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Opinion > Masthaven

What does ‘personal’ mean in the specialist banking market?

Simon Furnell, chief operating officer at Masthaven | 07:27 Wednesday 30th January 2019

Personalisation lies at the heart of the specialist banking market, which is exactly what makes the sector so special.

The word ‘personal’ is frequently used in the financial services industry, but few are able to deliver on the promise and ‘individual pricing’, ‘bespoke loans’ or ‘tailored mortgages’ aren’t always what you might think. In reality, though, how many of the high street banks can ensure their products are truly personal when the service is homogenous, and credit is assessed by machines?

The need to scale and standardise in high street lenders has meant that for many years a large segment of customers that don’t fit into the desired shape have been left underserved, centralised, moved branch or forced down a channel not of their choice. Realistically, personal is something that most banks aspire to, but in the specialist world, it is something we have to make a reality in order to stand out.

That’s not to say high street banks don’t serve their purpose. There are some truly fantastic products currently available and for those customers that fit under the ‘mainstream’ umbrella, these products could be a great option. However, if we explore what personal actually means, we begin to see the many forms it already takes within the specialist banking market. 

Personalised products and service have come and gone, and the pace of change has left some customers breathless and yearning for the good old days. Whether it be flexible approaches to lending criteria, one-on-one customer service, new technology, new channels, omnichannel service and Open Banking, a lot has changed, and the pace won’t let up. Using new technology while being in tune with the changing needs and habits of customers is essential for those of us who want to stay ahead and thrive.

From a lending perspective, flexible assessment models are a must. The working world is changing rapidly, with people increasingly opting for different employment patterns. And whether it be the self-employed, freelancers or contractors, their lending needs deserve to be met just as much as those who work more traditional nine-to-five jobs. Likewise, the credit impaired or older borrower segments all have customers with individual stories and lending needs. And that’s what is key to recognise — these are real-life people, maybe even our parents, siblings, friends or children.

If we look at this from a savings perspective, innovation is key. For example, providing flexible choices for savings bonds with the ability for each customer to set their own, adaptable term. Why shouldn’t you be able to set your own savings term?

Open Banking will, and is already presenting, a host of opportunities in both the lending and savings space. Once APIs become more readily available, increased collaboration and access to more and improved data will mean that we can really go the extra mile to provide customers with digital ecosystems built organically around their needs.

Ultimately, being personal means looking at each individual case and assessing the borrower’s overall circumstances, including any relevant contributing factors. It’s about using common sense, judgement and the individual needs of borrowers. It’s what the specialist banking industry was made to do, and we will continue to improve this offering as we kick-start the year ahead.

That’s not to say we don’t have work to do. Masthaven’s recent Broker Beat survey found that over a third (35%) of specialist lending intermediaries believe that lending criteria is the biggest barrier to achieving an increase in demand for specialist products. This was followed by regulatory requirements (27%) and lack of product innovation (18%).

So, there are challenges and opportunities in equal measure as the specialist banking sector seeks to tackle these pain points so that collectively we can provide the most optimal, truly personal, customer experiences for as many borrowers and savers as possible.

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