For many consumers, bill payments represent the core of their personal financial management needs and creating product value around this activity means paying attention to its context. Building out tools that can be relevant to an entire spectrum of financial institutions is a complicated undertaking. In this interview, Whitney Stewart shares her passion to simplify these complex processes through active listening and gaining a deep understanding of consumers needs and wants.
Creating simplified user experiences out of complex processes is no easy task. What would you say is the most important component of that experience to get exactly right?
Considering all the solutions we as an industry have developed over the years, I believe many have been over-developed. These represent “boil the ocean” attempts to make sure all bases are covered. Therefore, a big part of what we’re trying to do now is to reset the experience and work with FI’s to think about a simple, elegant user experience. We’re asking the question, “What is the least amount of information the consumer needs to tell the system to get their payment done?”
They want to get to a fewer step process of making payments – stripping it back to that simple solution. A product that is easy to use, more mobile-centric and allows FI’s to create value around that simple user experience in the form of advice and experience.
We have a strong focus on using data to provide advice back to the consumer. This is how FI’s can make a difference in the lives of consumers – helping them manage budgets, liabilities and debts, with proactive reminders is an example. In other words, predict the needs of consumers around payment activities. This is something we’re starting to see consumers expect and in turn, asking why their FI isn’t doing it.
Building products is one thing and selling them is another. Many financial institutions find marketing new products to their customer challenging. As you think about the value constructs of products like P2P payments, which of these values would you highlight if you were in charge of their marketing programs and why are the ones you chose meaningful?
My advice is to think about marketing as contextual to the consumer. So, if you see a consumer that’s transferring money to a relative frequently – offer them the opportunity to experience P2P as they’re initiating the transaction. This could take the form of a pop-up or push notification. For example, Fiserv’s bill pay platform is smart enough to recognize that the consumer is paying a person and it will automatically offer Popmoney, our P2P payments service, as an option. These strategies have been very successful in increasing transactions. Of the FI’s that have incorporated a contextual suggestion for P2P, they’ve seen a 40% increase in P2P users and those same users are transacting 30% more than the consumers from FI’s that don’t have this integrated payment experience.
We are also doing a lot of event trigger notification – so when a consumer takes a certain action the FI can send the consumer a push notification to offer a service. For example, if we see a consumer moving money every 3rd Thursday from one account to another, then setting up bill payments – why not proactively ask the consumer on Thursday morning whether or not they’d like to make that transfer and enabling them to do it with a simple click of a button on their mobile phone.
Is there ever again going to be a revenue play for banks in bill payment or has this service been permanently tagged “freemium”?
Our research indicates billpay or transfer capabilities are big value drivers for the FI. Consumers that use online and mobile banking PLUS make payments (bill pay or transfers) having longer relationship tenure and also buy/own more products from their financial institution. The routines consumers have built around bill pay are very strong and chances are that if you leverage the interaction to cross sell or provide advice to a consumer that is contextually relevant to them, financial institutions will benefit in greater revenue, deposit aggregation and more. The trend we are seeing is that product offers are being communicated using an advice strategy or advice banner. We’re just starting to see FI’s take that step forward -meaning integrating contextual suggestions into their billpay workstream – and I believe we’ll see more of this in the future.
Therefore, the need is less about revenue stream for billpay and more about leveraging the stickiness of the relationship. We recognize that the younger the consumer, the less likely they’re going to use billpay at their FI. What’s interesting, however, is that younger consumers don’t know that billpay is available and often FI’s have forgotten to tell these consumers about all the tools they offer and how to use them. When I’m talking to deposit product teams, I always remind them that they have to continue to promote these services and not just take for granted that accountholders know they’re available. It’s all about continual awareness.
Financial institutions are always looking for new markets to serve, but in developed countries like the U.S., these can be harder to find. What new markets do you see emerging in the next decade that regulated institutions are best positioned to serve?
FIs see great opportunity in younger, “struggling and juggling”, consumers that previously have shied away from FI’s due to hurdles and timing issues they’re encountered working with them. These consumers often live paycheck to paycheck and need to be able to pay at the last minute, so taking a few days to move money, for example, is not acceptable to them. However, this kind of instant-on environment is a whole different mindset for FI’s and their technology providers. It’s not only about speed, but how the products are made and promoted to these consumers. This is also true for small businesses, which often have cash flow challenges.
I think we should offer these segments mainline traditional banking, but done faster and made more elegant. We must give them the tools and information they need, like a PFM [personal financial management] tool, but not an all-encompassing view. Instead, a product that has more focus on short-term budgeting goals and helping consumers or small businesses stay on track for a very definitive, near-term goal. Think of it as modifying PFM into a bite-size product, then coupling that with easy, simple payment tools.
Is service specialization by business category as important in the products you develop as it is for other retail payments? Does your end user need unique services for different segments they serve?
The interesting thing about the role that Fiserv plays within the industry is that it provides a backbone to the industry. I’m focused on creating simple, stable products and the function of the FI is to take the Fiserv products and use them to differentiate for specific segments. I purposely try to design solutions that allow the FI’s room to create and innovate around the solution. This could include out of box applications, products branded or marketed differently as well as plug-ins and widgets for mobile or web.
Over the years, what have you learned about navigating large, complex organizations for purposes of creating and managing multi-dimensional products that you’d like to pass on to the next generation of development leaders?
The thing that has always served me well is to stay close to the consumer and the customer in order to understand their needs and problems. This gives you such a great level of credibility whether you’re talking to executives or mobilizing large teams. I like to share with them ways that they can change people’s lives and make their customers more successful. I like to anchor my work in solving a market problem and telling a story of how that solution addresses the needs of customers.
I also believe this approach makes gaining support for internal investments easier and helps to motivate the people that are getting the work done, whether it’s product development, sales or call center. And a great side benefit is that my philosophy of product development has also made it a lot more fun for me.
For more than 20 years, Whitney Stewart has been focused on the ways technology can enhance consumer financial services experiences. She has expertise in consumer payment behavior, customer segment strategy, and retail banking products. In her current role at Fiserv she leads a product management team that is responsible for building, enhancing and transforming the money movement platforms of most of the major banks in the U.S. Whitney is currently tasked with guiding the creation of an integrated payment solution that will result in frictionless payments experiences for consumers. This includes work to drive faster, real-time payments in the US and leveraging Fiserv solutions to help financial institutions create real-time payment services for consumers and businesses. Learn more about Fiserv here.