Next Generation For Financial Services

Financial services enjoys the largest online spend of any sector.  You’d have thought therefore that a cursory glance at a random selection of financial services websites would demonstrate the craft of website design and content in all its full glory.   But you’d be wrong.  The vast majority of financial services websites lag far behind other sectors in terms of design, navigation, and most crucially content. The reason for this is that financial services websites are primarily product driven.  This is the same for aggregator and comparison sites such as Moneysupermarket and Moneyweb as well as company specific sites such as new.egg.com.  Want a mortgage?  Check out the latest rates below.  Want a credit card?  Click here for 0% on all balance transfers.  Want a pension?  Try this fabulous stakeholder pension or perhaps consider a high income bond.
A little online research will quickly show that nearly all financial services websites are product driven.  If you go the website of a big bank, such as Barclays, you’ll get products.  Similarly if you go to a niche provider, such as Cahoot, you’ll see its product-led home page. All of these sites function essentially as a financial services version of an Argos catalogue.  It’s as short-sighted a view as obtaining a credit card on the basis that the first two months charges are slightly below the norm.
Financial services websites should be needs driven, not product driven.  After all, when you signed on the dotted line for your mortgage did you not wonder whether this was the best product or advice available?  Considering this is the largest financial decision you might ever make, such lack of clear advice and information is remarkable.  Thankfully, this is all about to change and the next generation of financial websites will not be product driven.  Instead, they will be needs driven.
This will demand a level of intelligence and interactivity not yet seen in the financial services sector.  We’ve witnessed the first green shoots of this trend with sites such as Halifax’s Buying Your First Home website (http://www.buyingyourfirsthome.co.uk/) taking a needs-driven approach.  The Halifax realised that with first-time buyers making-up 22 per cent of the total UK mortgage market and typically aged 25-34 yrs old, the opportunity to position themselves as a genuine advice source was too good to pass up.  However, providing information is one thing, making that information personal and relevant to the individual is altogether a different task.  It demands the ability to profile a person and provide an accurate and detailed source of information that meets the individual’s requirements. It needs to deliver customised content to the end user (user-centricity) by collating all the information that people need and presenting it in a way that informs people, not sells.
The new generation of Web 2.0 websites like Myspace, Youtube etc owe their success to the fact they are needs generated.  With their clever use of tagging, Dot net 2.0 architecture, Soap, Atlas etc, these social networking sites are like search engines – very democratic whilst providing users with the ability to find what they want.  The financial services sector should be going in the same direction.  The sector must consider people’s lifestyles, preferences and focus on how a particular issue affects a person’s life.  It should offer lifestyle websites that sell items as a by-product, not as a primary reason.  By not hard selling and providing honest information, the sector will create trust.  And it’s by creating trust that the new generation of financial websites will succeed.

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