My mum still has passbooks.

During a recent vacation with the family, we took my Mum to help with the kids. It’s great having family around, the kids relate well to her and my wife and I get a chance to have some ‘adult’ time while on vacation. But something struck me like lightning on this trip. Talking to my Mum about banking, particularly my long history of progressing the digital agenda, my mum confessed that her primary accounts were six passbook accounts. Accounts that I have on several occasions declared DEAD.

My mum has no strong desire for bank branches to remain, nor is she strongly bound to the idea of having a passbook. It’s just no Australian bank has offered her a better solution to her very simple money challenge. She was to have separated buckets for savings, Christmas, travel, investments, etc. while maintaining a degree of control around the accessibility of the money. Sounds fairly straight forward, an account for different purposes. But in her multiple decades of banking, no bank has ever provided an adequate solution. In the shift to digital, we’ve made everything so convenient, we’ve forgotten that some things are inconvenient for a reason. In the case of my Mum that reason is behavioural barrier, she knows the money in those accounts are ‘safe’ from herself because accessing it requires an additional effort.

What resonated with me was the disconnect between banks and their customers. How has a bank not seen this as an opportunity decades ago? And are there more cases just like this out there? The concept of sub-accounts has existed in commercial and institutional banking for decades.

Granted there have been non-bank efforts such as Mint.com and Simple that have attempted the multiple ‘buckets’ for financial control. But surely bank’s have seen this trend before. It would only take some simple customer analytics by the banks to realised this pattern of behaviour, and respond with a an appropriate product.

Are banks really not even listening to their existing customers, or even looking at the workarounds customer create to create the experience, or controls they desire?

Please share with me cases of customer work around.

© Scott Bales 2014. All Rights Reserved.