There is an interesting divergence going on in UK financial services. At the same time that the conversation around the future shape of the industry is dominated by the needs, wants and behaviours of millennials, the UK population is ageing. As of 2017, 18% were aged 65 and over and that will increase to nearly 25% in 2046. Yet as the focus stays on the tech savvy youngster a wealthy market with evolving needs is being largely overlooked and, often, poorly served.
This validates the need to expand notions of diversity to include age as clearly group-think is dominating the conversations around innovation and leading to the concentration of resources and new product creation around the needs of a narrow segment of consumers. Yes, they are the market of the future but it clearly isn’t smart business strategy to write off a big (and growing) and economically powerful segment of the population. Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimates that the (global) spending power of the 60+ population will reach US$15 trillion a year by 2020.
The economics of an ageing population will, no doubt, be discussed by government and policy-makers, particularly in countries where the proportion of older citizens is greatest and growing. This is not, however, simply an issue for policy-makers. Harnessing the innovative power of fintech – across wealth-management, insurance, banking and payments, security and so on – can deliver a set of better and more targeted products and services. We need to broaden our notion of financial inclusion and incorporate an understanding of the ways in which needs evolve over the course of the consumer lifecycle.
Financial inclusion isn’t a straightforward equation – in that you’re either banked or not – and consumers can fall in and out of the formal financial sector over time. A suite of financial products that adequately meets a consumer’s needs at one point in their lives can become dated over time as life evolves. The innovative technologies being harnessed across the financial services sector to deliver better outcomes to millennials can surely be focused to great effect on the needs of the over 65’s.
It goes without saying that the over 65’s are not a homogenous group. Diverse populations have a diverse set of needs and the economic profile of the older old, for example, will differ greatly from an economically active 65-year-old. As the population both lives and works longer, standard assumptions around financial profiles no longer apply.
This isn’t just about financial products but also the hardware on which they are accessed. If technology can deliver simplified products for the young, surely that kind of design thinking can be harnessed to support the over 65’s, enabling their full access to the digital economy. Doro, a Swedish company has designed a smartphone (and other home electronics) and software with the needs of for older people and their families in mind, demonstrating how good products have the needs of their user at their centre.
“Designing for users on the extreme can spark creativity that will bring about more inclusive design to benefit a broader spectrum of users. The iPhone is an excellent example where it has served to revolutionize how we communicate – forever.” Theo Lau
Just as collaboration has become the focus of the fintech/incumbent dynamic, we need to see a similar collaborative spirit meet the challenges of older consumers. It is here that the traditional notion of sector delineation may start to blur. Technology creates so many opportunities and channels to address the needs, goals and aspiration of the over 65s. Looking at safety and security concerns of older consumers, for example, protecting them as cognitive abilities change can involve analytics deciphering spending patterns to spot changes that can also feed into the ability to monitor health and safety in the home. New partners should come together, across sectors, to deliver better outcomes to citizens in way that keeps their lives as healthy, productive and independent for as long as possible. As innovative fintech firms and the financial institutions that have leveraged their innovation, have demonstrated in the recent years, well-informed customer-centric design can deliver much better outcomes and makes great business sense.