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The Big Short on User Experience in Financial Services

4 Critical Focus Areas

During a recent business trip, I had the opportunity to finally see Adam McKay's wonderful portrayal of the horror that was the 2008 financial crisis - "The Big Short." Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell brought me right back to that time, not so long ago, when we all witnessed the fall of major Wall Street firms and the destruction caused by the sub-prime mortgage boom.

The crisis created an environment of increased mergers and acquisitions resulting in complicated back end systems and antiquated infrastructures. The result was a systemic lack of trust in institutions, services, practices and transactions, and a regulatory environment that demanded increased spending on regulation, leaving little budget for technological innovations.

But today, in order to thrive, to retain existing customers and acquire new ones, financial institutions must pursue breakthrough innovation and become willing to effectively develop new products, services, and channels with a laser-focus on customer experience. Every new customer will find them, research their services, and sign up through a digital channel and in order to improve acquisition as customer choice grows, financial institutions must deliver fast, reliable, and secure digital experiences. Akamai's recent whitepaper "Digital Transformation, Millennials and the Future of Financial Services" explores many of the lessons for today's financial institutions. In this blog, we'll look at four critical focus areas.


As e-commerce has proven, by improving response time, companies can increase revenue conversion and decrease visitor abandonment. In today's fierce marketplace, creating a positive customer experience is a crucial factor to success. It requires a clear understanding of the customer, making the best offer, and then delivering it better than anyone else to create differentiation and foster customer loyalty. Financial institutions need web and mobile performance solutions that optimize experiences for users regardless of their device, connection, network speed, or location, without incurring the expense of building out costly data centers.


The availability of mobile banking services is a key consideration when consumers choose to switch banks, and there is a clear link between a strong mobile proposition, customer satisfaction and advocacy. According to KPMG's Global Mobile Banking Report, the number of mobile users will rise from 0.8bn in 2014 to 1.8bn by 2019, or about a quarter of the world's population. Financial institutions that do not have clear mobile banking strategies risk losing customers and cross-sell opportunities and thus, their competitive advantage. Yet, there are significant challenges and complexities to ensuring rich mobile experiences for end users. The device market is incredibly fragmented - thousands of different types of mobile devices access Facebook every day - each with different processing power, screen dimensions, pixel density, and sensors. Successful mobile strategies must consider device-specific performance that will accelerate rendering, reduce requests and, as a result, reduce abandonment. The good news? Financial institutions have a real opportunity to improve retention rates by delivering seamless experiences across devices.


Financial institutions that succeed in reassuring customers about the safety of their platforms will remove a primary impediment to further digital growth. It is impossible to achieve digital transformation if it is not based on a strong security posture. Breaches of major financial institutions pose threats not only to revenue and reputation, but also to national infrastructure. DDoS, web application, and DNS infrastructure attacks represent some of the most critical threats today, and they can easily overwhelm traditional defenses. Financial services institutions migrating to hybrid and private cloud infrastructures need security services that work across their combined data center and hosting environments, with a focus on web performance and resiliency.


Personalizing the user experience is another way that financial institutions can work to gain back the trust of their customers, ensuring that they represent more than just another account number. Content personalization can help by creating custom cross-channel experiences using rich content that engages customers with not only products and services, but industry trends and expertise. By providing insights and relevant information to customers, financial institutions can deepen relationships and become trusted advisors. In order to achieve this, financial institutions must have seamless integration across channels.

First, financial institutions must accept that innovation is indispensable to their future growth. The next step is planning how to tackle innovation in an effective way without losing sight of the customer experience. Financial services institutions should do this by fostering continuous innovation and focus on identifying and solving customers' problems (rather than on only selling them products), so they can not only meet, but exceed customer's rising expectations. Although Carell, in his fantastic portrayal of Mark Baum, may have had a "colorful" way of saying it, in order to succeed, financial institutions must remain focused on the customer.