Financial Services in a ‘Quantified Self’ World

We are living in a world surrounded by our quantified selves, using technology to track our inputs, outputs, moods and physical conditions. Also known as “lifelogging,” the modern concept of ‘quantified self’ was introduced in a TED talk by Wired magazine editors Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly in 2007. Today, we track our steps, calories, oxygen intake, among a vast assortment of other data.

As finance and technology converge at a faster pace than ever before, what can financial services technology learn from physical fitness among the quantified self-set? Is there a correlation that brings new interest and control to the equation for building financial fitness?

New research suggests so. An Australian study from AMP shows that there is a strong relationship between those who play sports and those who think about their finances. Specifically, those who played sports were 66 percent more likely to make regular, additional contributions to investment accounts and twice as likely to invest in property (than those who did not play sports). Ultimately, it boils down to goal-setting, a concept sports and fitness are naturally geared toward. We track and measure inputs/outputs when undertaking almost any means of fitness. Tracking similar data in financial services – one’s own financial health and fitness – are a natural extension of this same concept.

Financial health itself, according to Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), is achieved when consumers have day-to-day financial systems that build long-term resilience and opportunity. It not only enables stability, education and upward mobility, but drives consumerism in the form of increased engagement, loyalty, and long-term revenue streams. It is a concept that the CFSI believes can be both a force for good in people’s lives and ultimately be more profitable for the financial services industry.

While the concept of social responsibility in financial services has been around for decades, the 2008 financial crisis demonstrated, among other things, how financially challenged many companies were. These same companies were making profits despite their customers, rather than on behalf of and in service of them. These outlooks have evolved because consumers have demanded it. Progressive institutions are focused on genuinely making connection points with reimagined customer experience and building trust.

Communications marketing teams in financial services are seeing a movement internally and among their competitive set to think differently about how they operate and communicate. Efforts now start from the position of solving customer’s real problems through authentic end-to-end engagement that credibly conveys, “I am in business to help you.”

Much of this positive trajectory already seen in the industry is because of fintech. Legacy institutions are not built for maneuverability. It is this recognition that fintech companies have benefitted from – they can start from scratch, putting the customer at center. They are causing us to be more imaginative about what technologies such as augmented/virtual reality can bring to evolving financially fit lives.

This new thinking – including the quantified-self movement – is not new; but the technology is. Wearables quickly became a craze in the health industry in the mid-late 2000’s due to technology upgrades and moderate price points of fitness trackers and smartwatches (think Nike + iPod and Fitbit). What if we took these sorts of devices one step further?

Imagine a wearable or digital tracking device that encouraged both fitness goals (steps taken, calories burned, hours slept) and financial goals (interest earned, fees avoided, milestones reached). This is how financial services can play a role in the “quantified self” – by encouraging financial fitness. Inventive thinking at the intersection of fintech and healthtech creates incentives and new categories for consumers to blend sound physical and financial habits for overall well-being.

Deidre H. Campbell is global chair, Financial Services sector.