Creating Engagement Banking

For those that follow my blog posts, you know that I frequently write about how we need to change our focus from transactions to engagement.  I recently came across a couple examples of how FIs are addressing engagement in two areas of particular interest: 1) How FIs should be telling more personal stories about customer success and 2) the gamification of banking.

Recently, Huntington Bank rolled out a new marketing campaign the centerpiece of which was personal customer testimonials. Now I can hear you saying that “customer testimonials are nothing new”, and you are correct. What Huntington did that was unique is that they focused not on a customer saying, “I bank with Huntington and they’re great …”, but rather they focused on the human element of how the banking services Huntington provides specifically and positively impacted a customer.  They highlighted customers that many potential customers could identify with such as:

  • Veronica – Was working two jobs plus an entrepreneurial enterprise (a food truck) and was assisted in achieving a life dream – owning a home;
  • Kitty – A blind customer who received above and beyond service including a bank statement available in braille;
  • Annie and Morgan – who operate a small boutique bakery, whom Huntington provided the essential financing.

You can see the links to their individual stories by accessing the Financial Brand story here. The common thread of these stories is that these are professionally produced videos that have real people in them (as opposed to actors) who are telling heart-warming stories about a particular problem that Huntington was able to help them solve.  Consumers are looking to make an emotional connection with the businesses where they transact. Connecting emotionally with a financial institution is not generally an expectation. So when an FI makes such a connection, it can be really impactful.

Take a look at the video clips featured in the Financial Brand article. Then ask yourself, “Do we have three customers whose stories would make a compelling, heart-warming video about how our FI helped them in some meaningful way?  I wager that you can quickly come up with way more than three examples.  Now ask yourself, “Are there videographers in our area that can create a professionally clean finished product that we could use on broadcast media or social media?” That is almost certainly a yes, as even rural areas have individuals that are working in the gig economy that are available for hire as contractors to create content. Make contact with a couple of them and scope out the cost for producing three videos or go online to Fiverr and search for videographers.  Although the cost may be more than you think, it is still likely to be well within budget, especially when you consider the impact and reach these videos can have.

Moving on to the second update – Gamification.  Another Financial Brand article alerted me to the first example of true gamification of banking that I am aware of. The bank is Truist and their effort is, no surprise, targeting younger potential customers. What they created is called Long Game. The purpose of it is to get younger people who are known to have no patience for delayed gratification to save money.  Lindsay Holden is founder and CEO of Long Game, who Truist acquired in 2022.  She knew that most young Millennials and Gen Zs play games on their mobile devices.  “Long Game uses games to help people save more money. What we’re doing is taking the thing that is really beloved by this generation and making it into a tool that can help them better their lives,” said Holden. What is the endgame, you ask?  New account acquisitions, bringing in fresh and much needed deposits.

The game can be downloaded and played by anyone for a 24-hour test period. But to play the game for real, you have to have a Truist account, hence the hook to get new account openings. The main game is fashioned much like a treasure hunt with a map of the entire journey towards the savings goal that the user has selected to work to achieve. Users save towards their goals with real money that is deposited into a Truist account. When they hit the goal, the game suggests they set a new goal.  The gamification aspect seeks to drive users to stick with a behavior that doesn’t pay off right away and many younger customers often remark in surveys that they struggle with structured savings. Not for nothing, the Long Game also periodically throws some financial wisdom during game play, something that younger people also claim to need.  It would seem that a game that is engaging but has the payoff of structured savings is well worth the time and effort that Truist is investing. You can read the whole Financial Brand article here.

Both personal storytelling and gamification have engagement at its core. Personal storytelling tugs at the heartstrings and creates emotional engagement. Gamification targets the release of Dopamine, which is engaged when we accomplish something or complete a task.  Both are essential elements for an FI that wants to move its focus away from transactions and pivot to engagement banking.  While there is no fintech targeting community financial institutions with a gamification option that I know of, I suspect there will be some soon.  You should be contacting your online banking / mobile banking vendors and ask them if they are working on gamification options that would be integrated into the online banking experience. If not, why not?  Separately, the ability for you to produce meaningful stories about how your institution has assisted customers in their financial journey is completely within your grasp.  Stop procrastinating on moving towards engagement and make it a goal to produce three videos highlighting customer success stories before the end of 2023.

I welcome your comments on this article. If you are struggling with how to get engagement banking started at your institution, reach out to me at I would be happy to assist you in getting an innovation spark started.