Journal

What does fintech look like?

Better still, what does fintech sound like or feel like? What is typically fintech? Expressing a business or an industry in these terms can be difficult, there really is no tangible answer as to how or what a fintech brand should be. Why then, do so many fintech brands look (and feel) alike? 

Homogeneity is a branding issue in most industries, however fintech seems to be a particularly bad offender. Swathes of san serif typefaces, electric colour palettes, and awful stock photography paired with dreary copy and no real sense of vision are commonplace. I put this down to a lack of depth behind the visual aspects of the brand, there is rarely enough strategy anchoring the identity.

There is an industry-wide failure to view a brand as an asset that can be used to drive growth. Many fintech startups view branding as something that can be fixed later once the model is in place and there is profit to reinvest. These same startups are often the ones who completely misjudge their strategy, fail to make any real connection with their intended audience, and end up having no impact whatsoever. The profit never comes and the brand remains under-utilised before being consigned to the bin of failed startups. A brand is an asset, and with a clear and coherent strategy it will help to achieve tangible business goals.

Having worked with various fintech startups, I have noted some common characteristics that the successful ones share.

A fintech brand should be … Trustworthy.

To be deserving of trust is one of the most challenging tasks for any startup and especially for ones in the financial space. It is simply a fact that trust comes with time, but there are measures you can take to enhance your credibility and speed up the process. These range from being transparent about where you make a profit to institutional partnerships to how you approach your customer journey, although in my opinion, the way in which a startup presents itself to the world is so often neglected.

A consistent and well designed identity is key to being a trustworthy brand. Would you give your bank details to a company if it looks like their website was designed by an intern in fifteen minutes? Of course you wouldn’t. Look at companies like N26 and Atom Bank, that is the minimum design standard you should be aspiring to. Confused copy, poor graphics, and lazy stock photography just won’t cut it if you want to be successful.

A fintech brand should be … Disruptive. 

Although a much overused term, genuinely disruptive brands look at existing problems and find new solutions. As technology lowers the barriers to entry across the board, no industry has been more affected than finance. Yet, entering any market with the express intention of rewriting the rules takes guts. Guts and an attitude devoted to innovative thinking. Once the capital starts to roll in, it is all too easy to abandon innovation and become stale.

A disruptive brand should encourage a company culture that is in favour of questioning everything. Never be satisfied with the status quo, take risks and test prototypes on real customers, if it works, great, if it doesn’t, you’ve learnt something. Disruption is not something that can be applied easily without absolute buy-in from top to bottom. When creating a fintech brand, it is important to set out your stall as a company that embraces change, that is always in search of new and innovative ways to improve, and is intent on leading the market in a new direction.

A fintech brand should be … Purposeful.

The crash in the banking sector and the subsequent economic downturn of the past decade has led to a sense of inherent scepticism towards anyone in the financial space. Couple this with a new generation of consumers with higher and different expectations, brands must look beyond products and features to win over the market.

Being a purposeful brand means having a clear reason for being—beyond making a profit. If you can illustrate that your startup has a legitimate and principled purpose, then you are also illustrating an endearing point of differentiation between you and your competitors.

Purposeful brands enjoy a myriad of benefits over their products-and-features-based counterparts. By extolling a better “why,” consumers are more likely to be remain loyal as well as advocate your brand through personal recommendations—the best kind of marketing that money can’t buy.

A fintech brand should be … Dynamic. 

Dynamism is essential for any startup, but it remains a much misunderstood trait. When we refer to a brand as being dynamic, we mean that it must be flexible, forward thinking, going places.

There is a fine line between creating a brand that is genuinely dynamic, and one that lacks actual direction. That is why dynamic brands must be rooted in a powerful unifying idea, a central purpose that all involved can buy into and from which strategic decisions can be made. This allows elements of the brand to change around it as the business evolves and inevitably pivots allowing all of the pieces to fall into place.

And so …

These characteristics may only be the starting point of a strategy, but a brand that is trustworthy, disruptive, purposeful, and dynamic is one that is on the right path to success in fintech. You must build your identity around them, and actually deliver on them through memorable customer experiences. Allow your brand to be central to your business and make it a real asset for driving growth.