By: Dr. SirisakChueykamhang
Population experts say that Thai society has been aging since 2005, and within 20 years it will be an aged society, with a ratio of more than five elderly people to each working-age person. Japanese society is currently experiencing this same situation.
That's right, we can do it too!
With this change in the population we are living in a new era of fewer working people and more elderly people, and that creates big changes in the customer's behavior and expectations of commercial and financial services. So, it is important for all customers and all financial service providers to be aware of the importance and special needs of the older customers. There needs to be new thinking applied to the design of services that are friendlier to this type of customer.
The bank must adapt to the emerging situation by educating its employees about the thinking and special needs of older customers. For example, many older people still prefer to make transactions inside a branch office, rather than using an ATM or online service, because they worry about the security of electronic transactions. Also, many older people suffer from cognitive difficulties and require assistance during complicated banking transactions.
Consider that even working-aged people sometimes forget their account password or PIN. The branch staff and customer service agents at call centers must be trained to help the increasing number of customers who may be experiencing these types of difficulties.
In addition to these new services, innovation is needed. For example, many older people have limited options for transportation to the bank, and so cannot access the products and services being offered. It may be better if the customer's needs could be met without them needing to travel to the bank. Or, what if there was a mobile bank branch with convenient door-to-door service? One example of this in action comes from Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which already has over 30 mobile branches that cover the United Kingdom. They travel over 11,000 miles and serve 600 sites each week!
Elderly Friendly Design
A friendly design for older people is also an important consideration. For example, the branch floor plan should help reduce queue times so that older customers do not need to stand for long periods of time. The use of a ticketing system for customers waiting for services also reduces standing time, which especially helps older people to be able to access services. Then, the quantity and comfort of waiting chairs needs to be evaluated. Vision problems are common among the elderly, which makes it more difficult for them to conduct financial transactions, such as when using an ATM machine. Simple changes can help make ATM and credit cards easier to use, such as embossing different shapes and colors to help indicate the direction to insert the card into the ATM machine.
Also, the design of paper forms used in banking transactions is very important. Customers are required to fill out many forms for important transactions, yet they contain confusing instructions and are difficult to understand. A friendlier paper form design can help older people, and everyone else.
A System for Innovation
Technology brings innovations to financial services.
There's a new concept in the banking and financial services industry called 'fintech'. It promises to improve and automate the delivery of financial products by using new technologies. Fintech plays a big role in the effort to improve access to banking and financial services for older people. It is starting show benefits in the areas of video calls and biometric recognition, which can eliminate the problem of forgotten passwords. But before widespread use can happen, banks must help to get these technological innovations integrated into daily life by educating customers about them and the new financial opportunities the technology offers.
According to research by the financial consulting service, True Link Financial, there is elder financial abuse of America senior citizens resulting in losses of over 36 billion US dollars each year. In the UK, the Consumer Protection Organization says the average age of victims of financial crime is 75 years old. This shows that older people are at high risk to become the victims of fraud and to be taken advantage of. So, financial institutions should develop systems of data analysis with advance algorithms to combat crimes against the elderly. This process may require financial institutions to contact the customer's caretaker, lawyer, family member or a government officer in case of serious concerns.
One of the biggest problems older people face when choosing financial products or services is the age limitation. Some products also seem to treat older people unequally by charging them a higher insurance fee. Banks and financial institutions should think about creating new products for the growing number of older people, who are also living longer now and thus able to absorb higher financial risks than elderly people of past generations. So, there should be new thinking about investment plans and other products designed for this new generation of elderly citizens in this new era.
Innovation can be the answer to decumulation of wealth as well. Banks should pay attention to single elderly people who tend to live alone without descendants. These types of people need different kinds of loans that are specifically designed for retired people, such as reverse mortgages. These products can provide people the support they need for long-term, secure living.
Finally, financial institutions are already playing a big role in support of Thai society as it quickly turns grey. Financial service companies must continue to adapt to society's changes and support the needs of this new era. The aging population not only brings new challenges for financial institutions, but also new opportunities. They will need to keep working together with citizens of all ages in order to develop a more sustainable, equal society.