Just as fitness trackers changed the way we stay in shape (have you taken your 10,000 steps today?), gamification is poised to change the ways we learn about and manage our financial health.

One of the biggest threats to our financial health is our failure to act on well-meaning intentions. You want to save money, but another quarter passes without additional savings. You want to stop wasting money unnecessarily, but your funds still dribble away. And don’t get me talking about retirement savings, where every year you delay savings misses out on 20, 30 or more years of potential growth.

Gamification of Wealth Management

Gamification is an emerging tool for financial institutions to leverage — and in the process find — the intersection of what is both best for their customers and their own growth.

“Gamification is about customer-centricity: it helps customers achieve their [financial] goals in a way that emotionally engages them,” notes research firm Apis Partners.

Financial institutions have a long history of operating in and around this area — both Citibank and American Express introduced incentive programs decades ago that rewarded customers for certain behaviors — and mobile devices create opportunities to take gamification to a much higher level.

“Generally speaking, traditional financial firms have a ‘productized’ view of their services that is divorced from expectations and utility of these services to the customers,” explains Apis. “Gamification addresses this gap by helping financial firms understand the needs and desires of customers, and using experience design to engage people to achieve their financial goals.”

In other words, it brings firms closer to their customers and their goals.

Extending the Benefits

Gamification can work especially well with the introduction of competition and social networking, similar to just as friend groups post exercise achievements. Imagine that you are matched against others of a similar age and income, and are challenged to save the largest percentage of your income. You would be able to track your performance in real time, and thus use peer pressure to pull back on your tendency to buy steak three times a week.

As a general rule, customer acquisition works better in the presence of positive feedback from customers. The more that people tell their friends and colleagues, “I saved 12 percent of my income this year and actually had fun doing it,” the easier it will be for such a service to thrive.

By introducing gamification apps, financial services firms will help consumers engage with their own financial health practices, and provide firms better insights into what type of services resonate with their customers.

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