Just let me drive

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When I left university, I financed my move to London by selling my car. Though long before collaborative consumption was enabled – no ZipCar, City Car Club and definitely no Uber – getting around London was pretty easy. I soon landed a job in the City which was well served by public transport.

For a few years, the choice to not have a car was a no brainer.  Even if you could afford the car, the insurance, fuel and servicing, you still needed to find somewhere to park. In central London, this was infuriating and expensive.

After a few years of Zone 1, I moved to the suburbs and needed a car even more than I wanted one. Buying one second hand from one of my team made payment easy, insurance straightforward to arrange, my apartment had a parking space and a barrel of oil was $12.

Having the car was liberating but also made me hunger for something better. A lot better. I upgraded. And then I upgraded again. And again and again. I kept buying cars and though I kept changing dealers, there was one thing consistent about the experience. The dealer would never let me drive away with the car the same day.
Things have moved on a bit these days, but the experience is broadly the same.

As we adapt our financial services to a digital future, it’s vital that we enable the customer outcome digitally. It’s not enough to simply digitise the existing analogue workflow.

Much as customers don’t want a mortgage, they want somewhere to live, customers want to drive a car. They don’t desire a car loan and an insurance policy and a servicing schedule.

So in this FinTech era, why is it not yet possible to visit a car dealer and:

  • point phone camera at number plate of car;
  • check finance history of the car;
  • compare prices of equivalent vehicles in vicinity;
  • get an all-in quote for finance, insurance and servicing;
  • agree purchase of vehicle;
  • make payment;
  • pay road tax;
  • drive away.
All without having to put down the phone or pick up a pen.

Lloyds Banking Group just announced ‘Halifax Car Plan Extra’ – internet banking customers can pre-arrange financing for cars and transfer the funds to the dealer.

This should take out some of the friction from the process flow I sketch out above.

All the other modules to enable this workflow exist today.

However, they’re entirely fragmented.

Around 5 years ago, I recall a Google exec came to our HQ where we were hosting a mobile payments workshop.

Two things stood out:

  • here was the only person I’d seen able to pull off a Prezi;
  • mobile searches for “HSBC car insurance” had risen 580%.
Though we didn’t know what the base was, we now knew (as did Barclays who were also present) that there were growing numbers of customers out there on dealer forecourts trying to buy a car and drive it away – with our help.

Here were people actually trying to give us their money and at the time we didn’t even have a mobile-optimised website.

Will Uber soon have changed the landscape so much that this window of opportunity will no longer be open?

Or in the next 5 more years will someone put the workflow together and just let me drive?

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