It seems like every day we are zooming toward a science fiction future. We move through a world of personalized, customized experiences, interacting with machines that wake us up, remind us of appointments and tell us if it’s going to be rainy at our destination.

We can even ask the likes of Alexa to order and pay for our coffee and rest assured it will be waiting for us exactly how and when we need it.

This is the reality of the data-driven, AI-powered world we live in, and the expectations it’s setting with customers have major implications for the future of the payments and financial services industries.

IMAGE: Bloomberg News

According to recent research by NTT DATA Services, there is an emerging group of financial services customers who are demanding personalized, guided experiences and they don’t necessarily expect those experiences to come from a human.

Dubbed “Explorers” this group bears a remarkable resemblance to the early mobile banking adopters from just a few years ago, and as such can be viewed as a harbinger of customer expectations to come.

These Explorers favor value over loyalty and have high expectations of their digital experiences with their financial institutions. About 73% believe their current digital experience needs to improve, and 86% would leave for a better experience elsewhere.

While they believe FSIs are doing well with the basics like applying for a new card, checking balances and depositing a check, that isn’t enough. They want the same experience they’re getting with companies such as Amazon. They want their FSI to know them and guide them. For example: 75% want their FSI to connect the dots on their finances to offer better advice; 66% would listen to their FSI as the voice of reason in helping them achieve their financial goals; 41% want to manage their financial relationships via virtual assistants such as Alexa or Siri.

That kind of experience requires issuers to know a lot about their customers. So the real question is, what are they willing to offer in exchange for these experiences? The answer is quite a lot.

More than 80% percent will provide online purchase information, 77% will provide geolocation information and 64% will provide access to personal Uber and OpenTable accounts.

In the end, customers are seeking deeper relationships, and they are willing to give information to connect with FSIs, but only if those institutions can get their services right.

That leads to perhaps the most important question of all. Are financial institutions ready to take the relationship with their customers to this next level? According to the study, 49% of FSI executives say they are not ready to take the digital customer experience to the next level, with 63% still focusing on basics like consumer portal and mobile. When asked what the single biggest challenge was, 68% said the data.

The ability to access, mine, analyze and act on data is foundational to delivering the kinds of personalized, guided, AI-enabled experiences this new breed of financial services customers are demanding. To win the digital customer experience race and unlock the potential of their businesses, issuers and financial institutions must first shore up their data foundation.

Lisa Woodley

Lisa Woodley

Lisa Woodley is vice president of FSI customer experience for NTT Data Services.