Social sign on has become an integral feature of websites and apps in almost every sector. The ability to log-in to any new product or provider with a couple of clicks, and without the need to create and remember a separate password, has become so familiar that being confronted with an application form and asked to type your name and email address feels very much behind the times.

Finance firms have tended to be behind the times regarding ‘social’, so it is no coincidence that the one industry stubbornly refusing to embrace social sign on is finance. By ignoring this opportunity firms are not only making life more difficult for current and potential customers, they are also missing the chance to connect their customers to each other. The use of social sign on means firms can access customers contacts lists, and can then show users which of their friends, family or colleagues are already using their service. This provides endorsement, but it can be used to encourage users to communicate with each other.

Some of the biggest, most innovative and most successful companies in the world make use of the contacts of their customers to promote referrals and, often to enhance the overall customer experience. Spotify is a particularly good example of this – if signing up with Facebook, users get the chance to access any playlists that their friends have put together.


We have long been advocates for social functionality for investment firms, and this doesn’t need to be revolutionary. As a starting point, incorporating a messaging feature into an investment product would allow users to talk to each other about the investments they’re making, and could help new and inexperienced investors become more comfortable with the investment world. However, even without the messaging feature, by using social sign on, and showing users customers they already know, firms can promote this sort of dialogue, and hopefully endorsement, offline.

A common reason offered by financial firms for not using social sign on is that it doesn’t collect all the information required to verify a customer for anti-money laundering purposes, but this is a weak excuse. Clearly firms in the financial sector have to collect more information about customers than social sign on alone can provide, but just because you have to ask customers to type in their address does not mean you have to oblige them to type in their name and email address as well. Another reason that does not stand up to scrutiny is that many customers may not want to link something as important as their investments to their social media account. This is almost certainly true, but those customers would remain free to sign up in the traditional manner.  Additional security can also be applied for different levels of access to a trading account if required.

All in all, the use of social sign on is a very simple, cost effective and proven way to improve the customer experience for those customers who wish to use it. It has the potential to facilitate conversations between customers that will boost a firm’s referrals and improve conversions. It is the modern way, and it is time it was embraced by the financial services sector.


One We Like: Citymapper

October 6, 2015

By Consulting Group

Why does this get a mention on a financial consultancy blog?  Having converted to an iPhone in January ’15 after 10+ years as a Blackberry die-hard I have had an amazing 10 months of new app experiences. Uber (leave for another day), Sonos, Spotify, Strava, WhatsApp etc are all good, but Citymapper stands out. Why?

With so much fintech competition, it can often be the detail that makes the difference and allows a new start up to compete with established brands. In the mapping area, Google so often wins in head to heads, but ultimately companies come along and challenge the status quo.

Citymapper does what it says. It knows your location in London, so all you need to do is put in your destination. So far so does Google maps, but this is where the comparison ends. Citymapper thinks for a while then gives you multiple options, with prices and times. In London these options include walking, Santander Cycles, buses, tubes, boats, trains, Uber and if inclined jetpack. It sounds simple, but lets look at a few areas:

Price Differential:

We like this because it ties in to one of our key service areas in retail finance – pricing. By giving clear indications of price options for example: walking – free, bus – £1.50, tube £2.30, boat £6, uber £11-£15 it immediately appeals to a broad set of clients that can all get specific value from it whether wanting to prioritise time over money or even health as it also includes calorie count.

City mapper 3 Citymapper 1 Citymapper 2

Referral and Detail:

I had happily used Google maps (even on the Blackberry), so why switch? Firstly, by being a quality product it was recommended to me (a key part of all start up retail fintech experiences). The simple ‘Get me home’, ‘Get me to work’ buttons shows they are dealing with real users and have thought about what we do every day of our lives… In terms of detail, if you are a tube user how often have you arrived at a station and then looked for the exit and found it to be the other end of a crowded platform? On the daily commute you know where to go, so why not on the other trips around London. Citymapper steps in here and tells you a. what end of the train to broad and b. when you exit which exit to use. If you are in London it gives you a Rain Safe route, if in Singapore a ‘Haze free route’. Simple, but smart.


If the service you are providing gives you and others an advantage, then individuals may be willing to help further improve it. In Citymapper there is a neat function that allows you to ‘improve data’. e.g. suggest front of the train, not the middle, use a different exit etc. Using its own customers to enhance the product through feedback. Again something that is a challenge for retail finance brands in a regulated environment, but something that should be embraced.


It has become an invaluable tool for the Black Swan Partners team as we plan our days running around town meeting clients and prospects seeing friends, going to sporting events, saving minutes every day and being such a good user experience that we even write this blog about it.