The Artisanal Financial Retailer
Whether they are brewers or booksellers, artisan businesses are gaining traction, and their mission to cater for our appetite for the bespoke can be seen as a reaction against a range of contemporary issues, ranging from a burgeoning distrust of big business to the fetishism for corporate uniformity in the retail world.
Not unconnected is that social media now means that the individual can be understood increasingly as a complex repository of experiences and preferences. These observations set the stage for the artisan practitioner; a retailing subset that champions a number of specific values: independence, authenticity, craft, specialisation, ‘localness’ and bespoke service, all underlined by personality: ‘The interesting stuff always happens on the edges’.
In parallel there are financial pressures on banking customers now that are distinctly modern phenomena: zero hours contracts, the gig economy, the explosion of pay day lenders, the unavailability of mortgages. These customers would appear to be wilfully uncatered for by regular financial retail operators, beset as they are by the inertia of scale and conventional operating models. Might it not be that eliciting the business characteristics of the artisan, and deconstructing the financial retail monolith into targeted, bespoke physical presences may go some way to mitigating that inertia?
An operator trying to emulate the characteristics of the artisan might therefore deliberately reject a globally consistent brand, and have no care for uniformity in their physical presence. They might celebrate character by investing regional personality into each of its new branches, whether that is a mobile unit calling at the housing estate or a tent at Glyndebourne.
If enough core artisanal tenets (Specialisation, Bespoke Service, Idiosyncrasy etc.) can be genuinely embraced and communicated by such a business, and it is simultaneously honest about the characteristics that they cannot claim to embody (Independence), then some vestige of the qualities that signify the artisan should surely be captured and conveyed.
If not, in a commercial world where bespoke services are only likely to become increasingly common, financial retailers need to respond in kind or otherwise start resembling an artefact of another age.