The new customer interface: Visualization and Digital Relationship

At Finovate Europe last week we saw a lot of what I would generally classify as “me too” PFM efforts. While there were a few stand out examples, such as Meniga and Linxo, I don’t think these platforms are robust enough for where we are going. This says a lot I know, because most banks are still not at this basic stage of having PFM deployed and I’m already talking about what comes next, but if you’re a bank about to invest in PFM – then think about whether it goes far enough.

The fact that there is a lot of activity in the PFM space shows that the time is very quickly coming for some sort of customer relationship footprint aggregation/mobilization.  But, it’s going to take more than a few fancy pie charts, a drag and drop goal function, and seeing your account usage on a timeline to pimp out my Internet banking.

The information deluge and filtering

One of the challenges I see moving forward is that a pie chart of your portfolio, or a pie chart of spend patterns, or a fancy presentation of your account statement is only going part of the way. Increasingly I need to be able to filter information quickly and understand the context and relevance of that information to me at a glance. While a pie chart is potentially an effective tool to show me some of that, and might even be central in some scenarios, there is a lot of other relevant information that might be prioritized.

Mint Screenshot

There's always a pie chart in there somewhere...

The following information, for example, is not going to be important everyday, but at certain times, it could be quite useful:

  1. You just got paid your salary
  2. Your mortgage account doesn’t have enough money in it for the next payment
  3. Your phone bill is due tomorrow but you haven’t set up a payment
  4. The $25k you have deposited in a savings account should be deployed in a CD or other instrument to be getting better interest
  5. Your wife just maxed out her credit card (ok, I’m told that she’s allowed to do that…)
  6. A retailer you visited 3 times in the last 3 weeks will give you a 15% discount if you use your bank visa card this month
  7. Houses in your neighborhood have just been revalued upwards
  8. Your anniversary is a week away, and here is a special offer for a romantic night away

Then there is statistical information that is useful:

  1. Spending habits that are good/bad
  2. Progress towards a goal
  3. More efficient use of your money
  4. Spending mix
  5. Portfolio rebalancing based on Risk Profile
  6. Available balance on your credit card
  7. Loan refinancing options

This is a lot of information to show on a pie chart or a single screen, so either the bank will cram this information into a ‘dashboard’, or just not show it at all. The capability to filter this information and give direct, relevant feedback to the customer is essentially missing in most banks today.

Seriously, the key to transforming the relationship of the client of today is firstly to demonstrate your value as a bank in the relationship, and second, to anticipate the client’s needs. At the moment, Internet Banking as a platform probably does neither of those well. PFM is a step in the right direction, but it has a way to go, purely because of the volume of information we’ll need processed and the need for relevance.

Digital Relationship as the new metric

Today I received an email from my relationship manager asking me if I would be happy to recommend her. It went something like this (sanitized to protect the bank):

You may have recently received a letter inviting you to ‘Share your Experience’, and I want to take this opportunity to further highlight the features and benefits of this programme. If you know someone, a friend, family member or colleague who would benefit from having a <bank> relationship, I would really appreciate your referral. By introducing someone to <bank>, you open the door for them to the same high level of attention, international services and financial opportunities that you currently enjoy as a <bank> client.
Email Note from my Relationship Manager

I actually have no problem recommending my RM (Relationship Manager) because she has done an excellent job. But there are a few issues I take with the above communication.

Firstly they sent me a letter…seriously?

Secondly, the assumption is that I perceive their service as they do, i.e. “the same high level of attention”, especially given the fact that their digital presence is significantly sub-par.

I’m logging in to Internet banking, and would be logging into mobile banking (if they had it), something like 5-10 times a week. The average customer is doing something similar each month. I visit their ATMs 2-3 times a week, and I visit their branch about twice a year, if I have no other choice.

So their best place to build a relationship with me is online, but they honestly don’t understand that based on their current platform. That relationship will be built through connecting with me through understanding me, and personalizing the dashboard that interfaces me to the bank.

Data visualization is a great start

Infographics are a great benchmark for customer data visualization

Unless you’ve been living under a digital rock these last couple of years, you may have noticed the very interesting trend to represent data and statistical information in a form called Infographics. These graphical representation of data are an excellent method of taking complex graphs, statistics, and information and filtering it for general consumption. Banks, and others, can learn a thing or two about filtering and data visualization from this trend.

Another great approach is that of the iPad app flipboard which aggregates streams of information in an easy to consume format. Could you provide a more interesting way to display account and credit card usage information, perhaps linked back to offers from specific retailers too?

The last step will be all about management. This is the ability to respond to a trigger, an event or a critical piece of information and proactively suggest a response to the customer that builds trust and the service relationship.

Get these right and you’ll have a relationship dashboard that connects you to the customer in a way that no bank does today…


  1. Now your talking!

  2. Diana says:

    what does PFM stand for?

    • bank2book says:


      PFM = Personal Financial Management, it’s like a sophisticated internet banking with personalized recommendations, goal planning, etc. See for a good open example.

      Apologies for the acronym soup :)


  3. How great would it be if PFM could do everything that Brett proposes it should do? Like letting you know if you don’t have enough funds to pay your mortgage or you just got paid your salary…useful information that relates directly to your lifestyle and behaviour patterns. At a retail banking level, this utopia seems a long time in the future. In the telco world, this is a reality where contextual marketing and geo-location services are in full swing, and retailers and service providers target their customers with offers and information that are directly mapped to their consumer’s behaviour.

    A significant percentage of the banking population bank on-line are frustrated by the old-fashioned style of customer engagement they receive from banks. If people have opted out of the face-to-face and paper world in favour of the on-line one, then it is probable that they will be more receptive to e-engagement. However, banks still send these customers letters in the post!

    Electronic and mobile banking provides banks with the opportunity to re-scope their business model and deliver a new improved service to its customer. Social media and the mobile internet gives banks the opportunity to better engage with its customer and learn about and analyse their behaviour.

    By ensuring they have the infrastructure in place to extract data from across the pool – from CRM to processing and payments – banks will be able to re-define existing services and launch new ones that better match what the customer wants. In addition, banks will be able improve their loyalty schemes to add real value to the customer.

    Shouldn’t banks be taking their PFM packages to beyond what they are currently proposing, and wrap them into their CRM and social media strategy, so when they market to or contact the customer, the consumer receives the communication in the way they want, and hear what they want to hear?

    Comment from Hemant Lamba, Banking and Capital Markets Practice, Infosys, and posted by Infosys Press Team

  4. Great article and thanks for mentioning that you found Meniga stood out among PFM Solutions at Finovate Europe.

    You‘re absolutely right that banks should be asking „what‘s next“ when considering PFM Solutions – and the vision you outline here and elsewhere is right on the money. A related question is: What are some practical steps for banks to move towards the vision? As you describe in your book, many retail banks are plagued with legacy issues in a broad sense – technical, organizational and mind-set wise. In addition, the gap between what banks can deliver and what people expect in the age of Facebook is ever increasing at the same time that retail banking profitability and business model is under severe pressure.

    Offering PFM is a great first step as it is practical to do so in a manageable project without throwing out the old online bank – in some cases this is the only viable option for banks to do anything in this regard due to technical legacy issues. The important part of the selection process, however, is making sure you adopt a PFM Solution that you believe will grow with you and constantly move closer to the vision. User experience continuity is also important so gradual changes are often preferable over abrupt changes – at least many bankers feel this way. To illustrate, we have since 2009 been working with Íslandsbanki, one of Iceland‘s top retail banks, on the following high-level 3 step plan:

    Step 1 ( launched in 2009): Offer PFM as a stand-alone web
    application loosely coupled with the online bank (only: widgets, sign-up, single sign-on).
    • The bank starts learning early how to use PFM concepts and usage data in its business. Training customers to use PFM and for the bank to learn how to leverage PFM and realize benefits from increased cross-selling, acquisition, etc. doesn’t happen over night – just like it took time for banks to learn how to realize benefits from online banking 10-15 years ago.
    • Easy to implement. The technical work involved was measured in weeks, not months.
    • Improved retention and improved brand image: 25% of the bank’s customers have now signed up for PFM, many of which absolutely love it and think more highly of their bank for offering it.

    Step 2 (to be launched in mid 2011): Much tighter integration with the online bank as the PFM Application becomes part of the online bank. The PFM app takes over certain customer facing functionality such as account statements and information on the online bank’s front page. Full integration with bill-pay and transfers and PFM functionality will be a prominent part of the bank’s mobile clients. I.e. this is a big step towards merging a state-of-the-art PFM Solution with a typical online bank.
    • Significantly more technical work but still manageable as the PFM Solution becomes the primary means of improving the online bank and can fit within the online bank’s improvement budget.
    • PFM usage data part of the bank’s CRM project. Clear measurable objectives for improved cross-selling and acquisition using the PFM driven online bank.
    • Much higher percentage of online banking users will now be exposed to the PFM functionality as it becomes part of the online bank. Users will perceive the PFM functionality as part of the online bank – not a separate application.

    Step 3 (2012 and beyond): Continuous gradual improvements towards a vision very much in line with what you describe above geared towards earning the trust of customers– where management is the key word.

    And since “management” is key, we also feel the term “Personal Finance Management” is very appropriate for where we are going, although we have seen some tendency to define PFM in an overly narrow way as only “looking at the past” or “no integration with bill pay” or “doing a good job of showing you where you spend your money but a poor one at helping you spend it more wisely”. This in our mind, is not fair, as we are only at the beginning of a very interesting evolution in revolutionizing engagement and customer interaction in retail banking – and more and more banks are open to take bolder steps than before…

    Georg Ludviksson
    Co-Founder and CEO of Meniga

  5. Tekfin says:

    Let’s push further:

    Step 4: PFM becomes intelligent

    - The basic operations needed for a customer (rebalancing of accounts, optimization of interest rates, credit card payments) are automated. The system intelligently decide the base money management of the account (we can imagine different level of auto controls based on users demand)

    - Goal Management is automated > setting up a goal show budget impact, area of savings based on exceeding personal spending vs average of similar clients. Click Ok and the system will automatically do the savings for you, warns you for over budgeted spending and offer you alternatives.

    - For non automated / interfaced with financial advisors (internal or external)

    This is doable now, people are building cos to do it now .. I want my bank to do this now ;-)

  6. Richard Fray says:

    Great article, I think that in addition to PFM there’s also another more ‘light touch’ way that banks can take advantage of the trend and tools for inforgraphics: using the reams of general research data and insight that banks hold to add value for their customers – by opening up their data and creating useful tools and insights with it – effectively becoming publishers.

    As an example, at HSBC (where I work in Digital team) we run the world’s largest survey of expats. Rather than simply create flat reports from the data for use by journalists and internally, we wanted to bring it to life, and share it with our customers and other expats by using it as the basis for a useful tool for people moving or living abroad. Infographics and data visualisation have enabled us to do this. We launched our new interactive tool and infographic video today and have already had a great response from expats around the world. You can see them at:

  7. bank2book says:


    Agree – banks need to be publishers and curators of content. Now that banks can not rely on information scarcity, the challenge is relevancy.

    Thanks for the reference to ExpatExplorer.


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