The traditional banking sector hasn’t kept pace with the changing world

6 minutes to make one of your biggest life decisions  – Hellon's findings on how the traditional banking sector hasn’t kept pace with the changing world

Dare to Share is a monthly webinar series where the world’s most awarded service design and customer experience agency Hellon shares its learnings from customer work and research. 

Hellon’s Dare to Share webinar in May 2021 focused on changing customer behavior in the financial sector: how people view the traditional brick-and mortar banks and their hip-and-fun new challengers and how the world around banks has changed creating gaps and opportunities for business. 

“There's a disconnect with what banks promise and what they offer,” said Andy Pattichis, Design Director and partner from Hellon’s London office. He set the stage by sharing his own recent experience with mortgage: he tried to get advice from his bank which promised a lifetime of support in different stages, but they ended up giving him 6 minutes to discuss the process without any proper guidance. Not reassuring when trying to make one of your biggest life decisions. 

This experience is supported by Hellon’s data: The customer journey of traditional financial companies doesn’t work and people feel when they enter the banking world, it’s a trip into the unknown. Traditional banks are not considered very approachable and new challenger banks are considered more human and inspiring. Both sides, though, lack the ability to help people explore the wider and more comprehensive opportunities to plan for the future. 

Banks are built to serve the straight boomer path

One reason for the gap between what traditional banks offer and what people need is that  life is getting more precarious and unpredictable, not only for millennials but for everyone. Banks seem to be built to “serve the straight boomer path, but life is not linear anymore, it’s a more precarious winding journey”, as Timo Pätilä, Hellon London’s CEO, reminded. There’s patchwork, self-employment and increased insecurity, no matter which generation you belong to.



To top that, over 50% of people in Hellon’s data felt they only had basic knowledge on how the financial system works and are not comfortable managing their finances. People are more anxious about the current state of affairs, their financial literacy is not adequate and as money is more and more intangible, it makes it difficult to understand money issues and keep up with this realm. The push to digital showcased by many banks has created an unintended vacuum between customers and their financial service providers.

Based on Hellon’s findings, it was surprising that new entrepreneurs more than often opted not to go to their brick-and-mortar banks for advice, but asked help from friends and colleagues and often ended up choosing a different bank than their brick-and-mortar bank. 

Research that was conducted by Hellon surfaced that not only is it evident that banks should play a more important role in educating people about their financial matters, even to the point of hand-holding them in supporting them in their finances but also how people have an expectation for schools to address this, in addition to education that banks can provide.

How can banks fix this?

Based on data from the US, Canada, Sweden and Finland, Hellon has identified opportunity areas for traditional banks. Even though some challenger banks are making everyday banking easy, there’s still room to innovate. 

The transactional accounts, debit and credit cards business is already dominated by challenger banks that are more prominent in larger western markets. These challenger banks have become the benchmark for friendly, intuitive and humorous interface to make transaction-based banking more approachable. 

  1. there’s room to innovate on the product offering for non-conventional businesses, i.e. the freelance, self-employed, gig economy. For example in Sweden, a staggering 50% of the working population belong to this group. However, the offering for them doesn’t meet their needs and they often use their personal accounts to handle business finances. Business accounts don’t seem to have value for these people and banks push products which don’t match the needs. This is due to the fact that banks are heavily structured between enterprise and consumer solutions.
  2. banks should reinvent the physical retail experience and focus on education, financial advice and management. Due to increased digital services, people feel alienated and there’s a lack of human interaction in the area of advice. Banks are considered cold and not speaking the language of people. In order to resonate, banks should speak like their customers and be more approachable. The Hellon team shared a few examples in the webinar where just this has been done. 
  3. investing is the gatekeeper in changing the role of banks. Investing issues help people navigate their ethical anxieties about consumption, as there’s a growing demand for social and environmental responsibility also for banks. Increasing efforts in this area would be beneficial for banks. 

Watch the entire 1-hour webinar to learn more and see examples of successful ways for banks to tackle the identified challenges. Just click this link and a new window will open.

Andy Official Portrait

Andreas Pattichis

Designer Director




Hellon Timo 0317

Timo Pätiälä

Managing Director
+44 7708 141627