“It’s been a great year for tech.” We say it every year. Because the tech is markedly better than the year before. (Or so the likes of Apple would have us believe.) But if there’s one thing we really learned in 2018, it’s not necessarily about the tech, the “gadg”, or the hype. It’s about the experience. How it makes you feel. What it can actually do for you.
A sentiment that was only echoed at WXG (our annual flagship conference) where we were left touched and inspired by Emma Lawson’s talk around how user-centred design is now at the heart of her world after being diagnosed with Parkinson's. Steve Prior, MD at Engage Marketing, summed it up best:
“Main outtake from #WXGSIX – it's not about media, it's not about tech, it's not about innovation. It's about ideas, people and how we use the ideas to make the people feel.”
With this reflective mindset, we asked everyone at Kyan which apps have had a positive impact on them during 2018 and we weren’t short of suggestions. Forget the Christmas number one. Here’s Kyan’s Most Appreciated Products of 2018.
In the last year we’ve been spectator to the phenomenal growth of challenger banks. Monzo (and the likes of Starling and Revolut too) are adding new features at a blistering rate and acquiring new users faster than they can print cards.
Their features are simple in implementation and nature but are fundamentally the tools that we’ve been pleading for from traditional banking services for sometime. Sure, the big banks are playing catch-up, but in our view Monzo are offering the whole package; a re-envisioned idea of personal banking, fantastic customer service, and a great tone of voice and brand style to wrap it all together.
Starling have scored well when it comes to account availability, digital ID verification and time to setup – three things that make them a no brainer if you need to open a business account quickly. But there’s also great value when you consider the fees, or lack of. An account is free to open and there are no monthly deductions or hidden transaction stings. But what unique leverage do they have here against their competitors? It’s their Marketplace — simple integration with business-ready tools like Xero and FreeAgent. The lack of high street branches could have posed a problem for some, but since Starling’s recent partnership with the trusty Post Office, paying in cash should be a doddle. If you don’t mind queueing.
Investment is a very broad term if you encompass stock and shares, trading, currency and everything in between. And to me, anything beyond a simple ISA can get a little daunting very quickly. I’m not going to pretend I fully understand crypto and blockchain yet, because frankly I don’t.
However, I recently used HL to invest in a stocks and shares ISA. I not only found the app incredibly user-friendly and hassle-free (a rarity from the more traditional financial giants), but the terminology, language, welcome journey and general orientation not only reassured me as a customer but encouraged me to see what else they can offer. Damn, they got me.
A few of us have used PensionBee over the last few months to pull together forgotten pots from previous employers or simply to move away from other providers. In Harry’s case, he stumbled upon quite the nest egg – a pension that he forgotten he had. (Did you know over £20bn worth of pensions remain unclaimed!?)
My PensionBee experience was laughable at the expense of my previous provider who shall remain nameless but should know better. The transfer took just shy of 20 weeks. That’s 140 days, which is 3 months over the industry average. Frustrated at this, I tweeted PensionBee and my old provider, at which point PensionBee jumped in and gave them what I can only call a rather stern nudge. Suddenly, everything started moving quickly and my old provider sent me £150 as an apology. PensionBee’s app is simple in its offering, but the care they have put into their customer service, content strategy and knowledge sharing is incredibly… *don’t make a honey pun, don’t make a honey pun* ...sweet.
Habito hit a world-first in becoming a ‘robo-advisor’ for mortgage advice. And that advice is regulated too. It’s a very clean and clear product offering – free mortgage advice without the jargon. They’ve been lucky in securing numerous rounds of funding from the likes of Transferwise and FundingCircle, but where is their longevity as a business? Well, Habito offer mortgages from over 90 lenders and these partnerships will most likely pay good referrals. On top of that, Habito are set to bring their own mortgages to the table sometime in 2019.
The benefits of Habito over the usual mortgage advice route? Well, no waiting for appointments and sitting about at said appointment, filling out forms with a biro that barely works as the lukewarm coffee beside you becomes less lukewarm. All whilst being charged £500 for the privilege.
Like many people, I was a little sceptical about chatbots. Particularly chatbots that plug in to your bank account. Via Facebook Messenger. But it’s safe — industry-standard encryption ensures your connection is secure, and European regs protect any savings held with Plum. In its simplest form, Plum is a virtual assistant that can periodically tell you where you can find savings in your spending by analysing your spending patterns. It also number-crunches your bills to see if you’re getting the best deal. On top of this, you can initiate a chat with Plum and ask pretty much anything relating to your monthly outgoings. You accrue savings into a Plum account which is separate from your bank account, and you can access them any time.
To us, Plum is a great example of a straightforward finance product that talks to its audience through a channel they are already very familiar with. Saving quickly becomes second nature, with gentle nudges, insightful summaries and a dash of personality and humour thrown in too.
Fintech is an exciting place to be, but it is at times predictable. No doubt 2019 will see the rise of more 'disruptive disruptors', and funding will play a key part in bringing these products to market. In the wider consumer industry, the talk of a cashless society is getting louder and whilst we don't think it's right around the corner, reward and points-based systems are becoming more prominent which means loyalty could be a key currency for many brands looking to retain customers.
Whilst we are on the topic of 'out with the old and in with the new', there's growing concern around the British high street and what recent trends mean for bricks and mortar banks. Again, we don't think the big banks will be closing branches en masse any time soon, but we do see them becoming more creative with their in-branch offerings or adopting hybrid models — exhibit one: the Capital One Cafe (see below).
On the business side of things, security and encryption definitely need to step up a notch in light of the many high-profile data breaches we've seen in 2018, especially State-side. It's likely the US lawmakers will start to discuss new data protection standards much like the EU have with... *shudder*... GDPR.