Some app categories are seeing a boom during the COVID-19 crisis and that includes fintech. Whether people are simply turning to banking apps rather than heading to their local branch, or they’re checking in with their investments more regularly thanks to the volatile market, people across the globe are embracing fintech as a way to cope with the challenges of this crisis. As John Koetsier tells us in this installment of the “New Rules of Marketing Engagement” live chat series, fintech registrations are up 71% in 2020. Usage is up 35% in the U.S. and 85% in Japan and Korea. But that doesn’t mean fintech marketers don’t have challenges. 

The path forward isn’t clear here. Will retention and engagement remain high post-crisis or will people hurry back to doing business as normal and head into a branch to visit their favorite tellers? Right now, fintech is struggling to understand whether or not the COVID-19 era boom is going to be short-lived or not.  

To answer these questions and more, we brought together four fintech marketing experts to talk about these challenges and more: Hernando Rubio DeCosta, CEO & Co-founder, MOVii; Duena Blomstrom, Author of “Emotional Banking”; Annica Lin, Director of Performance Marketing and CRM, Thimble Insurance; Adam Hadi, VP of Marketing, Current. What’s been holding fintech back? 

Fintech was growing in popularity before the COVID-19 crisis, but it wasn’t quite mainstream. What’s been holding the industry back?  

“It’s a cultural issue,” says Duena. “We have to solve people.” Which is something she’s trying to do in her work now at People Not Tech. 

“This sudden move to remote is essentially what we’ve been preparing people for,” she continues. But as people move to apps to perform basic banking tasks, the questions remains: Will these gains last—and will people go beyond basic banking to embrace entirely new ways of approaching their finances. 

That’s a question Annica and the Thimble team are especially keen to answer, as they provide a groundbreaking service to small businesses and independent contractors—insurance that doesn’t require you to sing up for a year, but instead lets you break it down in smaller increments. If you’re a yoga instructor, Annica says, who just needs insurance coverage for an hour while you teach a class, Thimble can help.   

Will flexibility win the day? 

As we said in our first live chat, marketers and businesses have a duty to serve their customers and give them what they need now more than ever. As many people struggle financially during shut-downs, fintech apps are positioned especially well to help. For instance, Annica says she’s seeing apps become more flexible. For instance, at Thimble they saw people lapsing on their payments and so rather than forcing customers to cancel their policies they offered them the ability to pause their policies until they’re needed again. 

At Current, a bank for people overlooked by traditional banks, Adam says their product specializes in dealing with the customers who are most economically impacted by Coronavirus. He says Current can get people their money faster, even during normal times, but that becomes even more important as people living paycheck to paycheck look for their government stimulus checks in the U.S.   

Making lasting gains 

By now, we all know that our marketing messages can’t just be “business as usual” but we also run the risk of going overboard and making everything about COVID-19—which can feel predatory in its own way. We have got to be incredibly sensitive to the financial realities of people, says Duena. “We have to forget what we learned about segments, and find that common layer of humanity and build on that.” And that’s harder for big banks than it is for start-up fintech apps. 

Most countries are still “emerging markets,” says Hernando, which makes legacy banks—that make their money off of fees—out of reach for 80% of the population in the vast majority of places. But as these economies grow and the unbanked start looking for banking solutions that suit their needs, fintech has stepped up. In other words, in emerging markets, fintech apps haven’t had the uphill battle of changing habits. Now, the disruption of Coronavirus has started forcing people to rapidly change their banking habits, even in the most established, developed countries. He believes that by providing a useful—money-saving—service with a great user experience, fintech apps can win lasting loyalty.  

Adam comes back to the idea that we’re seeing existing trends accelerated right now, and expects that people who find value in a service won’t abandon it just because the crisis is over. The key is to be respectful of the challenges your customers are facing and understanding that many new fintech customers are on the front lines, not working from home.    

Anecdotal evidence from Hernando’s father tells us that even an older generation can learn to trade in their routine trips to the bank for a safe and easy online transaction. 

To learn more about the trends and challenges fintech marketers in the trenches are seeing and how they’re responding, check out the full webinar here