Are Financial Services Firms Emotionally Tone Deaf?

Are Financial Services Firms Emotionally Tone Deaf?

We were discussing Emotional Banking™ last week on the FinTechMafia when this throwback nugget came up.

It’s an article from our very own Ron Shevlin about Financial Services Firms being “emotionally tone deaf”. You could have knocked me over with a feather! I’m one of Ron’s biggest fans and I had thought I read most of what he wrote over the years, but here I am not having read something that goes straight to the core of what I advocate.

I’m not going to go into the article in itself as you should read it, and I may not agree with the exact definition of the emotions a bank should investigate but that’s irrelevant, what counts is that Ron was saying this in 2008! TWO. THOUSAND.AND. EIGHT. A well respected analyst. Speaking to banks from a worldwide, well respected digital platform such as TheFinancialBrand. Even making it a point to outline that paying attention to the blind spot will see numbers suffer. In true Ron Shevlin tradition, solid banker-carrot-and-stick-research translated into numbers meant to either inspire or terrify.

Surely that should have even moved the needle before I got there and encountered the dessert land of utter lack of research and true intent to study consumers’ feelings about their money that I did in 2010. And if not that, surely that needle is moved now, nearly 10 years later.

For the record, this is not about attribution – Ron Shevlin and Chris Skinner and all the other handful of thinkers who arrived in the industry and started writing and turning things into their heads long before I did, had already started to conclude banks were doing their consumers an injustice by not examining their emotions while shortchanging themselves in the process. We’ve all invented the same wheel. We just said it differently, at different moments of time and proposed different solutions.

One could argue the FinTech titans only pulled alarm signals and wrote things about it before returning to all the other facets of the industry they focus on but didn’t provide a path to make it worthwhile. But others who took this seriously, did.

There are Human Centered design and CX firms out there –few and far between as they’d rather focus on industries who care such as retail- who have been fighting to explain the core of designing for experience and feeling; there are even valiant bankers taking it to heart such as the extraordinary Louise Long at NAB and modesty aside, my own work to get banks to recognize the value of being a brand and then show them concrete ways to change the culture to accomplish that, as I’ve done over the past few years with the Emotional Banking ™ methods has made a dent. And it’s all going to get better, too. The discourse is turning towards “people not tech” across the board which is amazingly positive. Finally.

Related: When FinTech Dreams of Electric Sheep

Still here we are. Nearly 10 years later, at best collectively mildly-titillated intellectually by the idea that we should do more to focus on emotions but self-congratulatory that we just haven’t gotten around to the fluffy stuff yet, that we’ve all been serious and doing numbers and tech for day jobs instead.

The industry is chock full of people who like to proclaim themselves as “doers” but when it comes to what we’ve accomplished in not being “emotionally tone death” as Ron was accusing us 10 years ago, we’ve done nothing. We’ve accomplished nothing. We’ve taken exactly zero honest, deep looks into the psychic of a consumer we are asking to buy life-altering products from us.

Incumbents and challengers alike the world over, there is not one example in the industry of a bank having created at least one MoneyMoment that was a feelings-driven experience – contextual, emotionally charged, significant and addictive- and not just another repackaged financial product.

Who here, reading this, can say they’ve had any moment with their bank where they felt a surge of positive reaction other than gratitude it was not as painful as they anticipated or experienced in the past? One where you could say “Ah! I didn’t even realize there was a financial product or transaction behind this moment of my life! My bank just served my actual needs and it was pleasant!”. They didn’t because they still don’t know what the need is, what the feeling they need to enhance or inhibit is. And I wonder if they’ll ever bother finding out.

We live in an interesting time. In terms of CX for banking something tells me it’s both too late and too early. Our kids will think of banking as we know it as we think of dial-up or landlines.

I do believe they will have the seamlessly pleasant Invisible Banking experience our bank are unable to create for us, but it requires a blank slate to really do away with all existent banking products as we know them and design for truly investigated consumer emotions and people with brains, courage and passion to do so. One could argue it all boils down to which company, whether they are in Financial Services today or not -and my money is on “not”-, has enough of those and the common sense to let them get on with it already.

Duena Blomstrom

Duena Blomstrom is an independent Digital Banking consultant, an entrepreneur and VC, a mentor for Startupbootcamp and Techstars, an uncomfortably opinionated blogger, a ... Click for full bio

NBA Player Carl Landry Demonstrates the Value of Persistence in Life and Work

NBA Player Carl Landry Demonstrates the Value of Persistence in Life and Work

Written by: Jon Sabes

When you meet Carl Landry, stand-out college basketball player and nine-year NBA player, you imagine that becoming a professional basketball star was a straight forward run for the 6-foot-nine-inch power forward. 

However, when you go deeper into Carl’s background, becoming a NBA professional was less than certain and little came easily to the 33-year-old from Milwaukee:

  • He was cut from his high school team as a freshman and averaged less than ten points a game when he did play as a senior.
  • He started his college career not at Purdue, but a junior college where it was not clear he would play.
  • When he finally got to Purdue, he tore his ACL in his knee his first year and reinjured it the next year.
  • While his family held a party for him the night of the NBA draft, he slept in the Philadelphia airport after missing a flight following a workout for the 76ers.
  • In the NBA playoffs, Carl had a tooth knocked out, but came back in the same game to make a game-winning blocked shot as the Rockets beat the Utah Jazz 94-92.

Landry, who I interviewed on my podcast, Innovating Life with Jon Sabes (, is a remarkable example of the value of “persistence.” In a time where technology creates the image that anything is possible at the touch of a button, persistence is an under-appreciated trait. When I spoke with Carl, I clearly saw someone for whom success has only come through a force of will that made him a NBA player, but it also made him a better player every year he played. That’s the kind of personality that has produced greatness in business as well as sports.

Carl was, in fact, drafted that night he spent in the airport. The Seattle Supersonics chose him as the 31st overall pick and then traded him to the Houston Rockets where he rode the bench for much of the first half of the season. When All-Star teammate Yao Ming was injured, he stepped in and played a key role in the Rockets astonishing 22-game winning streak (the third longest streak in NBA history). And, that season, after sitting on the bench for 33 of the first 36 games, he was named to the All-Rookie second team.

Carl was the first in his family to go to college. “I told myself that this was my ticket out, so I did everything I possibly could to be the best person in school and also on the court,” he said.

His family life in Milwaukee showed him what he didn’t want to do. “Just being honest with you, seeing some my cousins, peers, they went to work for jobs paying six, seven dollars an hour or they didn’t go to work at all and then living off welfare. I didn’t want that.”

When he was first injured, he had to contemplate the end of a career before it even got started. “When you have an ACL tear, it’s over…no more basketball,” he told me. “I said, God, give me health again and I’ll do everything I can to leave it all out on the line and be a successful individual.”

On my podcast, Carl pointed out another interesting lesson he learned in the NBA: Not doing things just to fit in.

“Fitting in was easy,” he said. “Doing everything that everybody else does was easy. If I stood out in some type of way, I’m going to have different results. I’m going to have stand-out results.”

That’s called the “Law of Contrast” and it produces that exact effect of changing the outcomes that everyone else is experiencing.  Carl is smart, he recognized that differences make a difference, and doing whatever it takes is what is required to make real, meaningful differences.

Every off-season for the last 11 years, he has run a camp for kids in Milwaukee where he tells youth his story of hard work and persistence. “I always tell the kids to apply themselves and always be persistent,” he said. “If you dream, apply yourself and be persistent. With hard work, man, the sky’s the limit.”

When Carl says the sky’s the limit he means it.  He is smart to recognize that it’s important to dream big, because if we don’t – we may be selling ourselves short. “You have to dream bigger than your mind could ever imagine,” he said. “I wanted a nice house. I wanted a nice car. I said, and I got all of that. So, what do I do, do I stop now? Maybe I didn’t dream big enough.” That’s a big statement coming from a kid who grew up to be the first in his family to graduate college and go on to be not only a top NBA basketball start, but a good businessman, father and someone who gives back to the community.

I’m convinced that in whatever he takes on as a basketball player or in his post-hoops career, Carl Landry is not going to stop getting better at whatever he does, and in the process of doing so, make the world a better place.

GWG Holdings, Inc.
Investing in Life
Twitter Email

GWG Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq:GWGH) the parent company of GWG Life, is a financial services company committed to transforming the life insurance industry through disruptive and i ... Click for full bio