Getting customers to believe banking can be better



ImpactAlpha, May 9 – Scandals, high fees, bad service and practices that prioritize corporate needs over customers. That’s what U.S. consumers expect from their banks. That’s also part of what led the Hewlett Foundation to launch a campaign to raise the profile of sustainable retail finance.

Even though there’s plenty of evidence people want a different kind of bank, very few people have heard of a sustainable bank, let alone signed up for an account with one. Even when sustainable financial products appear, customers are skeptical.

Aspiration, a new banking and investment services firm that offers low fee, interest bearing checking and fossil fuel- and firearm-free investment accounts, says about 70% of those who don’t complete its sign up process say they believe there’s a catch. “It speaks to the fact that people’s expectations have been so beaten down,” says Andrei Cherny, Aspiration’s founder. Financial institutions offering sustainable banking services have to work hard to convince customers banking can be different.

  • Creative marketing… On Earth Day, Aspiration launched a campaign to get a million people to commit to sustainable banking, while robo-impact investor OpenInvest times the launch of new investment themes on its platform around key dates, like its anti-human trafficking impact category, announced on the U.N.’s World Day against Trafficking in Persons.
  • Matches and guarantees… Aspiration has pledged $22 of its own capital to every new Aspiration Redwood account opened by the end of June: $11 dollars to the new account and $11 to a conservation nonprofit, while robo-advisor Motif offers customers fee refunds if its portfolios underperform.

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