Sparebanken Vest / Bulder Bank
Create a brand new, hyper modern, mobile-only bank from scratch - in one year
Gather customer insight,
craft value propositions
Sparebanken Vest, the second-oldest bank in Norway, decided to make a bold move in 2018. They set out to create a brand new, hyper modern, mobile-only bank from scratch.
If that weren’t challenging enough in itself, they also decided on what many said was an impossibly short timeline to get the new bank up and running: just one short year.
With this decision in place, there was no time to waste. Torvald Kvamme was appointed head of the initiative, and gathered a team of resourceful designers, programmers and people with industry knowledge to realise the vision for a radically new banking experience.
.. be mobile-only, built on the latest and greatest technology, free of the legacy systems most established financial institutions are limited by.
.. have dramatically lower costs than its competitors, thanks to using technology and automation rather than manual backend processes.
.. target customers across all of Norway, as opposed to the regional customer base of Sparebanken Vest.
.. offer a joyous digital user experience comparable to the very best challenger banks in the world, like Revolut, N26 and Monzo.
.. solve real, validated customer problems for a customer segment characterised as financially well off, tech-savvy and ambitious.
Beyond that, there were loads of unanswered questions. Who exactly were the target customers, and what were their needs and wants? What value propositions would they care deeply about? How could something as boring as a bank provide an X-factor to delight and surprise these customers?
To find answers to those questions, Torvald Kvamme and his team needed to gather and analyse customer insight from their target customer group. That’s when the phone rang at Braver.
When we were asked to gather customer insight for such an exciting project, we jumped at the opportunity. Over a few weeks, we interviewed tens of target customers about their personal finance habits, their financial dreams and worries, experiences with banks and financial services, and pain points around managing their own money.
Sensitive topics, indeed, which called for an equally sensitive and highly empathic approach to the customer development interviews.
The results were (as always when doing customer insight work!) illuminating and often surprising. We distilled what we learned into five main insights, and of those five, one in particular stood out – “I don’t trust my bank to do what’s best for me!”.
It turns out that many customers do not trust their bank to do what’s best for them, especially when it comes to setting the interest rates on their mortgage. Here it is, in the exact words of a customer we talked to:
“My bank is quick to turn the interest rate on my mortgage up when the central bank’s base rates go up, but slow to turn it back down if the base rate decreases – unless I call them and negotiate. That makes me feel ripped off, and I always have to be on the lookout for the best rates in the market.”
A classic conflict of interest, indeed.
Based on this insight, we decided to propose something radical, something that had never before been done in banking in the Nordics (as far as we know) – to redefine how a mortgage works, by putting the customer’s best interest first.
We proposed that the new bank would automatically reduce the interest rate on your mortgage, either when the central bank decreases rates, when you pay down a substantial part of your debt, or if the value of your home increases (as shown in our slide below).
A mortgage with this pricing model, we argued, would solve the customer pain of having to always be on the lookout for the best interest rates in the market.
It would allow customers to trust their bank once again.
It would send a strong message to all stakeholders – "we put our customers’ best interest first, even at our own expense".
And with the bold move that followed, that is exactly what Sparebanken Vest did.
A few months later, Sparebanken Vest unveiled their new, mobile-first challenger bank called Bulder Bank.
Bulder's initial website looked like this.
Translated from Norwegian, the headline text says “We’re redefining banking, and starting with your mortgage”.
A bold claim indeed, but it is backed up by the main value proposition of the page: “We lower your interest rate automatically”.
There it is. A radically new business model for mortgages in Norway is born.
We thought this was a great innovation, and so did our client Sparebanken Vest. But that doesn’t matter. Because, as with any innovation project, we are not the judge of its ultimate success – the market is.
So what did the market think about Bulder?
Bulder Bank took off like a rocket ship and became the best liked consumer bank in the entire country within one year.
We let the statistics speak for themselves:
With that said, our story about Bulder Bank has come to an end. We thank Sparebanken Vest and Torvald Kvamme for the opportunity to work on this exciting case, and we thank them for making the modern bank we now love and use every day as customers!
If you have read this far, I assume you think this story is interesting, and perhaps wonder what a similar project for your organisation might look like.
Please get in touch for a conversation – maybe we can find the answer together. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at +47 400 52 503.
(PS: We also have a webinar about how to turn customer insight into new products and services. Get in touch if you want to see it.)