Money 20/20 review: Communications considerations for traditional banks in light of Fintech’s rise

Money 20/20, which took place last month ago in Las Vegas, is pegged as the world’s largest financial services event.  With more than 12,000 people and several hundred companies present, the attendee base was a mix of some of the most powerful names in business, as well as the pioneering companies who are poised to continue the dramatic change taking place in the financial services industry.

Not surprisingly to anyone paying attention to the current financial services landscape, fintech disruption, technologies and services dominated the narrative at this year’s conference. Fintech, once considered a fringe industry with a looming bubble, is now front and center and showing no signs of slowing down.

Despite this focus on new technologies and delivery models, some of the world’s most mature—some might even consider them stuffy—banks and financial services brands had staggering presence at Money 20/20 and were a part of these fintech discussion. From Barclays and Citigroup to Deutsche Bank and Wells Fargo, it’s clear that these financial stalwarts have taken notice and are investing significant resources to remain relevant.

As these traditional banks with rich heritages continue to adapt, there appears to be a temptation to completely overhaul their public-facing brands to appeal to today’s consumer.  I see this as a knee jerk reaction, one that could go too far and send the wrong message.

Banks should consider:


  • Stay True to Your Brand: Despite a continued call by consumers for increased convenience and innovation, there is still significant value in promoting history, security and stability…especially in an industry like banking. One study revealed that 76 percent of consumers worry about security fintech related services.  Therefore, it would be shortsighted to abandon decades of brand equity simply to look like the “cool kid” who fits in with today’s landscape.  Rather, a brand strategy that stays true to your many years of success – and promotes that you’re using this strength to make the right changes – will resonate with your customers.
  • Show Your Customers You Understand: With that in mind, a brand strategy that shows you clearly understand consumer preferences and pain points and that you’re adapting – without losing site of what you’ve always done best – will gain favor with your customers. Make it clear that you want to make their lives easier and more productive, but that you’ll never lose site of your core mission… protecting their financial well-being.
  • Promote Partnerships: Many banks are (wisely, in my opinion) choosing to partner with fintech companies to address some of these changing consumer desires (at the most basic of levels, think Bank of America and Zelle). Rather than trying to do it all themselves, savvy banks are choosing to implement the right emerging technologies to the benefit of their customers.  What better way to stay true to your brand and to show consumers that you understand than to promoting these partnerships?  You’ll send the message that you have their best interests in mind by staying focused on your core competencies, while finding the right third-party experts to enhance their overall experience with you.


Traditional banks are clearly at a turning point, with some estimates suggesting that fintech is disrupting 25-30 percent of the banking industry’s value chain. I applaud the industry for adapting faster than other well-documented examples.  However, now is the time to reign in any desire for a complete brand overhaul, and to develop messaging that balances your heritage with your recent evolution.





Author: Mike Trainor
Mike Trainor is our Vice President.

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