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Shaping the future of finance

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Only two years ago, many technology companies and banks were talking about the branch of the future and painting a vision where, when you walked into a branch, the branch sensors would pick up who you were using RFID and NFC technologies from your contacteless debit or credit card.

The result would be a warm “Welcome Mr. Skinner” as you opened the branch door, combined with an interactive advert on the branch television screens screaming: “Chris, don’t you need a new mortgage?”

As I walk up to the teller, he or she would then say, “Hello Mr. Skinner, we thought you might be interested in this new mortgage offer at just 0.5% interest for fifty years. Here’s your personalised brochure with all the details”.

Today, that vision has gone away.

Few fokls talks about using contactless chips for proximity marketing - they're all now focused upon mobile telephony - and the personalised brochures scream “lend us money or lose your house”.


But we should be clear that the idea of the personalisation of marketing, and particularly financial marketing, will not disappear.

Just yesterday, Google were all over the news again for their increasingly intrusive approach to online advertising.  This time, they are using your surfing habits to provide targeted advertising based upon your internet viewing.  In my case, I'd get non-stop ads for “lend us money or lose your house”, because they know you visit financial websites such as this one.

In fact, Google are all around us with their ubiquitous observations, from Google Street View to Google Earth to Google Mail to Google Search.

From a privacy viewpoint, another controversial Google technology was the recent introduction of Google Latitude for example, which monitors your friends, family and other associates as they walk around town, using GSM tracking of the mobile phone in their pocket.

Monitoring people’s movements using GSM and soon to be pervasive 3G technologies will become a standard, and the idea of banks and financial firms ignoring such opportunities for marketing services is blatant idiocy.

Thus far though, there has not been much evidence of proximity based marketing of finance using mobile technologies.

There was the example of a bank that used bluetooth technologies to sense potential customers walking past branches and sent a text message saying “walk in now for cheap loans”, but that experiment failed when the technology sent the message to everyone walking past the branch.

And yet, think of the potential for such servicing.

You leave the firm with a big fat redundancy cheque, and the first thing you see is a digital ad on the side of a lorry saying: “Mr. Skinner, that cheque could be worth twice as much this time next year if you join our Ponzi scheme”.

As you walk past the car showroom, a targeted ad says: “buy a new 4-door today with 0% financing from the bank that loves ya”.

Or you leave the casino with empty pockets, and a sign pops up at the bus stop shouting: “Chris, ya big loser. Get back in there by texting ‘yes’ to 80088 BANK for another $10,000 stake”.

The possibilities are endless and yes, have been considered for a long time.

But we always then wonder about the privacy issues.

“Oh, err, will the customer feel happy about us sending an advert for more money as they leave the brothel?” are the heart-rending debates in the corridors of marketers of money everywhere.

“Sure”, says the Head of Proximity-based Experiential Marketing (HOP’EM for short), “anything that gives them an extra buck!”

You see, privacy is irrelevant in today’s socially networked world.

In this world, nothing is private anyway.

We're CCTV captured every other step of our meanderings around cities and, if I want to, I can find out anyone's email address, telephone number, spouse, children, siblings, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends and business associates just by drilling down through the poorly managed privacy layers of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

Not forgetting Google of course.

My brother-in-law, who is a psychno-techno - he can't stand computers! - thought he was safe from the curse of Google and lack of privacy.

He has no computers in the house and doesn't even use a mobile phone.

Lo and behold, I enter his name on Google and get a result that shows planning permission for his house, giving his name, address and telephone number.

Nothing is private.

So privacy is no barrier from the customer’s perspective.

From the bank’s perspective it will be a barrier though, as the bank does not want to be seen to be playing footloose and fancy free with customer data.

So all you do is put a few tick boxes on the clients' mobile bank account application form saying: “would you like us to improve our mobile financing services by sending you adverts that are relevant, rather than the junkie rubbish you received a minute ago asking if you would like child educational bonds when we know you don’t’ have children?”

That way they’re sure to sign up.

Banks are considering and some are deploying mobile proximity marketing services and, within a decade, most organisations will be in there running such services.

Just make sure you are one of them and that, as you deploy such marketing, you do it in a considerate manner.

After all, we wouldn’t want your eagle eyed marketing to be an enemy of the state now, would we?

Trailer for the 1998 film, Enemy of the State:

Trailer for the 2008 film, Eagle Eye:

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Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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