The shift to green – and how COVID-19 has transformed the delivery of financial products
In 2020 we launched our first green purchase products, which gave us a great opportunity to support more customers with their home-buying and ownership needs. They were incredibly popular. Many customers came to NatWest purely because of our green products. They told us they wanted to do more to help the planet and, for them, that was a really important consideration when looking at their mortgage products. It met a need for them.
Our green remortgage product is another iteration of this and was released in July. It enables us to support customers who are already living in their dream home but want or need to look at remortgaging.
One of the things that’s hugely important to us in designing and developing new products is being able to go out and speak to customers about what they need. After that, it’s not just about stopping at the point of conception but continuing to ask: ‘Is this working? How can we improve? What can we do better?’ These products are the starting block and it’s really important to continue questioning their value and improving them.
I think COVID-19 has made it clear that we as a bank and an organisation need to move a lot faster to support customers’ needs, and that has become our priority. We had to very quickly change the way we serviced our products and the services we were offering. At the start of the pandemic, we had to do things in weeks that that possibly would have taken us months or even years to achieve.
So, when we came to deliver the green products, it was ultimately about finding the quickest way to distribute value. We gathered a lot of feedback – not just from customers but also from mortgage brokers – looking at all different types of lenders and asked people: ‘What works for you now with green rates? What isn’t working? Who is already doing it?’ Once we’ve found the quickest way to deliver products it’s about looking to build and improve upon that.
The biggest challenge in designing and delivering financial products today is probably competition from FinTechs that can shift and adapt very quickly due to being less heavily regulated. They’re doing things people probably wouldn’t even think were possible a few years ago and now customers are starting to expect that from their high street bank. Scanning cheques on the app is one example – we only delivered that this year, whereas some disruptor banks like Monzo have been doing that for a while now.
When it comes to design, I’d love to see more focus across the industry on the inclusivity piece. All our products aren’t always going to be right for everyone; ultimately, we need to think about the different types of customers we have and how we could make them work better for them. I know there’s more we – and all banks – could be doing in that space.
Read more from Lauren Fuller in the ‘Designing inclusivity’ article on pages 17-20 of the summer 2021 issue of Chartered Banker magazine.