Contributed by Solstice
Written by Jared Johnson, Principal Digital Strategist

Apple and Google have launched tools to enable financial services firms to engage their customers in a more personal way: using their voice on their smartphone. Virtual Assistants, like Siri and Google Assistant, have become relevant to business-to-business (B2B) financial services firms, due to an increase in these virtual assistants’ capabilities, as well as a transfer of expectations from the business-to-consumer (B2C) space to B2B firms. Thanks to the hard work of the tech giants, there are a wealth of opportunities for B2B financial services firms to ride the wave of more engaging digital experiences that companies like Apple and Google have enabled.

Publicly Available Images from Apple’s 2017 WWDC

It is now easier for banks and brokerages to engage their customers through Siri.
SiriKit, which is the set of tools Apple provides to enable your iPhone users to get answers to questions from brands, is now more powerful. Siri is enabling users of financial apps to do things like check their account balance and surface data that normally requires navigating an app or website. Not many B2B firms are offering this capability, leaving a small window for first movers.

The recent launch of Apple Cash means a few things for banks.
The beachhead into payments that Apple created with their launch of Apple Pay in October of 2014 is now evolving to enable person-to-person transactions with Apple Cash. Apple Cash is baked into the latest iPhone and iPad operating system, iOS 11. Apple Cash will also work with the Apple Watch. While currently in a public beta, Apple Cash will go into production soon.

It adds additional motivation to add your debit/credit card to Apple Pay. Even if you aren’t interested in using a mobile wallet at checkout, Apple Cash allows you to send money to friends with any debit/credit card you have added to Apple Pay.

It integrates Apple even further into your customers’ finances, not just by facilitating transactions between two friends, but also by storing users’ money in an Apple Cash Card. This, for the first time, gives Apple control of their customers’ idle cash. Apple could now have the opportunity to invest that idle money and accrue interest, creating another revenue stream for them.

All of this puts Apple in a position to undermine the value of banks. Apple is in a prime position to make payments to merchants, exchange money between friends, and hold onto your spare cash, all traditional services offered by banks. If Apple were to enable you to pay your utility bills, etc. directly, that lessens the need for a bank even further. If Apple were to pay interest on the money you keep in Apple Cash, then it would further undermine the value of banks.

Apple Business Chat
Apple Business Chat will enable anyone with an iPhone to ask Siri to connect them with a brand. For example, you could say “Hey Siri, connect me with Bank X customer service.” This will initiate a conversation between you and that bank through the iMessage app on your iPhone. This means you do not need to install the bank’s app or visit a website. You can talk to the brand the same way you talk to friends. Apple has slated this feature to launch in January 2018.

Google Assistant
Artificial intelligence (AI) use-cases continue to become available to consumers. Google is enabling their Pixel and Pixel 2 smartphone owners to use computer vision to detect landmarks and pull out phone numbers and email addresses from things in the real-world like billboards and marquee ads. This capability is dubbed “Lens AI” and is accessed through Google Assistant.

Heightened Digital Expectations have transferred from B2C to B2B
The conversations in financial services companies’ boardrooms have increasingly revolved around improving the digital experience they offer to their clients. While retail banks and credit card companies faced a real threat from digital startups over the last five years, institutional brokers and commercial banks were less threatened because it is much more difficult for startups to disrupt them, and they were insulated from the waves of changes that have transformed B2C financial services. However, now that most B2C financial services firms have caught up with the latest trends when it comes to mobile, those expectations for a more seamless digital experience have been transferred to B2B. Once B2B customers realized how easy it can be to complete a bank-to-bank transfer from their smartphone while commuting on the train, they have begun to compare that experience to how difficult it is for commercial banks to move money around. While there was no pressure to enable this experience for an institutional broker or commercial bank five years ago, that has changed dramatically in today’s world.

To act on these mobile trends, B2B financial services firms must adapt a “test & learn” mindset, and become laser-focused on identifying which of these mobile trends provides the most value for their clients. It has become important for B2B financial services firms to attempt to lead their industry in digital experiences. This has happened because fast followers are finding that a ‘wait and see’ approach to digital innovation does not serve them well. Financial services firms that have become skilled at delivering excellent customer experiences in the digital space have built moats to protect their investment. Moats, in this sense, are the tools, methodologies and partnerships that allow them to move quickly.

Financial services companies that have not optimized their digital delivery methodologies will struggle to move at the speed of the innovators who have already gone ‘all-in’ on digital experiences for their customers.
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Author: Jared Johnson, Principal Digital Strategist, Solstice
Email: jjohnson@solstice.com

Solstice is a digital innovation firm that helps Fortune 500 companies seize new opportunities through world-changing digital solutions. We’re strategists, researchers, designers and engineers hell-bent on changing the way the world does business. We’re headquartered in Chicago with delivery offices in New York, London, and Buenos Aires. www.solstice.com