Travelling with digital companions

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It’s 2am and hotter than you could have possibly imagined. After interminable delays on the apron at Heathrow, you’ve now cleared customs in a far away land. You weave a path through the arrivals hall, until you find an ATM.

Insert card, look over shoulder, enter PIN, wipe brow, request cash, drum fingers. Nothing. No money, no context,  no way out.

Exhausted and without local currency, you call your bank’s international contact number to investigate. Whilst navigating through the phone tree, it slowly dawns on you what’s happened.

And you dread what’s coming next.

You’re about to be gently, yet firmly, scolded.

You forgot to pre-advise the bank of your travel plans.

Before you travel

They’ve frozen your card to protect your account.

The protection should be welcomed, but right now you just want your money, your hotel room and your bed.

It’s a terrible situation to be in and when it happens, it places strain on the banking relationship. The load is shared between the customer – who has to deal with the mess overseas incurring roaming charges, local FX charges etc. – and the bank who have to manage the call centre to deal with the issue and minimise the destruction of goodwill.

So I was delighted this morning to see Lloyds Bank Digital team announcing the release of their new travel notification service under the ‘digitalbank’ hashtag.

It’s hard to miss the digital activites at Lloyds. The job boards have been filled with digital roles in LBG. They’ve even put hundreds of these people in a new campus I call ‘The Digiplex’. They’re smart and connected people with proven backgrounds in strategy and execution.

Ever present at the FinTech activities around town they’re also having fun hosting their own interesting events. I was particularly intrigued by the 3-day event “Google @ LBG” in 2014.

LBG 3 day Google event

Google @ LBG

With so much activity public, it’s clear Lloyds have many fundamentals for a convincing digital transformation in place:

  • raised internal awareness of need to digitise financial services;
  • talented, passionate people with diverse backgrounds;
  • executive support for iterative deployments beyond sandboxing;
  • 3rd party partnerships to promote best practice in UX and digital design.

I haven’t seen the new travel notification digital service, but when I read the description, I felt something might be missing:

Lloyds Bank has launched a notification service which allows online and mobile banking customers to inform it when they will be out of the country

Customers can use the service by logging into online or mobile banking and adding their travel dates and destination on their profile page.

The innovation here appears to be taking an analogue/non-mobile customer journey and putting it in the digital space.

The onus remains on the customer to contact the bank, detail the travel destination and dates.

There are some benefits like the fact the notification can be done at a time convenient to the customer. But it’s still re-keying data.

Enabling customers to provide us with this information in real time means they can do it where and when it’s convenient for them, even if that is 2am in a departure lounge,” said Adrian Bryant, director of digital at Lloyds Bank.

It’s impressive that the digital ‘unlocking’ effect is instantaneous, so they can do it in the departure lounge. But they’re expected to use their phone.
Which will be with them. At the airport or other international transit hub.

This looks like a great first step – identifying (and addressing) the pain point felt by hundreds of thousands of customers who’ve had their cards blocked abroad – not just by Lloyds.

It’s easy to see why this was green-lighted internally as digitisation of the exchange should help reduce load on call centres and false positive fraud alerts.

But I’d like to see much much more – from Lloyds and from other banks.

As an Android user, I’ve become largely reliant on the virtually omniscient operating experience. Predictive search is now astonishing – it’s rare I need enter more than three characters when searching for information on a person.

Inbox from Google has redesigned my approach to email; my calendar is now aesthetically pleasing, value-added and reliable.

Google evaluate my email, call history, location and search history for relevant invitations, payments, deadlines and travel details. They tell me what I need to leave to get to my next meeting on time. They basically now are near perfect with telling me what I need to know before I know I need it.

We’ve gone a long way beyond Clippy offering to help write letters in MS Office.

At the end of Google @ LBG, what were the takeaways?
What are Android going to work on in partnership with LBG?
What API/SDK framework can be used for customers who want to opt-in for a geo-location payments authentication programme?
When can link Google Now (and iOS notification centre) with bank mobile apps to suggest relevant and timely actions?

If the mobile device is carrying data about an upcoming trip (and if the device itself is later in that location and proven to be with the customer), we can find a way to share [just] that data with the banking app.

We can use digital to eliminate so much friction from the relationship. Connect customers with their goals more efficiently and responsibly and share the benefits between bank and customer equally.

Looks like you're travelling abroad. Would you like access to your funds whilst there?
Looks like you’re travelling abroad. Would you like access to your funds whilst there?


I’d love to read comments about examples of where this may already work well.

Kudos to Claire, Adrian and all at Lloyds for shipping this. I look forward to the next update.

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