Wednesday 19 September 2012

The obscure language of online banking

Let me ask you the following question: are you very familiar with a given topic? of course you are, either a hobby, a passion or a profession we are very familiar with, at least, a few subjects.

And of course, the subjects where you have that expertise have their own jargon, their own language... in mathematics you talk about integrals and linear functions, in programming about classes and exceptions, in healthcare about illnesses and obscure body parts, in finance you talk about bonds and credit margins. To the non-initiated those terms are sometimes cryptic or, perhaps even worse, misunderstood.

I find the comparison between healthcare and finance particularly revealing... when you go to the doctor and she tells you that your TSH is a bit too low and she would like an ultrasonography... you immediately want  to know what does that mean, if it is serious and why you need something that is usually used for pregnant women.

In finance the sense of urgency is usually much lower, but the language could be as baffling; simply when a credit card offers you 0% interest on transferred balance, but 1% fee for the first 6 months up to a limit of 25000 dollars; or when your banker tells you that you liquidity is a bit too low and your assets need more diversification.

And the situation gets worse if the non-expert must interact with tools and systems using those language...

Thankfully healthcare is mostly face to face and we can ask our physician what are those things she is saying and then we can act accordingly to this understanding...

Banking is less and less face to face. We are all converging to a world where banking through electronic channels, online or mobile, are the norm. These financial electronic toolboxes give us the ability to interact with our bank 24/7 and to do an amazing amount of things from any place we want... but

Most people are not financial experts and they are supposed to use this toolbox more or less on their own, sometimes without even a diagnosis, a financial situation analysis.

I bet almost nobody would consider doing electronic healthcare in the same way we do online banking... imagine that the accounts are your medical measurements and that you can choose what treatments you can apply on yourself... so, your accounts are cholesterol levels, TSH levels, glucose levels, blood pressure levels, etc and you can apply sonographies, antibiotics, anti-cholesterol pills,  etc. Nobody non-expert would do that (I'm even doubting experts would do it)... the risk is too great.

Thankfully the risk in banking is much lower, very rarely life and death, and people can make sound financial decisions when presented benefits and consequences in a clear and simple way that is in easy to understand.

Online banking solutions should factor in the people (yes, I unabashedly used the name of the blog ;-) ) presenting the information in clear layman’s terms, with clear benefits and consequences. This will lead to greater opportunities for users, more trust and more action, and for banks, increased loyalty and more sales.

As with many things, it is WHAT you say AND HOW you say it.

This is the first post on a series of posts on humanizing electronic banking (mobile and online) .


  1. I agree with you. Online banking solutions have always been advantageous for every transaction including Private Banking

  2. A gigantic yell out to the essayist who emptied his spirit into this blog.
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