Disruption is about more than just technology…

19 November 2015

“What will be the Uber moment in financial services?” asked Sally Loane, CEO of the Financial Services Council, opening the FSC/Deloitte luncheon on Customer engagement in 2015: how the finance industry can learn from the new wave of business.

Uber moments appear imminent across the industry, with the emergence of robo advice, peer-to-peer lending and equity crowdfunding, to name but a few fintech ‘disruptors.’

Uber General Manager and keynote speaker, Simon Rossi, emphasised that essentially Uber is in the business of transforming a functional need into a memorable experience. The need to get from A to B can be elevated by Uber into an experience that people will “love and share,” he said. For example, on Melbourne Cup day 2014 Uber chaperoned punters to Flemington by helicopter. And in the US, it teamed up with the Transformers franchise to transport film-goers to cinemas in an Optimus Prime-styled truck. There is no reason a sensational experience cannot start at home, rather than the destination, Rossi proposed.

For most of us, the “Uber moment” is more likely to be an experience of exceptional ease when getting a ride home from the most obscure of city nooks or at peculiar times of day. It’s the emotional value of alleviating fear and uncertainty, as well as the delight of efficiency and convenience. And of course it’s also the anticipation of being delivered free Messina gelato- one of the tactics Rossi described as building a “halo effect” around the brand.

But beyond these grandiose and diabetes-inducing gimmicks which showcase Uber’s philosophy writ large, Rossi emphasised the unanticipated socio-economic outcomes generated by ride-sharing.

Uber certainly wasn’t started with the idea it could become a catalyst for economic transformation- it was launched by a couple of mates who had trouble finding taxis and thought they could extend a service to friends.

Now with over 1.1 million drivers internationally, Uber has become a force to redress unemployment and underemployment by creating a new way to work. It provides the information and tools for people in 58 countries to generate an autonomous income or top up their wages.

Uber’s mapping of the areas of greatest demand also demonstrates that its services are successfully filling gaps in current transport infrastructure, complementing rather than taking away from public facilities.

The positive impacts of ridesharing on congestion, safety and connectivity in cities is often missed in the media, which is more focused on the war with the taxi industry or regulators, lamented Rossi.

While Uber is a self-professed ‘technology company,’ it collides with the share economy by connecting people directly. And out of this shared or collaborative consumption socio-economic benefits have organically emerged.

Uber has taken ownership of its accidental social impact wholeheartedly, launching ever more elaborate #impact initiatives and partnerships globally- around health, safety, disability, veteran and family affairs and animal welfare.

For several years the UberKITTENS campaign has delivered hundreds of abandoned kittens to homes and workplaces across 50 cities worldwide, offering customers 30 minutes of ‘playtime’ with their furry parcel. This year the initiative led to the adoption of over 300 kittens and generous donations to support animal shelters.

This successful initiative encapsulates the elements that seem to make up the ideal “Uber moment” from a customer experience perspective- an easy or effortless transaction process, a touch of hedonism in product or service delivered, and a feeling of contributing to some wider good.

There are many financial services technology platforms emerging that promise to disrupt- but the lesson to be learned from Uber is that disruption is not about technology; it’s about ease and an unexpectedly enhanced experience, it’s about the emotional and social dimensions that create memorable moments.

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