European Business: Mr. Weir, access to banking has never been easier. So why is it still difficult to get most people to start saving money or just even to deal with financial topics?
Colin Weir: You are right, banking has never been easier in terms of a utility which is available 24/7. The problem is that saving money and paying off mortgages are very unnatural things to do for us as humans. The reason for this is the so-called present bias: We very badly discount future reward. Instead we are very heavily wired to deal with the present moment. That absolutely makes sense when you think about cavemen. A caveman did not need a ten-year plan; he had to survive today. The result is millions of years of DNA against us saving for the future, worrying about tomorrow. It is much easier to spend money today, get instant gratification and just hope we win the lotto. Of course, this is also contrary to banking, which is to a large extent predicated on planning and is difficult, hard, boring and unrewarding.
“Saving money and paying off mortgages are very unnatural things to do for us as humans.“ Colin WeirCEO
European Business: Moroku aims to gamify banking. How can a mere money transfer become something enjoyable?
Colin Weir: When you log on to Internet banking today, you get very little feedback. You might get “Transaction completed”. That is very technical; it is there to provide the user with some level of comfort that the technology worked. You don’t see that on Facebook, you don’t see that in games, and it is definitely not the feedback the customer needs. There are bigger questions: Was it the right transaction to make? How is it helping the customer to progress? This leads to the essence of gamifying.
When we look at experiences like Clash of Clans or Candy Crush, there is lots of feedback built into the system to guide and coach, and when the player/customers wins, there is a lot of celebration. You get a badge, you get the feedback that you are doing better than the other person. This kind of feedback could be massively powerful in financial services and banking. The best example is a mortgage. When people take on a mortgage, the intent is to own a home. So the customer has paid off this mortgage for 20, 30, 40 or 50 years. Then finally he makes this last transaction, and again the banking system goes, “Transaction successful”. The context is awful, the customer has been paying off diligently every month for 30 years, and the only thing the bank can do is say, “Transaction successful”.
What it should be saying is, “Congratulations, you are a hero. You are one of only five people in all of Germany that bought a house today! You are a favourite customer, here is a bottle of champagne, a box of chocolates, a bank’s hero award and a picture of you beating against all the odds in the world in owning a home”. That is gamifying!
"This idea of helping customers win is gaining increasing traction at the banks we talk to." Colin WeirCEO
European Business: So how do you approach banks or financial institutions to get them interested in gamifying?
Colin Weir: Everybody has an opinion, and we at Moroku are not short of them either. There are many banks that will continue to succeed very well by competing on price. This is particularly true for the larger banks, the world’s top 100 or 200. There are, however, somewhere in the region of 8,000 to 16,000 banks around the world that can’t compete as effectively on price and need to find something else. This idea of helping customers win is gaining increasing traction at the banks we talk to. You definitely have to turn up with a price that’s close, but if you can build a set of products and services all technically focused on the customer winning and provide lots of opportunities to accelerate that winning plus recognize them on an individual, family, social or community level, that is a huge asset. Banks can use that as a very purpose-driven strategy to bring families and communities to gather around their products as opposed to just giving them a bank account.
European Business: Fun is one side of the coin. But you are able to implement all the desired banking functions in an app as well, am I right?
Colin Weir: Absolutely, this is not about building games. This is about gamifying the digital experience. Through our own platform and our own technical and business experience, we are able to build multiple applications. We can build for mortgage or for credit cards as well as for educational purposes. Key is building an architecture that is based on games by really thinking about not what is success to the bank, but what is success to the customer. What are the challenges the customer has to face, and what are all the kind of fun ways we can help to overcome these challenges and win in the end? It also applies to insurance quite well and many other aspects of financial services.
“Key is building an architecture that is based on games by really thinking about not what is success to the bank, but what is success to the customer.” Colin WeirCEO
European Business: The financial sector is facing a major disruption caused by digitization. Especially as the traditional banking business is transferred to the Internet, branches are closed. Do you think the industry is losing its “human touch”?
Colin Weir: The banks are struggling with this a lot. What happened: As the banks have digitized the experience, they dehumanized it. In the process they lost a real connection with customers. Once you lose that connection, it becomes a price conversation again. So now many banks are running around trying to get customers back into the branch. They are madly try to introduce AI and quite specifically chat bots. Today you turn on the website, and all of a sudden, this little chat bot goes, “Hi, how can I help you today? Oh, by the way, is there something I can sell to you?”
Again, it’s awful because it is still very much focused on the bank trying to sell products. Our view at Moroku is quite different. If you want to build an emotional relationship with someone and get that relationship back, make that fun and stirring, saying simple things: “Thank you, customer. Congratulations. Well done.” Before you start selling your customers something, you can earn the right by truly acknowledging what they are trying to achieve and helping them do so. That way you build a relationship.
“Before you start selling your customers something, you can earn the right by truly acknowledging what they are trying to achieve.” Colin WeirCEO
European Business: One final question: If you could implement a famous gaming character, for example Nintendo’s Super Mario, which one would you choose and why?
Colin Weir: Actually, it is the barbarian in Clash of Clans. The reason I like the barbarian is that his role in the game mirrors many general problems. Here is a group of people just trying to live, to win, to get their community together and to build some houses. It speaks lots to what I think banking can really be. The community banks in particular have a real opportunity to turn up right now because digitization has levelled the competition field a lot. They can really resonate to the strategy of helping communities win and compete against each other. The Clash of Clans, therefore, serves as a great analogy of what’s possible in banking.
Interview: Markus Büssecker