Banks focus a lot on scale and efficiency. On making financial plumbing work better. And that’s good. But banks are largely ignoring another source of value: personal connections.
Now, social tools and practices make it practical to “re-humanize banking” - to connect employees to employees, employees to customers, and customers to each other. (In a “re-humanize” series of posts, I’ll be writing about each category.)
“Social saving” is one area where connecting customers to each other can help banks as well as customers.
Here are several examples. Note where the innovation is coming from - and where it isn’t.
“Social saving” is broadly defined as sharing a saving goal with your social network and having them help you reach that goal through peer support or contributions.
Perhaps the best example of social saving is SmartyPig: “a free online piggybank for people saving for specific financial goals.”
With an engaging mobile app, SmartyPig makes it easy for users to “add money to an existing goal, make contributions to friend’s goals...and share messages through Twitter and Facebook.”
Where does the money go? Not to your bank but away from it. (“Savings accounts are securely held at BBVA Compass and are FDIC insured.”)
When it comes to money, piggymojo aims to “make saving it more rewarding than spending it.” Every time you turn an impulse buy into an impulse save, you text the amount to piggymojo. Then they share it with your savings “partners” (e.g., your spouse) as well as your social networks.
Unlike SmartyPig, piggymojo doesn’t handle your money. They just track your savings and “make it easy for you to transfer your weekly savings to a dedicated savings account.”
Savingspoint “is an online social savings account that allows you to save and contribute money towards savings goals.” You simply share your goals online and with your social networks. Then you give or receive money for things like weddings, college, or fund-raising events.
Like SmartyPig, Savingspoint uses a 3rd-party to hold the funds instead of your bank (“your funds are held by Partner Bank(s), which are FDIC members”) but they charge fees on some transactions.
Banks encourage savings, too. (But they’re not social.)
Putnam, an investment company, takes the idea of impulse savings a step further. Their PriceCheck&Save app lets you scan a barcode, retrieve a price, and (instead of you buying the item) transfer that money to your Putnam 401k account. (To further motivate you, the app tells you how much more you’ll receive every month throughout your retirement as a result of saving instead of buying.)
Both of these financial firms want to make it easier for customers to save and increase balances. But they’re missing the social element that provides support and encouragement and makes the whole savings process more engaging.
There’s more. Much more.
All the banks are looking for ways to be more profitable. Instead of a race to the bottom on efficiency (or, worse, adding fees) - instead of just using social tools to generate Likes - they might look for new ways to connect people to increase engagement and create value.
The customer-made videos on SmartyPig’s inspiration page speak to the possible increase in customer engagement. And this quote from a SmartyPig customer speaks to the business threat and opportunity for banks:
"Went to a bank yesterday to open an account. Picked up a magazine while waiting for the rep, saw an article about SmartyPig, went home and opened up my SmartyPig account. Funny how things happen."
— Susan B. (via Facebook)