There’s no denying that FinTech startups are disrupting the financial industry. Every day, more startups enter the financial scene with new trends and ideas. Searching for “FinTech” firms on AngelList as of this writing brings up nearly 2,800 of them. Is it time for traditional financial services companies – like an example we’ll call the Old Reliable Bank & Trust – to throw in the towel?

Absolutely not.

With these newbies eating away at market share, revenue and profits that used to belong to traditional financial services providers like the Old Reliable, the latter are being forced to adjust their marketing strategies. It’s adopt and adapt time, and luckily this is where they can swipe adapt a few things from FinTech.

According to McKinsey Panorama, nearly 80% of financial services institutions had entered FinTech partnerships as of December 2018, either as investors or through strategic partnerships. While this is a logical approach – “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em…or own ’em” – some might not be able to take that avenue, or may still want to go it alone, or just want to apply a partner’s best practices to their own marketing.

It’s time to take a closer look at what FinTech does well. More to the point, what can a traditional bank, brokerage or other financial firm learn from FinTech email marketing to become more effective?

Keep on keepin’ on

Sometimes, the lesson is to just keep doing what you’re already doing, because the new kids on the block are endorsing it, too.

With roughly 281 billion business and consumer emails sent and received per day last year, it’s safe to say that people check their inbox pretty darn frequently. In this day and age, email is a tentpole marketing channel for any industry.

But more specifically, email works for both FinTech and Financial Services. Especially when personalized.

According to an Epsilon report from 2018, 89% of consumers would be more likely to do business with a web- or app-based financial provider if it offered personalized experiences. When asked how they’d prefer to receive personalized experiences, 55% responded their most preferred channel would be email, which led all others.

As for financial institutions with brick-and-mortar footprints, the findings were similar. 77% of consumers would be more likely to do business with companies that offer personalized experiences. But again, email was the most preferred method of delivering personalization, picked by 61% of consumers.

In other words? Personalized email marketing is a top performer among both mobile/app and lobby-loving financial consumers.  It’s why FinTech marketers have embraced email – and why the traditionalists at the Old Reliable Bank & Trust should never overlook its power, or be tempted to replace it with some shiny new pretender.

Be sure you’re doing the right personalization

The problem isn’t that personalization is a newfangled thing to the folks running the Old Reliable.  According to the Digital Banking Report, 76% of organizations believed that personalization has a “strong” impact on relationship building. Still, a humungous 94% of financial institutions were unable to deliver on the “personalization promise” in 2018.

Why is this so hard? One reason might be that financial information is a sensitive subject. Not only are people less likely to broach subjects like money problems in open discussion, but they’re also wary of sharing information. In fact, 25% of consumers view personalized offers as “creepy” and 32% believe that personalization is not worth giving up their privacy.

Marketing guru, and OptIn’19 moderator, Neil Patel has an interesting take on personalization, and why people are put off by how some marketers attempt it. Just inserting a target’s first name into an email, he says, isn’t enough: everybody knows it’s sent by a robot, right? That’s what makes it “creepy.” Instead, personalization has to happen by customizing message content so it offers relevant value to the recipient.

FinTech companies are constantly re-designing their products and services around customer wants and needs, with marketing that articulates that focus. That’s a deeper form of “personalization” than merging names from a list.  So in financial services marketing, avoid telling them how lucky they are to have signed on with you, how established, large, and impressive the Old Reliable is.

Younger consumers, especially, don’t give a whoop: they expect you to be catering to them, first and foremost. 71% of millennials would rather go to the dentist than listen to what banks are trying to tell (or sell) them.

Streamline and simplify

To get past those financial services privacy concerns we mentioned, and make the Old Reliable come across as approachable?  Send them authentic, needs-focused onboarding emails. App providers have made a high art of this over the years, making sure messages seem genuine and tuned-in to the real motivations that brought people to their product.

Another way to accomplish this?  Simplify the complex. Ease-of-use is one of the main selling points of FinTech products, so why not emulate that when you’re trying to get customers engaged with financial services products? One of the biggest obstacles facing the Old Reliable Bank & Trust is how hard it is to grab and keep a customer’s attention because finance simply ain’t synonymous with sexy. Barring the occasional outlier, most people aren’t excited by the thought of retirement planning or mortgage rates.

So avoid complexity and remove confusion; they’ll appreciate plain speaking that seems transparent and sounds human, not legalistic. This example from ExpenseIt helps users jump right into, well, using the product, and makes the process easy-peasy.  Find ways of doing the same in your onboarding.


Instead of A.B.C. (“Always Be Closing”) as espoused by this guy, we should recognize what many app marketers already know and leverage: Always Be Giving from the start of any engagement with prospects or customers. What are you giving? That’s easy: something of value.

What kind of “value” do we mean? It might mean special content, a personal consultation, or a bonus offer or added service (just like a surprise feature unlock on an app) that keeps them interested. Here’s an example – cited by Neil Patel – from Carrot, a platform aimed at real estate investors and agents.

Notice something? It doesn’t ask for anything from the customer but simply offers up value on a very human level. In a world where most customers desert a brand or company because of perceived indifference, giving them a steady stream of value-oriented messages via email shows you care. That’s why FinTech companies, who survive or die based on user retention, pay close attention to keeping customers engaged through every means possible, especially email.

The Old Reliable should pay attention to optimizing its email campaigns for mobile, just like FinTech providers do; check out the best ways of doing this.  A couple of scary stats? An email that doesn’t render correctly on a mobile device is likely to be deleted in 3 seconds or less, and up to 15% of recipients will unsubscribe in that situation, says Campaign Monitor.

So in the end, what’s the biggest lesson for the old guard down at the Old Reliable Bank & Trust?  To stay flexible, innovative, and customer-centric in they market themselves, and to never forget the very significant power of the one tool they’ve already got in their arsenal: email. Because those in the FinTech universe are already all over it.

~ Casey