The L word – big banks’ legacy is #fintech’s opportunity to disrupt


I recently went through quite a customer journey with what I call ‘a stone age bank’. Which is even more hilarious considering their current ad campaign features Flintstones. I asked Halifax bank to issue a supplementary credit card to my husband. A no brainer, right?

When I did this with Amex, the experience was painless – I applied online, I received a card 2 weeks later and we activated it online. This is because Amex, like every savvy credit card marketer, know that supplementary cards are great – accounts that have them incur higher spend. So in theory every credit card company or bank provider should want their credit card customers to have as many additional cards on the account as possible and accordingly make experience of obtaining them as painless as possible.

Not so with my stone age bank.

I wanted to apply online, at the time it was impossible (it may be possible now), so I had to call their call centre. I hate calling but it beats a paper form and a visit to the branch which I expected they would make me do.

Fine. I called. We filled in a form. All went well considering. Then I waited. 2 weeks. 4 weeks. I decided to call and enquire. A surprised call centre agent told me that my card application did not go through and that it’s strange that no one got in touch. Then the dreaded words – you need to go to the branch.

Every couple of months I do a face palm and question myself why, why on Earth do I continue to stay with this institution that is just too big to care and do the right thing for the customers!? I dream of switching to First Direct, TSB or some other bank that treats their customers well. But I am risk averse and hate uncertainty, so I endure.

I summon my husband (they need him there too!) and we come to the branch, where we are advised by a friendly manager that we can’t just come in, we have to have an appointment. For which we need to call them.

Would you not lose it here?

I did. I exploded and cursing Halifax’s head office and marketing/ product department, demanded to be seen right away. I am a good, calm person and I don’t normally yell at the frontline staff because I know they have to deal with the systems and processes designed by the HQ, but this was just too much. Halifax went too far on that occasion.

A lady manager took us into a room, I had to be verified and we then filled in the application again (!). Why should this nice, knowledgable lady be wasting her valuable time on a supplementary credit card when it could be done online, is beyond me.

We waited for 3 or 4 weeks (longer than with Amex), card arrived and if you think that’s the end of my story, you are wrong.

Because the card could NOT be activated online. It’s not like we live in post Apple era where cars drive themselves and reusable rockets are tested for flights to Mars. No. Remember, Flintstones! So we had to call Halifax again and my husband had to pass me the phone so Halifax employee could verify that the main cardholder was present.

By this stage I am alternating between hysterical laughter and rage. My faith in humanity is lost forever.

I asked someone from Halifax staff why they have this ridiculous cumbersome process for a product that would boost their revenue. The person said, well, it’s a legacy process.

As a marketer, when you hear the L word, perk your ears up, because legacy is where the opportunity lies. Legacy is why large organisations get disrupted and stop to exist. Legacy is lots of bright people submitting to the status quo, working in silos and not seeing the big picture. And this is why fintech will only grow. There are too many legacy systems and processes, there is so much to disrupt. Big banks are like Titanic, heading for disaster but too big to change course on time.

Halifax bank marketers must unconsciously know this, why else would they have chosen Flintstones to advertise their bank? Unless someone smart in their ad agency decided to have a laugh of course.


About lolkin

the nomad of the Universe, sailing through the unknown, learning to be happy and give happiness back
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