© Erste Bank / futurezone


Looking for ideas for the bank of the future

Digitalization has become a fixed part of the banking industry. While online banking on the computer has long been a standard service, more and more banks are experimenting with smartphone apps and other mobile platforms. With the s Lab (web site) that it launched in September 2013, Erste Bank und Sparkassen is going a step further and is directly involving users in the development of new apps and services.

Gamification as a way to the bank of the future

“The idea behind the s Lab was to involve customers more in the development of innovative services, and to work together to create the bank of the future,” said Cornelia Schöberl-Floimayr, director of customer experience management and manager of the s Lab project at Erste Bank, in an interview with futurezone. Gamification elements are being used to tap the potential of the community. Users who post ideas, comment on submissions, or submit ratings can collect points and “trophies” for their activity.

Cornelia Schöberl-Floimayr in a futurezone interview – Photo: Eckharter Rainer

Once a month, the “hero” or “heroine” of the month and the “top idea” – especially active users and particularly interesting suggestions – are selected by a jury. Now, the editors of futurezone will be awarding a specially created futurezone badge to the three best ideas from the s Lab community every month, and will report on the ideas and the people behind them in futurezone.

Over 200 ideas have already been submitted

futurezone readers can demonstrate their creativity and submit their ideas about banking. We are pleased that our readers will be able to help shape the bank of the future, and are excited to see the results,” said futurezone editor-in-chief Gerald Reischl. futurezone will report on the “bank of the future” in a series of background reports and expert interviews.

The s Lab project manager was surprised by the positive feedback on the project. Hundreds of users have registered in the few weeks since the project was launched and have submitted over 200 banking suggestions. Jan Dimitri Schüpbach was appointed as co-creation manager to direct the major project and the interaction with the community. As the interface between all responsible departments, his job is to make sure that the ideas that are submitted online are not lost in the jumble or put in a drawer somewhere, never to be seen again. Ideally, the process will result in an app or a service that customers will find on the Net or in the bank branches.

Extensive technical knowledge

“The quality of the submissions surprised us the most. Many customers are not only sharing creative ideas and solutions, but have an impressive level of background technical knowledge,” Schüpbach said. “Some of the questions and responses are so specific that we have to consult with our own technical specialists.”

Erste Bank und Sparkassen also wants to tap this potential in workshops in which the ideas that are submitted online are developed and refined with the community and the bank’s in-house specialists. Before a new product is then approved or put online, the community will be given an opportunity to provide feedback in a beta-testing phase.

“The long-term goal is to establish a sustainable community that helps us develop innovative services and that will give us input about how the bank of the future should be,” explained Schöberl-Floimayr. The s Lab has close ties with the Erste Hub innovation laboratory, where the latest Quickcheck app for accessing account information was developed, for example.

No more “bank speak”

In addition to the development of new mobile apps and the improvement of existing apps, which Erste Bank und Sparkassen has been working on for a number of years already, another focus is a series of services that are offered in branches or through the online banking portal and that are designed to make it easier to conduct banking transactions. “We are now working hard on reformulating documents and web sites so that customers can understand them better. Foreign words, technical jargon, and complicated sentence structures will soon be a thing of the past,” Schöberl-Floimayr said.

Photo: Erste Bank / futurezone

“It is often little things that make a customer’s life easier: Scan and Pay was introduced as a new service to make it easier to enter the considerably longer IBAN for transfers, and was already approved by the s Lab community. This net banking app can be used to scan a payment slip with a mobile phone to import the relevant information. Flexible forms of providing advice, for example via video chat or personally in a bank branch when important decisions have to be made, are just some of the things that the s Lab users are thinking about in designing the bank of the future.

Usability versus security

Erste Bank und Sparkasse also sees the increasing digitalization as an opportunity to personalize its banking services. The s Lab users are taking very different views when discussing the issues of security and usability.

“While some users see the necessary security checks with logins, PINs, and TANs as something of an access barrier, other users want to be able to use 250-character passwords. Some s Lab users have submitted very concrete and technically sophisticated suggestions in this area. These will also be discussed in the coming co-creation workshops,” Schöberl-Floimayr explained.

The s Lab team is particularly looking forward to the feedback from the futurezone readers. Anyone who is interested can post their ideas in the s Lab (the s Lab web site can be found here), and the first “best three ideas of the month” will be selected by the futurezone editors in two weeks.

This article was written in cooperation with Erste Bank und Sparkassen.