Living with the blind banks

October 24, 2017 § Leave a comment

Most of us use the bank apps for managing our weekly, monthly, even daily money affairs, the accounts, payments and mortgages through the Internet and mobile. To guarantee the security, some banks offer a number of ways securing the connection, but whatever the nature of the apps and the security tools they always open an active, exceptional bridge between our everyday life and the banks.

We can easily imagine, over the coming few years, how these apps and services will evolve in general, but one thing is certain: we will be communicating with the banks or related operators, be it mobile or over the net, using these systems and personal devices in a way that marries us with them. What a huge potential for a holistic and human-centric service – if it is seen as one!

Surprising enough, the banks have not realized – or they have been v-e-r- y slow to do it – that many of us, their clients have these daily or at least weekly intimate contacts with the bank. Even more interesting is that at the specific moment when using the apps and managing our economics at home or in our businesses, perhaps discuss it with our spouses or colleagues, we are fully tuned to the world of personal economics.

The knowledge of this state of mind of the customer is the wet dream of all market operators, who typically try to guess it in order to approach him or her at the right and relevant moment with an optimal offer. Usually they fail because even with the best, current and near-future (realistic) artificial intelligence and machine learning systems they cannot know how busy, open or motivated to engagement we happen to be. It is not untypical that we use the bank apps under other significant pressures at home or at work and have no time or interest to make it more complicated by paying attention to the interfering market messages and offers, as lucrative as they might be, received from the bank or other service providers.

Indeed, the most underestimated aspect of customer behavior is that we, as customers know, exactly, when we are interested in, ready and even willing to be engaged with any of the service providers we are connected with in our life, including the banks. You would expect that especially the banks, under the tremendous competition of today, and having such an exceptional window to and connection with our everyday life, would make the most out of this extraordinary channel and the opportunities it offers. They don’t.

How do the banks deal with this sensitive situation and the intimate connection they have been able to build with us, to be used perhaps hundreds of times a year? It is possible that somewhere around the world that I’m not aware of, it has indeed been used effectively, but my educated guess is that it’s been practically neglected and instead the apps and their services are just simple self-service systems with minor personal, economic and account data management possibilities. Above all, the main information traffic takes place without any consideration of the true state of mind of the client.

You would imagine that banks like OP in Finland had already done it, as it has been several times mentioned by their CEO Reijo Karhinen that they are extending their business beyond the traditional banking towards natural aspects of life such as transport, housing/living and perhaps to many other segments of life as well. There the need for relevant ict solutions only increases under such extensive developments and they must try to approach the clients better and more intimately than ever before. What could be done?

Internet of economic behavior

In 2012, I wrote two blogs introducing the concept of Interenet of Behaviors (IoB), something you could take as a cousin of the Internet of Things, with the exception that the idea behind IoB is to address ongoing human (or other system’s) behaviors instead of addressing objects in the world. The idea was to create an addressing or access system that codes or assigns addresses to specific ongoing behaviors (with different time constants from seconds to months or even years) of which an operator is interested. This would bring behavior data into the Internet, in a systematic form.

Internet of Behaviours
Psychology behind Internet of behaviours

Allowing the operators to follow the behavior data, the individuals, bank customers for example, could benefit from it in many ways. I even used a primitive bank example and we tried to get funding from our national innovation funding organization, Tekes to further develop the IoB approach in other contexts – but they did not see any sense in it. Probably it was a too complex or fuzzy idea to them to grasp any of its possibilities in real life. So, here, again, are a few real opportunities, not detailed, but meant for improving the bank services.

Intimate (and secure) life with banks

Imagine you open the connection to your bank in order to check your accounts, for whatever purpose, or to take care of the usual payments. What if, while making this connection, during your activity, or when you are about to finish it, with a push or two of a button, you could express your any, acute economic interest, wish or worry, or simple curiosity, that is on your mind right then and you believe your bank, or some other source could have something to offer to you, even give valuable advice and help? You would inform yout bank about this peculiar ‘state of you mind’. It is a simple, but extremely informative episode of client engagement to any service provider.

You could have your own and shared coding system that you have built with your bank and of which only you and the bank know what each code (behavior – internal, external) represents. I call these codes as addresses to your (ongoing) behavior that only you fully know, be it internal behavior (e.g. planning, thinking, imagining, day-dreaming, worrying) or external (e.g. buying, selling, exercising, studying, going or being somewhere, whatever relevant to you).

I will not introduce here any specific instances of everyday life where the present or future banks could have a useful role in serving us, but you can easily imagine a number of them from your own, even present life, and some of them are truly unique to individuals, families, couples, children and businesses. That is one important aspect of the IoB approach: to (willingly) transform the traffic of intimate human knowledge from the clients to the operators.

There is no one system of the IoB codes or addresses to cover our economics-related behaviors so that it would not become a huge unmanageable mess, but an operator and we as clients would soon learn what these aspects of our everyday life are – in reality and how to best benefit from them. It’s a new kind of a learning journey between the two of us. A peculiar aspect and a compelling example, is the time window of life: often we (but none else) know when we need and want something to happen or to be done. Interestingly, current Internet services do not have much offer in such situations; take for example the case of buying car.

You can be only dreaming and be interested in it, within the next two years, for example or you would be in a desperate need right now. I’ve explained this in another blog showing how stupid the current search engines like Google are in (not) serving us in this kind of situations.

Why IoB?

There are several reasons why I have confidence in the IoB kind of an approach in the future.

First, current discourse on Artificial Intelligence, as it occurs in Finland, for example but globally, too, underestimates the value of private, intimate individual knowledge. Instead, big data, machine learning, sensor and following technologies, face recognition, and even brain state measures are expected to open the gate to the individual mind. I don’t believe this will happen during the lifetime of the young generation developing these approaches now. They will bring the operators closer, perhaps at our doors and into the domestic equipment, but not much further and they fail to get in intimate touch with the experiencing, motivated and intentional person.

Second, future services are getting ever more complex and so are the behaviors, which the service providers try to support and benefit from. It’s a problem of dealing with dynamic value networks (e.g. Nyman, G., Peltonen, J., Nelson, M., Karjalainen, J., Laine, M., Nyberg, T., & Tuomisaari, H. (2017). On the Behavioral Theory of the Networked Firm. In: Big Data and Smart Service Systems. Elsevier Scientific Publ).

The systems approach is not only needed in building services but also to understand the dynamics and content of human life and behavior, where new dependencies emerge fast, especially with the new technological solutions and tools. One way, and the best one I know of, to relax the complexity of the problem in serving these multi-dimensional, interdependent behaviors is to let people express their relevant behaviors and states of mind themselves, securely, either semi-automatically or by communicating it voluntarily.

There is a plethora of behavior monitoring, tracking gadgets and systems and it is highly probable that many of them will (and are already doing it at a miniature scale) transform into IoB oriented tools and systems that will boost this development. I expect this to happen within the next five years. It remains an interesting development to follow, where the major breakthrough happens first. Guesses hover in the air already. My own guess is it will happen within the health care services, especially patient follow-up and monitoring of medication. Banks are probably slow, but anyone having the intimate, secure Internet or mobile connection with us should seriously consider this opportunity for valuable services.



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