meet.” Says Eve Callahan, CCO, Umpqua

Acknowledging evolving consumer behaviours they decided to make their branches, ‘stores’ inspired by retail concepts and create spaces that could act as community hubs. They have a variety of initiatives, from yoga sessions to co-working, but it is there understanding of consumer needs that is the essence of their success.

The core of the transformation is also led by “Think human + digital”, humanising the technology because in the midst of the competition their USP is a human brand – and we can agree on the value that has in creating the best ‘customer experience’.

In our opinion, the next five years will see a clear diversification of retail bank branch design. Many will follow the path of cost and footprint reduction through great technology. Some will also explore the potential for these more inspirational, immersive experiences and a few with real foresight will intelligently blend the best of both. Gone will be the teller counters, the queues and the 24-hour lobbies, to be replaced by stimulating, digitally enabled, immersive experiences valued by the whole community, a truly holistic bank experience that will advance your mind, improve your body and feed your soul.

Banking needs to evolve to consider the significance of wellness – with financial institutions setting up systems and initiatives to better understand and adapt to consumer lifestyles. The impact of wellness doesn’t stop at banking and the world of finance; the wellness movement is trickling into various layers of peoples’ lives – from how we travel to how we live and how we eat.

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