When you talk to Millennials (aka Generation Y-ers), one word keeps coming back again and again: fun. “It has to be fun and it has to move fast,” underlines French philosopher and noted conference speaker Denis Marquet. Whatever label you choose to give it, fun, cool, rock’n’roll, amusement or simply pleasure is in the year 2017 the key factor for a successful financial experience. This is, at the very least, is what most appeals to Millennials, who are noted for their ubiquitous and intuitive use of digital tools based on their iconic device – the mobile phone – and are attracted to video games to an extent that is very rare among their elders.  This propensity for gaming has earned this segment of the population the nickname ‘Generation Play’.

“71% of Millennials would rather go to the dentist than listen to what banks are saying” 

With this in mind, Fintech startups are increasingly looking to create a fun mobile banking experience with a view to engaging and winning over a target audience that is not so easy to attract.  Financial adviser Zach Conway points out that, according to recent surveys: “71% of Millennials would rather go to the dentist than listen to what banks are saying.” In fact, a general climate of suspicion towards financial institutions has been apparent ever since the 2008 crisis. Consequently, those who seek to knock the traditional banking world off its pedestal tend to use simple, everyday language reminiscent of Web culture, get their point across by displaying graphics in hot, pop colours, offer interactive content and make use of gamification to boost the customer experience. We report below on a number of services in the field of stocks and shares, banking and insurance that have been trying to create this kind of experience.

A laid-back banking experience

Pepper : Yes we bank !


Israel-based startup Pepper and Australian firm Moroku have been working to make the banking experience more entertaining. As its name implies, Pepper encourages users to add a little spice to their daily lives with its three flagship services: Pepper Bank, Pepper Pay and Pepper Invest. The interface, which is reminiscent of Messenger, uses very simple language and enables users to make a payment to a friend as quickly and easily as sending him/her an animated image file. Procedures for making a payment or bank transfer follow a standard web conversation approach. Shaul Olmert, CEO of Playbuzz, a publishing platform designer that teamed up with Pepper to create this new kind of financial platform, explained: “The challenge was to turn the functional experience of browsing in a banking app into something that is personal, fun, pleasant and even an enriching experience. Above all, the biggest challenge is turning banking content (…) into content that surfers love.” 


Moroku’s watchword is very similar – ‘Making Banking Fun’ – and its approach is also radically different from most FinTech startups. The account management experience is rather like a Facebook game, quite similar in terms of its graphics, design and feel to Farmville. “It’s vital that opening an account and managing your finances should become a pleasant, fulfilling experiences. The gamification side must encourage the user to put in some time and draw some knowledge from it,” argued Guillaume Alméras, Senior Executive Search Consultant at the MRL Group, writing in Scoreadvisor. He pointed out that “the challenge is to get people to spend as much time, and devote the same attention to tasks as unappealing as paying bills as they do on Facebook. On what is essentially the page on which you manage your current account, you can find a community, your friends, whom you can work with on joint projects and challenges. And just as with games, you constantly earn points for your activity.”

Moroku’s service is aimed specifically at traditional banks that wish to use entertainment to create a better customer experience client. CEO Colin Weir closely echoes Almeras’ view: “Banking and finance is rarely considered fun. In fact it’s often boring and complex, and can feel unrewarding.” His solution is equally clear: “Our (…) purpose is to drive engagement, literacy and action by adding a touch of creativity and eliciting an emotional reaction.”

Insuring the millennial generation

Just as banking is now getting into gamification techniques, the insurance business is also trying to shake off its over-serious image. In the InsurTech field, Lemonade no longer needs any introduction. The startup has already gone a long way towards disrupting the sector by drawing inspiration from Instagram, offering visual content and using language suited to a younger audience. Other companies have now embarked on a similar approach in a bid to reconnect with Millennials.


The Fluo initiative is interesting in a number of respects. The app presents itself in bright colours that remind one of Instagram. Moreover, Fluo has taken the concept of a virtual assistant and turned it into a benevolent genie that can take on the role either of an insurer or an advisor tasked to guide young clients, granting their dearest wishes for lower-cost, optimised insurance policies by getting rid of all unnecessary cover. While the genie-in-the-bottle concept is perhaps a little bit corny, the overall effect of the interactive content is quite cool. The InsurTech firm has come up with more than just a mobile app here; it has created a potential meeting point between the insurance world and the younger generation of policy-holders. 

Meanwhile for those Millennials who decide to set up their own business, Embroker offers a business insurance brokerage service, using far-from-traditional communication codes with pop colours and screens that seem a long way from the financial world. In fact, the site has the feel of a market stall, or jumble sale even, setting a nostalgic tone that finds an echo with many Generation Y-ers. A recent article in business magazine Forbes explains how what it calls Nostalgia Marketing is able to arouse strong emotions that resonate with Millennials.  For example, furniture from the sixties is now all the rage. Similarly, the Embroker marketing strategy seeks to associate insurance cover with the persistent idea of the Good Old Days, appealing to people who think the old ways of doing thing were better. The company is marrying modern cool with updated traditional codes, looking to encourage customers to view insurance cover as they would a quality item that you can find on a market stall.



Gamifying the stock market

Bux : Stock trading as serious fun



The stock market is now joining banking and insurance in coming down from the lofty sphere of high finance to rub shoulders with a younger audience who are less interested in tracking the FTSE 100 or Dow Jones index.  Stock trading is not to the taste of many Gen Y-ers, who tend to be risk-averse but still expect a sizeable return on their investment.

However, a number of FinTech startups are starting to follow Amsterdam-based investment gamification specialist BUX in bringing a touch of humour, plenty of fun and quite a lot of education to securities trading. Says CEO Nick Bortot: “People see the markets as this complex beast. At BUX, we’re trying to eliminate those barriers and educate people in a fun and accessible way.” Accordingly, BUX has replaced the frosty shades and jargon of the trading world with a modern graphic code using warm colours and with a rock'n'roll tone and laid-back language (OMG!).

Two versions of the app are available to users. The first, which comes free of charge, is designed as a game platform for those who wish to train up on stock-trading strategies. You can open a funBUX account and play with ‘funny money’, set up a community of fun-traders and organise contests with your friends.  The second version is for more experienced traders who want to invest for real. These traders are charged a brokerage fee of just 40 cents per deal, much lower than traditional stock brokers’ fees. Explains Nick Bortot: “Our main challenge wasn’t tech, but human”. I realised many people were interested in being active in the financial markets but, in reality, the online brokerage market is still a niche market, especially outside of the US.”  However, from an educational point of view, he thinks that “it’s very important for people to have a basic understanding of how financial markets work since they’re such an important part of the world.” Accordingly, reveals the BUX CEO: “Our ultimate goal is generating the ‘water cooler effect’ when it comes to stock trading. Now, on Monday mornings, you’ll gather around the water cooler with your colleagues to talk about football or something like that. In the future, we want people talking about the stock markets.”



Today BUX has close to 900,000 users. However, just 10% of them – 90,000 people – have so far converted their funBUX virtual account into a real trading account. Apparently, stock-market risk is still a strong discouraging factor when it comes to stepping up from games to reality.

At all events, there has been a realisation among financial sector firms for some time now that they ought to be using gamification to enrich the customer experience and more and more traditional banks are moving in that direction. Romain Chapron , Head of Digital Partnerships at BNP Paribas, underlines: “We need to adopt a fun approach, which is something quite new for us, and we’re going to have to be highly creative.” And if Fun FinTech places equal weight on payment solutions, savings & investment opportunities and entertainment, what could be more appealing than that? 

By Laura Frémy