Six Standout Financial Services Companies We’re Watching

Today’s financial services business ain’t your father’s bank. The financial services industry is unleashing wave upon wave of product innovation, smart branding, and culturally relevant customer experiences (CX). We’ve poured over dozens of financial services firms to identify the ones that are defining what’s next for the industry. Here are six standouts!:

U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank gets points for innovating — not a slam dunk for a big, well-established bank — and for paying close attention to user trends. Consider the institution’s use of voice-based banking. As a 2019 survey from Fiserv reveals, 51 percent of U.S. consumers could envision possible benefits to voice-based banking. That’s a 10 percent uptick from 2017, a leap U.S. Bank appears to have noted—and acted upon. In 2020 U.S. Bank launched a voice assistant for its mobile app; meant to mimic human bank tellers, the voice assistant allows users to make banking requests using informal, conversational language. 

Why we love it: U.S. Bank has made accessibility a priority from the word Go. When developing the voice assistant, U.S. Bank involved people with a range of cognitive, sensory, and other disabilities in the process and the pilot programs.

Acorns

Acorns has blazed a trail for robo-investing. The company has been helping a largely Millennial population ease into personal investing by making the process easy through a genius idea: investing your spare change. When people use their debit cards to make small purchases, Acorns rounds up their spare change and invests it automatically. Acorns has been credited for helping an entire generation of college students learn personal finance and investing, but it’s really an account for the entire family. For instance, Acorns Early helps children learn about financial accountability. Acorns is also an app with a purpose: befitting its name, Acorns plants thousands of trees annually to fight climate change. 

Why we love it: Acorns has helped the largest generation in the U.S. labor force learn how to take control of their finances — and that’s good for the entire economy. And Acorns has heart.

PayPal

PayPal, the well-known online payments system, inspires us for two reasons: relevance and trust. PayPal manages security and ease of payment flawlessly, which is saying a lot at a time of heightened concerns about digital security. And it’s almost hard to appreciate the Herculean challenges PayPal faced when it began to build its brand back in 1998. Getting consumers to trust their banking or credit card intel to the Internet back then? No small feat. But patient investment in security and quality paid off: some people decided to trust PayPal, and after a while, more did — so much so that Morning Consult has named PayPal one of the most trusted brands in America. “I have used [PayPal] for many years and have never had a moment when I felt I could not trust them,” one respondent is quoted in their report. PayPal also relies on smart acquisitions to remain relevant and valuable, such as its acquisition of Venmo (for more casual financial transactions among personal acquaintances), Honey (for coupon finding) and Happy Returns (which helps merchants manage returns).

Why we love it: This brand just keeps on finding ways to be relevant. As Adweek notes, “With its recent partnership with Visa and capacity to transfer federal stimulus monies amid the Covid-19 pandemic, PayPal is fast evolving into an all-occasion financial services brand.”

Cash App

It’s more than a mobile payment service: Cash App, developed by Square, is also a lifestyle brand. Cash App has become big in hip-hop, cropping up in toplines for rappers like Guapdad 4000. In fact, as GQ notes, shout-outs to Cash App appear in hundreds of rap rhymes. Cash App also has an apparel line—Cash by Cash App—consisting of limited edition drops of custom-designed pieces, from tees to raincoats. Bottom line: how many financial services brands can say they get profiled in GQ for their relevance to hip-hop and sell apparel on the side?

Why we love it: the Cash App website is just . . . cool design, like nothing you might expect from a financial services site.

Rally

We love Rally because it’s helping to define how content creators and their fans build brand love with crypto currency. The open network enables creators to launch independent economies with their communities powered by the ethereum blockchain – making it possible for people to invest in their favorite content creators, ranging from artists to writers. That’s been a game-changer for music groups like Portugal The Man who made headlines when they partnered with Rally to offer crypto currency perks to fans. During a pandemic year when bands couldn’t tour, tokenizing fan engagement (Portugal the Man developed the PTM coin) became a way to offer special benefits to hardcore enthusiasts. For Portugal The Man, that meant giving token holders access to exclusive livestreams and an audio archive of unreleased music. 

Why we love it: Rally is enabling a creator economy by catering to the crypto currency generation.

Bank of America

Purpose-driven and relevant to the values of its customers, Bank of America stands out because it builds emotional trust with people: a recent LinkedIn article details the mega-bank’s dedication to affordable homeownership and closing economic and racial gaps exacerbated by the pandemic. How does it demonstrate that dedication? With a $15 billion commitment. As of February 2021, Bank of America, through grants and affordable loans, had already helped almost 21,000 people from low- and moderate-income communities realize the dream of home ownership.

Why we love it: this is a company with authenticity and heart. Consider what Steve Boland, President of Retail at Bank of America, has to say: “Genuineness in how we care for each other has always been important to me as a leader.” 

Creative Commerce: The Next Frontier

We see a big opportunity for the entire financial services industry to embrace creative commerce, or CX-focused commerce that seamlessly blends commerce with a lovable experience. Right now financial services leaders for the most part are focusing on the “commerce” part, as well they should. At the same time, we believe the industry can and will make the CX more engaging and human, as Cash App has done. We can’t wait to see what’s next – and we’re here to help financial services companies make that leap!

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