Fintech Startup Lessons for Big Banks

Jan 24, 2022
Jeff Haws

Many eyes in the banking and financial services industry are looking at a swarm of Fintech (aka “Financial technology”) startups that have new approaches to how they do business, and how they engage with customers.

While much of financial marketing over many decades has been based upon the idea that consumers want the companies that control or advise them on their money to be stable, trustworthy and, to a certain extent, boring, these new companies aren’t playing by that old book. Buoyed by a recent rash of scandals in the banking industry, new players are looking to pick off disillusioned people who want a better, more personal experience with their bank.

Many of those disillusioned people are Millennials. They came of age during the financial crash of 2008, they’ve witnessed the scandals, and they don’t trust the big banks just because they’ve been around for awhile. The way to earn their trust is through engagement and being genuine. They don’t mind turning over data if you use it helpfully and responsibly. Having a nice user experience doesn’t hurt either.

Plenty of industries have seen startups use this knowledge of Millennials’ preferences to build a successful marketing strategy. The Fintech revolution shows banking and financial services is no different.

Big banks struggle to change course

While the large banks that have been doing business for 100+ years in some cases have become too big to quickly adjust their marketing strategy, lean, nimble startups move with ease from one social network to another in order to build connections with their users.

It’s relationship marketing, rather than simple customer acquisition and sales, and it’s focused on engagement and quality content. The big banks that do use social tend to use Twitter for a variety of reasons. But Fintech startups like Ellevest — an investor services startup designed to cater to women’s specific investing issues — and Stash engage with customers on a variety of social networks, often using compelling imagery or video to show how their work impacts people who look like the consumers they’re trying to reach. They’re as at home on Instagram as they are on Twitter or email.

At Ellevest, their popular weekly e-newsletter muses on all sorts of topics about female empowerment in the workplace, leadership, changing jobs, and company updates. Stash’s Instagram page uses clever images to tease to and personalize educational content about the world of finance and investment.

Fintech lessons for the big guys

What can enterprise financial industry marketers take away from this? It can be hard to make significant pivots at large companies. There are often many layers of approvals to seek. The financial sector also tends to be conservative, so it may not be easy to make big changes. But there are a few things you can likely do:

  • Talk about how individuals benefit from your work
    This is one of the most important lessons. Millennials (and most everyone else, to be honest) want not only to know how a product can benefit them personally, but to know that companies they’re going to do business with are thinking of them as more than just another account number. Feature individuals talking about how your products help them. Don’t talk in broad strokes. Talk about real people and real situations that consumers can relate to. Be human.
  • Use customer data purposefully
    Customers know you have their data, and they’re going to expect you to use it in the most reasonable and responsible way possible. When you do put it to use, do so in ways that help you engage in a more personalized and meaningful way with your customers. Ensure that campaigns are delivered to the channel the customer prefers, and use a platform that allows those channels to stay in sync. And make sure your platform connects directly to your data so that messages (fraud alerts, especially) reflect the most up-to-date information about customer behavior.
  • Be authentically helpful
    When creating content, engaging on social media or sending emails, always think more in terms of how you can help the recipient than how to sell another product or get another account open. That’s one of the biggest aspects of marketing the Fintech startups seem to get. They appear genuinely interested in creating products that help people deal with complicated and important life problems we all share.
  • Engage meaningfully
    If you can only be on one social network right now — and, for banks, that network is usually Twitter — don’t just broadcast your latest offerings and direct people to your website. Set up Tweetdeck/Hootsuite columns that search for your institution’s name and look for questions you can answer. If you can’t get an answer right away, tell them that, and then follow up. Have conversations when appropriate. Stick with them until you resolve their problem. Share in their successes, and sympathize with their problems. In short: Use social media to be social, not just as free advertising.


It’s a new world from when most major financial institutions were built, and Millennials have different — and growing — expectations for the brands they do business and interact with. It’s hard, but it’s worth the effort to build a marketing strategy around building connections. Those connections can help you grow your business. Relationship marketing isn’t just a touchy-feely term. Banks can use it to increase loyalty, and maybe even seem a little cool.


About the Author

Jeff Haws

As MessageGears’ Senior Marketing Manager, Jeff is focused on producing engaging and thoughtful content that resonates with enterprise marketers, helping them to better understand how MessageGears makes their jobs easier. He’s passionate about understanding the way data impacts messaging, and he’s also hopelessly obsessed with baseball.