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Empathy as a point of difference

For any brand, a meaningful point of difference usually comes down to one of three things: price, product quality or customer experience.

Few profitable businesses want to compete on cost. And for financial services firms – from banks to insurance providers or financial advisers – it can be difficult to compete on product quality because their solutions are both complex and increasingly commoditised.

Let’s be honest here: making investment decisions is complicated. Consumers face a bewildering choice of products – managed funds, asset classes, bonds, structured products (and even brands within each of these). It’s almost impossible to compare like for like. And it's also impossible under financial regulations – for good reason – for those brands to promise any tangible outcomes.

So that leaves us with customer experience as a point of difference. For some brands that might mean trusted, supportive relationships through broker channels. For others it might be a digital experience that’s convenient, efficient and puts the customer in control.

The Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) reforms have transformed the traditional broker model in Australia. But it also means marketing has to work that much harder to rebuild trust in the sector – not just in investment advice but also the value of insurance, broker transparency and bank fees. Where trust is eroded, loyalty is much harder to retain. Digital technology makes it easier to compare and switch – and the growing millennial customer base is more likely to do so.

So with all these challenges in mind, how can design intelligence help create a sustainable point of difference for financial services? The answer is simple: empathy.

Firstly, it’s about putting the customer first by understanding what their journey looks like and what they need to know to make the right choices. Financial decisions are complex and full of jargon. People are busy and easily distracted. Cutting through with a clear and simple message can be an effective point of difference in a competitive market.

It’s also about creating an experience that is not just user-focused and efficient, but also creates an emotional connection. That’s where the true value of financial services lie: investments are not just funds, but choices we get to make about how we live our lives in the future. Insurance is not just a policy, it protects our families from uncertainty.

Applying design intelligence can make those solutions more meaningful. For example, for FIIG (Australia’s leading fixed income specialists) we made sure every sales tool – from the website to eBooks – provided clear visual explanations that put the audience’s needs first. It’s educational, but also engaging. And it creates a point of difference in a competitive, complex and commoditised market.

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