​Interview: Colin Weir, CEO, Moroku

​Interview: Colin Weir, CEO, Moroku

Moroku's gamification technology is getting some attention from the largest banks in the world.

Fancy a game with that banking transaction? Most people don’t expect banking to be fun and pretty much want to get ‘in and out.’ But Sydney-based startup, Moroku, is changing that with gamification technology that is getting some attention from the largest banks in the world.

CIO sat down with Moroku’s CEO, Colin Weir to discuss what motivated him to start the company and its core objectives.

CIO: Gamification provides a distinctly different customer experience. Can you outline the strategic drivers behind Moroku?

Weir: The unfortunate truth is that after spending billions of dollars creating banking systems, banks are well off but the customers are less so. In the developed world, we are hooked on debt, spending billions of dollars on interest and fees at exorbitant rates.

In Australia, the average savings at retirement is $130,000, in America it’s the same and in Europe, 20 per cent of the population risk spending their lives in poverty once they retire. In my opinion, that just isn’t good enough for some of the wealthiest countries in the world.

CIO: So with that in mind, what are your core objectives?

Weir: We want ordinary people to save more than they spend and retire well – not in poverty. We want people to be able to look at the holistic journey of 30 years work, with house paid off and no debt. In essence, shifting from share of wallet, to making the wallet bigger for each customer.

CIO: How do you make banking fun but still business-like?

Weir: Like with many things, it just starts with awareness: Awareness that a focus on product, interest and fees is perhaps not the most sustainable of models.

There are an increasing number of banks and regulators around the world who are turning their attention to a new model, one based on liquidity and growing the overall size of the revenue pool based on customer success.

As we do this, we find turning to game design a very useful approach. Game play in all sorts of its variations is very good at thinking about the core set of skills and capabilities the customer needs to acquire in order to get to the next level and win.

This serves us very well when we think about the skills and capabilities customers need to win, and how banks support their customers’ financial journey through a digital experience.

From all the research we have done, our dopamine-based reward system actually hard wires us for fun. We firmly believe that for banks to win, their customers need to win. If customers are going to win we must find a way to lead with fun.

CIO: Can you explain how and why customer engagement is improved by this novel approach?

Weir: Engagement is improved by applying ‘fun to use’ as a design paradigm and coupling it with social connection to drive engagement and care factor. When we do things that are fun dopamine is released in the brain and triggers our reward centre.

The return on investment is very measurable; Bain research shows that customers who engage with companies over social media spend 30 per cent more than those who don’t and demonstrate a deeper emotional commitment. Engaged customers buy more. Our pilots will prove this out and get data to support this.

CIO: What’s the user experience philosophy behind Moroku?

Weir: The first thing we do is think about customers as players and their journeys. Whilst user journeys are employed in ‘human-centered design’, these are often conceived as a journey within an app.

Rather than thinking about what the bank to winning, we first ask what does winning look like for a customer. We ask questions around the skills and challenges for people get good at managing cash and progress to being great.

From there, we employ a combination of design principles and mechanics from gaming, coupled with behavioural economics and insights from Maslow and Pavlov.

Games are very good at on-boarding new players, we then look at a range of feedback loops that can be implemented to corral the user and nudge them along. Our belief is that ‘ease of use’ has run its course as a design principle. If we don’t move to ‘fun to use’, we will be left behind.

The Moroku GameSystem interface
The Moroku GameSystem interface

CIO: What’s the basic architecture behind your technology?

Weir: The Moroku GameSystem has 4 components. We build customers apps from a baseline set of mobile libraries. The platform’s designed with a rules engine at its centre. This allows us to tweak some of the experience on the fly without releasing new versions.

Non-banking interactions are all delivered through cloud based GameServer. As no personally identifiable information is held within the GameSystem, enabling us to support most banking regulations with regards to the use of cloud infrastructure.

An anonymisation service connected at the bank side manages the relationship between the GameSystem player and actual accounts at the bank.

Customisable standard reports are provided to measure performance and behaviours such as payments made, click through rates and customer acquisition.

Plus the API is provided to integrate GameSystem with the bank’s payment and internet systems. This enables the registration process to be presented via the bank’s internet banking platforms.

We’ve built everything from scratch. One rarely gets to start with a white canvas but this has really helped us build and own something which gives us flexibility and agility around our core challenge.

CIO: Who’s using your technology right now?

Weir: We have a customer already live in Europe. Their target market is young savers, as they search to appeal to millennials and the next generation of banking customer. We have a number of prototype and pilot engagements on the boil too.

Our target market for this year is Asia and we are seeing a broad range of interest from unbanked, under served, retail banking, wealth management, high net worth, and insurance-based customers.

CIO: Any talks with Australia’s big 4 banks or other global banking organisations?

Weir: Our participation in the Accenture FinTech Lab has given us great engagement with a dozen global and regional banks, including CBA. The 12 week program finishes up on November 4. I’m confident that we will come away with 3 to 4 new customers from the Asia Pacific region.

CIO: How hard was it to integrate your ‘games’ front end onto existing mobile or online banking functionality?

Weir: This integration is relatively easy and we plug into existing online and mobile channels.

It’s not a silver bullet. If we’re planning on getting customers to save more, or pay off their debt earlier, we need everyone in. This message then needs to be supported through a broad range of customer communications to ensure it has integrity.

Lastly we need to drive the analytics hard. It’s a science and as with the best science it involves a series of experiments that get us moving closer and closer to the truth with each iteration.”

CIO: How quickly can a new bank deploy Moroku?

Weir: Our typical project commences with a 2 week scoping engagement to understand the strategic customer objectives and how that may play out as a digital experience. Then we identify opportunities for integration, cloud, security etc.

We then run 8 – 12 week build and learn cycle that see these concepts become real and deployed into the hands of customers to validate and test assumptions.

CIO: What are the key attributes of your team?

Weir: We have 3 values that we look for – courage, curiosity and creativity. These are our tickets to the game and you don’t get to a skills interview without them.

The first is a combination of confidence, awareness and openness; to know who you are. Our engineering teams possess a blend of mobile and cloud skills coupled with solid software engineering principles.

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