Digital bank start-up Xinja plans to bring the experience of a personal banker to anyone with a smartphone, according to Xinja Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer Van Le.


“When we talk about digital disruption, we're interested in the capacity of technology to take a product, service or an experience that's currently only available to a small population and democratise that for the majority of the population,” she says.

It’s an audacious goal and one that will stretch the limits of technology, but the demand is clear among younger generations.

Internet banking and mobile/tablet banking service were ranked as the most important factors in a bank, according to a KPMG survey of more than 1,400 Gen Y professionals. They have higher expectations for a seamless customer experience that works across multiple channels.

Source: KPMG

It has left the door ajar. While Australia’s major banks dominate the local market, 84% of Gen Y professionals said they would consider banking with a tech giant, according to the survey. 

A new direction: digital brings customers closer

Le says banking service has become commoditised as branch staff were replaced by a procession of lower-cost, impersonal technology such as ATMs, telephone banking, online banking and apps.

"There's more utility and convenience but in the process you lose that human interaction and that's part of what we're looking to bring back – the humanity with how we're designing Xinja."

It’s a goal that every customer-facing organisation has but Xinja brings some key differences to the conversation. Xinja (which is not yet a fully licensed bank) will become a ‘neobank’. It is being built on a purely digital, mobile platform, unencumbered from the legacy systems that can weigh down established players.

The neobank movement has tapped into a rich vein of demand in the UK where start-ups such as Monzo have quickly attracted customers. They have also generated something not generally associated with banks: an air of excitement.

How the promise of re-imagining the banking experience is fulfilled will determine whether that excitement matures into commitment. 

“The technology is designed to be able to respond and be configured so the notifications and communication gives customers exactly what they need, when they need it – then as their lives and circumstances change the interactions can change as well. 

“But the main heavy lifting the technology does is the maths, the predictions and the thinking ahead, which is what a normal banker would do. Technology allows you to scale that for every other customer who is in a similar situation.”

In March, Xinja raised more than $2.5 million through an equity crowdfunding offer with one-in-four investors committing the minimum $250 investment.

Emojis, wait times and less stress

Le points to several small examples about the way Xinja interacts with its customers. 

The app is personalised and information is immediately accessible. Queues are a thing of the past given customers can communicate through a variety of channels (including speaking to a person or leaving messages). Staid, conservative language has been removed and replaced by accessible and human language, including emojis.

"We know the value of customers being told upfront what to expect and we know that people read things with emojis in them. So it’s not just about fun and the brand, it’s about being engaging so they don't gloss over it because that gets people inadvertently stuck and needing to contact the bank.”

None of these sound revolutionary alone but a great customer experience is nothing more than the sum of a thousand small interactions that work together seamlessly. It should help remove money as a significant cause of stress and anxiety.

"When you boil it down, money is a means through which people express what they love about life and what they care about and that opened the door for us to think about what role should a bank play and what role can we play at Xinja in re-connecting people to what their money should really be about."

Products and partnerships

Xinja has entered the market with a prepaid debit card – a particularly popular product choice among younger demographics unable to access credit cards.

“We're building a relationship with customers so they know who we are and trust us,” Le says. “Prepaid card helps them learn who we are – people won't immediately switch everything over. They get a taste of the experience and how we deliver what we say we are delivering. We have an ethos of earning customers, it's not about acquiring customers.”

It hopes to provide a full suite of retail banking products, which will require a full banking licence. It is already launching mortgages (under its Australian Credit License) and plans to launch deposit taking transactional accounts (which will require a restricted banking licence).

Xinja supports the development of open banking and other future common infrastructure that will allow them to bring new products to Xinja customers as part of a 'marketplace' model. Those products and services may also stretch beyond traditional banking to include products or services in the utilities, travel or retail sectors.

"We've tried to stay away from being a ‘product house’ or a ‘solution house’ looking for a problem. We're starting from what customers want, need and value. It's very important that we only build things that have value that customers recognise – and then find the best way to make that available to customers."

Many banks use a net promoter score – asking people would you recommend us – as a way to measure their success with customers.

"Our view of that is that it's a very narcissistic measure because you're not actually measuring the impact on the customer - you're measuring what they think of you... we're more interested in measuring did we make an impact for you? Did we make a difference?”.

This article represents the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BPAY.
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