With the rise of the conscientious millennial consumer, more financial services (FS) brands are upping their ethical creds to stay ahead. But how important really are morals in FS?

Would the average consumer happily turn a blind eye to ethics for the sake of a slick app, or a payment card with their dog’s face on it?

Triodos

Triodos Bank

Perhaps one of the most well known ethical brands in FS, Triodos will be extending its remit this year. Touted as the most sustainable personal current account ever brought to the UKmon market, with debit cards made from eco-friendly PLA, Triodos says the launch reflects, “a growing consumer demand for ethical products. The account will operate under the bank’s policy of transparent lending to organisations and projects that are making a positive difference to society”.

Co-op

Co-operative bank

The now up-for-sale Co-op bank is the only UK high street bank with a customer-led ethical policy, covering a range of issues from the environment to animal welfare. Co-op has been known as the more principled alternative to other banks for years, and has contributed a generous amount to local communities in recent times, reaching almost 1.4 million in 2015. In 2016, the bank also announced that it was a living-wage employer, volunteering 4,352 hours in local communities that year.

Lloyds

Lloyds bank

But is the impression of ethical business enough to entice customers? There are certainly brands out there who think so. The Lloyds “This is real life” campaign highlights the fact that, even if your ethical creds are lacking, forward-thinking comms can convey a thoughtful, modern identity. There’s no need to actually make any morally sound investments – instead, it seems to be enough to simply project an accepting, wholesome persona.

Sending the right message

However, many other factors besides ethics come into play when people decide which brand to use. Ethics can, in fact, sometimes be overlooked if other aspects of the brand deliver a superior experience to competitors. While it’s more fashionable than ever to favour brands that show their caring side, it’s hard to resist the pull of a perfect user experience. Slick design, easy use, and round-the-clock responses: can a brand win over more customers by forgetting ethics and focusing, instead, on being satisfying to interact with?

 UX over ethics

Atom

Atom Bank

The app-only bank, Atom, is changing banking as we know it. Over its first two months in business, Britain’s first digital-only bank attracted more than 36m of applications for secured loans.

“We’re the UK’s first bank built exclusively for mobile. We’re redefining what a bank should be, making things straightforward, personal and great value.

 “What’s more, we’re always at hand, because we’ll be packing an entire bank into our app.”

Monzo

Monzo bank

In a world where you can use an app to order food or a taxi, it’s ridiculous that your bank still takes days to update your balance when you make a card payment. As Patrick Ross – FS analyst at market research company Mintel – states:

“The decision on whether to innovate or integrate with existing technologies can mean the difference between grief and glory for the main banks.”

That’s why new provider Monzo has built, in their own words: ‘the bank of the future, available now.’ With over 130,000 users, Monzo has revolutionised the way we bank. The app provides instant spending notifications and help with budgeting, and all services are available instantly on your smartphone.

Consumers – even millenials – may not be as globally minded as we think. Constant UX improvement and innovation in other sectors will push FS consumer expectations to their limit. So, for now, our money is on millenials quietly but firmly favouring ease over ethics.