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Is your digital banking age agnostic?

Digitization primarily focuses on attracting Generation Z and Millennials, because of their obvious affinity for all things online. In that pursuit, another crucial demographic and a huge tappable market for banks gets left out of the conversation: senior citizens.

Financial institutions often write off senior citizens when it comes to designing digital services. Assumptions being, they are technophobes, eschewing the conveniences of technology in favour of pen-and-paper or face-to-face interactions. Ground realities, however, paint a different story. According to a study by the Financial Health Network, 71% of customers aged over 60 own a smartphone, of which 94% use their device every day. Another research by the network reveals that two-thirds of smartphone users aged over 50 reported not using their devices for banking. Why the usage of smartphones drops in the case of banking services? Your guess is as good as mine.

According to Federal Reserve, 53.2%, or $62.09 trillion, of US wealth is held by people aged over 50. This group of individuals with considerable financial clout ought to be targeted by banking institutions. All the reasons prompting banks to shift to digitization – cost-effectiveness, efficiency, improved customer experience (CX) – surely apply to seniors as well. It’s time to onboard them on the digital banking bandwagon.

Barriers to seniors adopting digital banking

Seniors may have the financial standing to be considered first for all improvements in digital banking, but that seldom happens. Services are simply not age friendly. While it appeals to the population that is born in the digital era, the current mix of digital banking services do nothing to address the concerns the digital adopters – the senior demographic – has. Let’s first understand these concerns: 

  • Security and Fraud
  • Older Americans are worried that if they misunderstand the instructions and procedures, which are often complicated even for a digital native, may lead to financial loss or fraud for them. If estimates by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are to be believed, over 3.5 million adults aged over 60 are victims of financial fraud every year.

    Invariably, digital solutions in financial institutions have complex access procedures centered around sensitive information that cause stress to seniors. Take for example the requirement to confirm identity before granting access via -

    • Knowledge of complex passwords,
    • Possession of an ID card or a driving license; and
    • Inherence, like biometric data, fingerprint, or face scan

    It’s easy for elderly consumers to forget/misplace the above set of information, presenting a frustrating problem when accessing digital services. Frequent security checks and automatic session logouts aggravate the inconvenience, leading to blocked access in many cases. Stiff fingers or poor eyesight add to the worry of not being able to perform a digital task quickly,  increasing the likelihood of mistakes.

  • Broken Digital Journeys
  • Seniors require predictability and ease when banking online. The last thing they need is to be bounced to different channels, which is a cause for ire even for gen-next customers. Yet, this is exactly what happens during online banking, which is a serious deterrent for users lacking confidence in digital banking.

  • Insufficient human input
  • While banks have adopted the hybrid approach - digital + human experience – the experience therein is often broken and choppy, with complicated IVR journeys. But while younger generations make do with imperfect online offerings by figuring out workarounds, senior citizens lack that dexterity. The lack of human help when the experience of digital service is lagging is frustrating even for the young generation. Either the service should be so good that there is no need for human intervention, or there should be a provision to call for help that is proactive and highly responsive.

Designing Senior-Friendly Digital Banking

Banks need to design their digital journeys to be simple and seamless to ensure that seniors don’t give up and head to the branches. Post COVID-19 scenario presents an unprecedented opportunity for financial institutions to adopt tools geared towards bringing seniors online. Here are a few measures to take to increase the digital inclusion of senior citizen banking customers:

  • Ease of access
  • Banks reliant on Single Sign-on (SSO) or traditional passwords requiring frequent changes, should consider more intuitive ID verification methods instead, like biometric fingerprints and facial recognition

  • Seamless digital journeys
  • Embedding easy-to-use technologies like digital signatures, instant photo ID verification, non-patronizing on-phone agent guidance enabling seniors to receive clear and patient guidance remotely, as they complete digital journeys, will allow them to complete their journey using a single channel.

  • Simple, thoughtful, and aided access points
  • Simple stripped-down versions of mobile apps, webpages with bigger displays alongside standard User Interface (UI) is required. UIs should have clear wayfinding instructions enabling elder users to get back to where they were and make it clear when a task gets completed successfully, enabling the user to go down the right path.

  • Gamification and demos for effective cognitive engagement
  • Apps or online platforms should have features like puzzles and gamification features that help elderly customers to maintain their cognitive abilities and encourage users to engage in banking services. Updated online demos that don’t require personal information or commitment, will build confidence, and help sustain the engagement rates from older customers.

  • Voice-based workflows
  • Voice-based digital journeys using AI/ML to interpret user needs and real-time instructions to complete transactions can be effective. This can ease the burden of remembering and navigating the right set of instructions for completing online transactions and will foster confidence among the elderly. Basic information gathering, such as the customer’s name and account number, can be carried out by chatbots, but need to be adjusted with better natural language processing to address the specific needs of elderly customers. Using machine learning techniques to train chatbots in identifying the unique needs of elderly users, voice recognition, clearer instructions, and better responsiveness, coupled with simple UI can address at least some, if not all, fear factors.

  • Human support bolstered with analytics
  • Navigating the complex web of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) or chatting with a Bot will make life difficult for seniors, providing little incentive for them to bank digitally. Embed easy access to live agents who can guide them through online interaction in real-time. Since seniors prefer interacting with someone they are familiar with, analytics solutions can be used to detect user preferences and direct older people to their preferred representatives when required.

  • Analytics for fraud detection and enhanced user experience
  • Use analytics to make intelligent systems capable of detecting the type and flow of transactions and assisting users through clear, unambiguous onscreen instructions, via either live agents or with real-time guidance. Proactive fraud detection and communication can significantly arrest the rate of fraud for elderly customers. Analyze patterns in user transactions and predict possible mistakes and ensure that users are assisted with instructions while on-screen when online.

The surge in contactless services in the recent past, thanks to the crisis of the pandemic, has provided the ground for digital adoption for seniors more than ever before. The time is now ripe for financial institutions to adopt technological and educational tools geared towards bringing seniors online. But financial institutions need to take the first step and make greater efforts to adapt to their needs. By streamlining journeys, addressing security concerns, providing immediate and empathetic human attention, and producing educational material, they can ensure their digital offerings are fully age inclusive.

So, are you ready to enable digital inclusion for the elderly?