Behavioral Analytics: The New Frontier?

Behavioral Analytics: The New Frontier?

Over the years, banks’ analytic capabilities have dramatically evolved. At first, analytics were descriptive, focused on answering the question “What happened?” Eventually, banks began to leverage predictive analytics to answer “What will happen?” Most recently, analytics have moved from predictive to prescriptive to answer the question “What should we do?” So, what lies ahead for financial institutions?

In a podcast interview with Worthix, former FICO CEO and Research Fellow Larry Rosenberger asserts that Behavioral Analytics are the new analytics frontier. He outlines four key pillars that make up Behavioral Analytics:

  • Behavioral Economics – Understanding cognitive biases inherent in how people make decisions, and designing incentives accordingly
  • Behavioral Psychology – Learning how people motivate themselves to create long-term, sustained habits
  • Advanced Gamification – Leveraging human-centered design principles to build systems that reward sustained engagement
  • Bilateral 1:1 Dialogue – Delivering customized, personal conversations to customers with minimal friction

Juntos, which was born from a project at the Stanford, relies on many of the principles embedded in the first three pillars to deliver the fourth pillar. Extensive user research at the beginning of each project feeds into a human-centered design process to create conversation sequences that encourage behavior change.

For example, Juntos may design dialogue to learn why a customer is motivated to save, and then share savings reminders and tips related to that motivation. Or it may employ a strategy that identifies existing customer habits, and then builds on them to form the basis of new behavior (e.g., encouraging customers to make a deposit on their way to the grocery). According to Rosenberger, banks that can use new technology like Juntos to deliver frictionless experiences stand to win and retain relationships: 

Focus groups, to this day, are expensive. If you can have a conversation using technology and ask questions to make better, appropriate offers… you can understand more about [your customers] so you can tune your communications, offers, and experiences to be more effective.

One big bank I spoke to couldn’t imagine how to manage these millions of bilateral conversations because their mindset was back in old technology. They didn’t understand what can be done today with smartphones and SMS’s… You can take advantage of fast, cheap and comfortable conversation vehicles to make this happen, and figure out what’s the next question to ask based on where the conversation has gone.

You can find the full podcast episode here!

Takeaways from our Digital Engagement Summit

Takeaways from our Digital Engagement Summit

At the end of October, Juntos hosted a range of partners and other industry leaders at our San Carlos Headquarters for our first Digital Engagement Summit. Over the course of two days, a diverse group discussed common challenges and best practices for building strong customer relationships around the world. The group brought a truly global perspective: attendees traveled from countries such as Zambia, South Africa, Colombia, and Jamaica to join the conversation.

It’s impossible to boil down all the rich insights and ideas from two days into one short blog post, but we’ll do our best! Here are a few themes that stuck out:

  • Relationships, not just transactions, need to become digital – Mobile banking has obviously increased the ease and convenience of using formal financial services. Customer trust and loyalty, though, were left behind in the branch for many. As people navigate digital financial products, the institutions that serve them need to find a way to rebuild meaningful relationships. Touchpoints pushing promotions and transactional notifications alone are not enough.
  • Put blinders on, and find the practical value in AI – There is tons of hype around AI, and for good reason. It has the potential to dramatically increase efficiency and inform better decisions. It can automate responses to FAQs and save costs. AI cannot, however, build relationships with people on its own. By augmenting AI techniques like machine learning with automation and human intelligence, financial institutions can take a wholistic approach to engaging its customers that feels personal and natural.
  • Invest in customer journeys, not just moments – Trust takes time. It is built up in the accumulation of small moments over the course of months or years. Optimizing individual campaigns or messages is important, but pales in comparison to the value of having ongoing, warm, and empathetic conversations with your customers.
  • Listen for the whispers before you hear shouts – If you sit back on your heels and wait for customers to make themselves heard, you probably won’t hear them until they’re shouting at you. Instead, be proactive and encourage feedback. Ask customers if their accounts are working for them. Offer important information, even if they don’t go out of their way to ask for it.
  • Let your customer inform your design – It’s tempting to assume you understand your customers and can design products and communications for them better than anyone. Try not to get caught in that trap. Your customers know themselves better than you do, so let them inform your decisions. Constantly test and prototype new ideas with your customers, and force their behavior to guide design.
  • Use mobile channels your customers are already comfortable in – Moving customers from a branch or agent into the mobile app is a big leap. To help them cross that chasm, communicate with them in mobile channels they’re already using and comfortable with. Conversations via SMS and WhatsApp, for example, can serve as great bridges between the physical and digital banking worlds.

The group visited the Stanford to learn about human-centered design principles.

Juntos Recognized in Report by Mastercard Foundation and BFA

Juntos Recognized in Report by Mastercard Foundation and BFA

In a report authored by The Mastercard Foundation and BFA, Juntos is highlighted as a “Practical Superpower” for financial services providers (FSPs) in Africa. The report focuses on how African FSPs can partner with Fintechs to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) in pragmatic ways to better serve mass market customers:

AI is typically defined as the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior, a definition which tends to evoke strong visions for the future in the form of either fix-all solutions or evil robot overlords. Here we intentionally take a more pragmatic approach, skirting the hype in favor of focusing on augmentation — rather than imitation — of human expertise, ingenuity, craftsmanship and intelligence.

Juntos is recognized throughout the report as a valuable conversational interface that empowers African FSPs to build meaningful relationships with customers at scale. The report continues:

Juntos partners with FSPs and MNOs to drive behavioral change in its customers entirely through mobile chat conversations. Behavioral experiments are tied to specific business goals, such as increasing savings deposits, engagement or reduced call center inquiries. Juntos’ carefully structured SMS conversations are analyzed on a daily basis with regression analysis and ML models to extract insights into what to say to which customers, and when to drive the desired behavior change.  


The exploration of chatbots is a perfect opportunity for financial providers to partner with fintech companies that have invested in developing chat algorithms in local languages and dialects, are optimizing the tone and flow of the conversation, and have the teams in place to continue to refine and iterate based on an institution’s specific use cases.

As the report describes, Juntos takes a pragmatic approach combining human intelligence and technology to help financial institutions build trusting customer relationships. Human-centered design and behavioral economics principles guide messaging strategy, automation enables conversations to be responsive at massive scale, and machine learning algorithms inform which customers should receive which content sequences. Taken together, these pillars make up a powerful platform. Here’s a helpful framework outlined by the report, where we’ve highlighted Juntos capabilities:

To read the full report, which also highlights Fintechs like LenddoEFL, Tala, and Branch, follow this link.


Focus on Customer Journeys, not Touchpoints

Focus on Customer Journeys, not Touchpoints

“Trust takes time, and sometimes it’s built in the small moments. Lots of the small moments then add up to the big moments.” – Melinda Gates

This quote should ring true for financial services providers. It’s easy to get caught up trying to perfect an individual touchpoint or one-off promotion, but that isolated approach obscures the big picture: building trust and long-term loyalty with customers.

Financial institutions are increasingly shifting their focus to improving customer journeys. Research shows that the accumulation of experiences that customers go through when they interact with your brand is far more important than any individual interaction. According to McKinsey & Company, successful projects that focus on improving customer journeys typically generate 5-10% revenue growth, as well as 15-25% cost reduction. On a larger scale, companies that provide exceptional experiences make more than 26% higher gross margins than their competitors.

Ultimately, Juntos exists to build trust by improving customer journeys. Our success is not based on any perfectly worded individual message. Instead, we build trust between customers and their financial institutions with long-term conversations. We help people set financial goals, educate them about account features, and create spaces for them to ask questions and provide feedback. Only after several months of this dialogue do we typically see meaningful behavior change.

You can see the interview about trust with Melinda Gates here, and read the full McKinsey report here.

It’s All About Trust

It’s All About Trust

Trust is at the center of every relationship. Whether it be a marriage, friendship, or relationship between a customer and her bank, trust is the foundation that everything else is built upon.  Without it, the relationship will crumble.

Maxim Wheatley, Senior Director at TTEC, formerly the founding Chief Product Officer at LifeFuels, and current Entrepreneur in Residence at Georgetown University’s business school, argues that trust is the new competitive currency. He makes a strong case for businesses to invest in tools and technology that improve customer experiences. When people view their brands as reliable partners rather than sales-hungry corporations, they will reward them with long-term loyalty:

I believe that the companies that will weather future competition and accelerating market-forces with the most success will invariably be those that have built the most equity with their customers in experience, trust, and safety. These will be companies that continue to invest in the aforementioned, and don’t see these attributes as ‘nice-to-haves’ and cost-centers, but instead see them as fundamental components of a legitimate enterprise.

According to Wheatley, business leaders need to ask themselves the following four critical questions:

  • “What are we doing to build trust with our customers?”
  • “How is customer information being secured and protected?”
  • “Do our customers have good reason to believe they are cared for?”
  • “Are we accessible to our customers where, when, and how they want to access us?”

You can read the full article here.

Juntos Publishes White Paper with AccessBank and Zoona

Juntos Publishes White Paper with AccessBank and Zoona

Juntos has released a White Paper about building digital relationships in financial services. Authored in partnership with AccessBank Tanzania and Zoona Zambia, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the White Paper dives into best practices for building trust-based relationships at scale, and outlines the business case for doing so. Here’s a quick excerpt from the report:

A thriving mass market financial services industry in the future will have strong digital customer relationships at the center. The value of those relationships to financial institutions will be evident in customer loyalty, usage, and lifetime value. Customers will begin to see their FSPs as partners in life, decisions, and planning. When customer relationships sit at the center of a strategy, all other customer interactions benefit – making marketing, social media and customer support more efficient and profitable.

You can read the full White Paper here!

Juntos Recognized as a Top 100 Fintech Company Promoting Financial Inclusion

Juntos Recognized as a Top 100 Fintech Company Promoting Financial Inclusion

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a sister organization of the World Bank, has co-authored a report with the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) and CreditEase focused on financial inclusion in the digital age. The report recognizes Juntos as one of 100 innovative Fintech companies that are bringing new solutions and technologies to market that promote stronger financial health in households around the world.

Juntos, which offers an automated mobile messaging platform to build stronger relationships between customers and their financial institutions, appears in the “Savings and Financial Planning” category of the list. According to the authors, the companies on its list are leading a revolution:

A financial revolution is taking place around the globe, powered by mobile phones, access to new data, technological innovations and changing mindsets of users of financial services. We are witnessing the emergence of ‘for-profit, mission-driven’ financial technology (Fintech) players focused on enabling greater financial inclusion. These Fintech companies are mitigating frictions by designing novel products or following innovative business strategies, with the common end goal of enhancing financial inclusion. They are increasing the financial capacities and financial health of households and organizations worldwide.

Signing up for a bank account or other financial product is just the first step in a newly banked customer’s journey. Juntos partners with banks to digitally engage users in two-way conversations that develop the knowledge, confidence, and trust needed to actually use their accounts. True participation in the digital economy empowers customers to securely access funds, grow savings, and build credit.

The report highlights a range of other innovative organizations, including Credit Karma, GoFundMe, Kabbage, Nerdwallet, and Stripe, among others. You can read the full report here.

Emilia, Bancolombia’s Financial Advice Chatbot Inspired by Juntos

Emilia, Bancolombia’s Financial Advice Chatbot Inspired by Juntos

In a recent article published by Bancolombia, the bank highlights our partnership to offer warm, informative, and personalized conversations to Ahorro a la Mano customers. Mauricio Múnera, Director of Financial Inclusion at Bancolombia remarked, “Juntos is a pioneering endeavor,” commenting that the platform has been able to adapt to the individuals it serves.

Read the full article here.

En el artículo titulado “Emilia, la robot que ofrece consejos financieros a los clientes de Ahorro a la Mano”, Bancolombia resalta el trabajo con Juntos a través del cual se ofrecen conversaciones cálidas, informativas, y personalizadas a sus clientes. “Juntos puede considerarse un ejercicio pionero,” comenta Mauricio Múnera, director de Inclusión Financiera de Bacolombia, destacando que la plataforma ha sabido adaptarse a la realidad de las personas a las que sirve.

Lea el articulo completo aquí.

What Is Lost in a Digital Financial World — And How to Get It Back

What Is Lost in a Digital Financial World — And How to Get It Back

Written by Elisabeth Rhyne, Managing Director, Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion. This is a re-post from CFI’s blog

A lot happens in even the simplest meeting between two people. Instantly, and without thinking, each person observes the other’s appearance and body language. As their eyes connect, they form impressions and make judgments about each other. Whether it’s a smile, a handshake, or the response to a question, the information and emotional content that passes in simple acts can be far richer than the words exchanged.

It has long been important for banking operations to ensure that when customers meet staff, whether at the teller window or in the marketplace, the interactions build customers’ trust and convince them to use the institution’s services. At the same time, crucial information about the customer would flow back to the bank.

For example, a loan officer visiting a business owner’s premises observes the customer and his business directly, while the business owner gets answers to his particular questions. When a teller provides cash at a window, the customer enjoys personal care while the bank has a chance to discuss other products that serve the customer’s specific needs. And when a staff member greets a customer in the market, she can remind her that her loan is due, letting the customer know that bank staff are paying attention—and increasing the likelihood of timely repayment.

In today’s digital world, however, customers may rarely or never interact with a person. Digital transactions are fundamentally different from person-to-person encounters. Information flows in precise, narrow and predetermined electronic packets: ID verification, account balance, transaction amount, receipt. No spontaneous exchange of additional information occurs. A digital transaction lacks a social aura. It is often simply a completed task.

As we work to extend financial services to the two billion, typically lower income, people around the world who are disconnected from the financial grid, we must rely on digital financial services. Business economics make digital delivery of financial services unstoppable. And, digital services can bring dramatic benefits—service for small ticket and remote customers, 24/7 availability, fewer errors, and faster responses.

It is undeniable that in the transformation to digital interfaces, valuable personal connections between financial service providers and customers are lost. But what exactly is lost, and how can that loss be mitigated or replaced?

Among the benefits that might be at risk in the transition to digital are:

  • Customer trust and comfort with the financial institution, especially if the customer is new, interacts infrequently with formal institutions, or comes from a socially disadvantaged group
  • The ability to respond efficiently to a customer’s specific questions, supporting successful use of financial products
  • Emotional and social connections that drive behavior
  • In-person assessments that allow providers to discover and address potential problems or find new opportunities
  • The wealth of market information—about things like political events, competitor moves, or problems with specific customer segments—that front line staff gain as they do their work

How can a financial service provider mitigate the loss of these benefits? There are many creative responses. Providers can integrate elements of technology while retaining personal interactions in some parts of their delivery systems. Alternatively, they can enrich the digital experience itself, making it more like a face-to-face interaction.

Finding the Right Place for Human Touch

With staff time freed by digital transactions, banks can choose to deploy people only where they will be of the most strategic value. They can identify the points in customer relationships where person-to-person exchanges really matter—whether in initial outreach, customer enrollment, or periodic check-ins. One of the greatest needs for person-to-person support is when customers have questions. Another is assistance using technologies for the first time. Perhaps financial institutions’ branch locations could become centers of problem resolution and learning rather than routine business.

Banks can provide staff and agents with digital tools to compensate for some of the weakness of human interactions—such as inconsistency, misinformation, or bias. Digital tools can help agents provide consistent information and gather responses efficiently from customers. When banking agents are equipped with tablets, their ability to provide accurate product information is improved.

Going one step further, digital tools could be used to create richer interactions with customers. As new apps and voice and video features expand communications capabilities, and as artificial intelligence advances, providers could create richer digital customer interactions with some of the same features that a person-to-person interaction provides. It is now possible to build interfaces with data flowing in two directions to answer customer questions, provide nudges and reminders, help build financial capabilities, and receive regular customer feedback.

This future is already closer than one may think. Juntos, for example, is a platform that allows financial institutions to carry on personalized, electronic conversations with customers through text messages. Juntos’s powerful data analytics can tailor messages to customer behavior. The friendly style of the messages suggests the presence of a person, and indeed, Juntos reports that many customers share personal news and even wish Juntos a Merry Christmas during the holidays. Through the two-way data flow, customers gain a sense of connection to the institution, support for financial discipline (via reminders), and information about products. At the same time, institutions hear from customers more often.

The financial inclusion sector has barely begun to explore these possibilities. It deploys technology mainly to select customers and perform transactions. But as these basic digital functions are increasingly available, the sector may soon need to focus on creating rich, multifaceted customer interactions that capture more of the benefits of a person-to-person interaction. Customer engagement, facilitated by a combination of technology and the strategic use of people, could be the next competitive frontier.


This post was also published on NextBillion.

Texting People Out of Poverty

Texting People Out of Poverty

Written by Laura Shin


Carmen Hernandez, 34, lives in Dallas with her husband and five children. Her husband works in construction, earning about $50,000 a year. Hernandez makes party decorations and tailors clothing, making $800 to $1,000 a month.

In February 2014, the family only had $300 in savings. That month, Hernandez began using a program called Juntos that sends text messages to her mobile, a basic cell phone.

The texts would ask her things like, “Do you want to save more?” If the answer was yes, she would respond with an amount, which would be deposited into her savings account. Or, they might ask if she had an emergency and remind her that she could use her savings. Or, they might just encourage her to continue saving.

A year later, the family savings was closing in on $5,000.

“All the messages they send really help me,” said Hernandez, with her 14-year-old son acting as translator. “If I didn’t use it, I would save less.”

The San Carlos, California-based company behind the program, Juntos, promotes financial inclusion and helps first-time bank account holders, or the “newly banked,” to manage their money. “Our hope is to increase active client rates and active balances in accounts,” said Katie Nienow, cofounder and vice-president of business development.

The company got its start in 2009 at the Institute of Design at Stanford, when a student named Ben Knelman (now CEO) created a simple app to help the school janitors. Initially, a janitor named Karina laughed at the idea that she could save on her $21,000 salary. But a year later, she had saved $2,000 by using the app. Juntos went on to win the innovation award for financial inclusion at the 2012 G20 summit in Mexico City.

In a pilot study in Colombia, participants working with Juntos ended up with 50 percent higher balances than the control group. Many users, who already feel connected to their phones—one referred to hers as her baby—end up feeling such a personal connection to the app that they respond with messages like,

“I just want to thank you for your help. Your motivation has been very useful.”

The company now has 200,000 users, obtained through partner financial institutions, in Colombia, Mexico and Tanzania. A team of writers with backgrounds from psychology to design use behavioral economics and on-the-ground research to customize each version to the dialect and culture of that country. Juntos also has a version for users in the United States, which is targeted at recent immigrants who are new to the banking system.

“In recent years, innovations like branchless banking, mobile banking and mobile money have meant that banking services could be provided to the poor at cheaper cost, so access to financial services was becoming a reality for the poor,”

said Nienow. But while banks have an easy time getting people to open accounts, customers often immediately let their accounts fall dormant, or unused. Dormancy rates for the newly banked range from 40 to 90 percent around the world.

People who don’t have active accounts may engage in behaviors that put their money at risk. They may keep cash at home, where it might get stolen. Or they may use risky or difficult-to-liquidate informal savings vehicles, such as asking a family member to hold their cash or buying inventory for their small business.

“When the poor have their money weighing too heavily on their minds, they’re not able to give their mind to other things with their full presence, which has implications for their job performance and their future earning potential,”

said Nienow, citing studies that showed that people perform less well on IQ tests when money is scarce.

Dormant accounts also cost the banks, which spend time and money to develop, advertise and maintain them. That makes Juntos and financial institutions natural partners: the banks have customers that Juntos can target for financial inclusion, and Juntos can help banks lower dormancy rates.

After enrollment, which may or may not be automatic, depending upon the institution, a user receives a note from Juntos explaining that the service acts as a free financial coach. The company will try several different texts to see what gets the person to write back, then refine its algorithms based on the responses it receives. “We’re constantly testing different messages to see what resonates the best,” said Nienow.

Once a customer replies, Juntos will ask her if she’s interested in a particular aspect of the account. For instance, if she gets free health insurance for maintaining a certain balance, the company will send reminders of that.

Antonique Koning, a financial sector specialist at The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), says that Juntos’s use of algorithms to analyze big volumes of customer data and continually update responses is innovative among organizations tackling financial inclusion. She feels that the Juntos platform helps people to believe in their banks.

“Providers need to become much more focused on the customers, better understand the customers’ realities, needs and preferences, and develop solutions that help,” she said. “People don’t trust the financial system because the system doesn’t speak their language.”


Originally published here on the Impact Journalism Day website. 

The idea behind Impact Journalism Day is to show that the media can also fulfill their role by reporting on inspiring solutions to the world’s problems.