6 Lessons from the Marvel Cinematic Universe Relevant to Mobile Banking

Thomas P. Novak, VP/Chief Digital Officer, Visions Federal Credit Union

Thomas P. Novak, VP/Chief Digital Officer, Visions Federal Credit Union

The success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) over the last fourteen years is indisputable with over $26 billion earned at the box office since 2008; it is fair to state that the superhero film genre has changed forever with the advent of Marvel’s connected narrative. With twenty-eight films compromising the Infinity Saga, and now with another chapter in the story, most recently with Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, we see linked plot threads that inspiring millions of fans, why hasn’t the banking industry looked to Marvel sooner for business lessons?

While banking is not Hollywood, there are several parallels that can be drawn between the two; we both have customers looking for impactful experiences, we face increasing consumer expectations set by external factors such as fintech and Big Tech, and human emotion underpinning it all. Increasingly, the mode to which financial institutions interact with customers is mobile banking, especially since the start of COVID, leading one to ask, what lessons can we learn from the MCU’s playbook that pertain to mobile banking?

Shared Experiences

One of the most subtle yet compelling aspects of the MCU is its ability to generate “water cooler talk,” those indelible moments that a critical mass of people all know about and relate to. Avengers Endgame, as the all-time box office record holder for highest grossing film, was the seminal moment for cinematic shared experiences. The good news for mobile banking is, we do not have to wait a decade to build up to shared ties.

One opportunity is the paycheck – it never comes soon enough; never stretches far enough and its presence or lack thereof dictates many day-to-day actions of a consumer. According to various surveys by CareerBuilder, Charles Schwab and others, the percentage of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck is between 60-80 percent. Challenger banks such as Chime are giving their customers up to two days early access to their direct deposit as a selling point to address this issue.

However, to go beyond gimmicks such as early deposit access, mobile banking must leverage the data; not just PFM or card transaction data, but the community using the app. Integrating AI-powered digital marketing campaigns with a financial wellness message and employing in-app notifications promoting new features, personalization and special events are just a few methods. Achieving a level of personalization that strives to create a segment of one is what we seek.

Adjacent Innovation

Marvel has continuously innovated throughout its run of blockbuster hits, namely how they pick directors and genres to cover through the lens of superhero characters. For instance, Taika Waititi, the director of Thor: Ragnarök, and the director for Thor: Love and Thunder (coming out later in 2022) was not known for big budget action flicks, rather beautifully written indie films. However, under his direction, Thor: Ragnorak was considered the most inventive and successful of the Thor franchise and now Thor will be the only main Avenger to have a fourth installment in his film series. Equally so, making a Captain America movie under the genre of a political spy thriller in, Captain America: The Winter Soldier applied a degree of plot ingenuity that audiences have rarely seen. This was most recently followed-up with Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, taking the former Sorcerer Supreme and placing him within a horror flick.

“To go beyond gimmicks such as early direct deposit access, mobile banking must leverage the data; not just PFM or card transaction data, but the community using the app.”

Mobile banking is already littered with money movement options and balance alerts, but what about fraud detection for your credit report and holistic account monitoring for relationships outside of your primary financial institution? Integration into an identity protection solution such as IDnotify can attract more users to your app and provide them with the ability to manage their entire financial life from one place.

Interconnected Universe

This is what Marvel is known for – an amalgamated realm where a viewer can enter one story, but easily link plot points back to previous stories. The parallel in mobile banking is a multi-channel ecosystem where a consumer can, for instance, schedule an appointment from the mobile app to meet with an investment consultant later that week. Start a conversation via mobile with a chatbot but transition to an agent assisted call while the chatbot transcript is transferred to the agent seamlessly, preventing the consumer from having to repeat themselves. In the not so distant future, having a dynamic experience within mobile banking will be commonplace; leveraging behavioral data, we can begin to see that our customer pays their bills every third Thursday of the month, so in preparation for that event, the mobile app dynamically positions Bill Pay at the top of the account summary page for easy access and less clicks for the consumer. Or login to mobile banking and not only pay their bills, but donate to their favorite charity with the financial institution matching contributions, buy and sell cryptocurrency, and manage their various subscriptions all through their financial institution. This interconnected marketplace of offerings is happening now to deepen relationships with consumers.

Bold Technology Decisions

In Captain Marvel, an evolving technology was on display; de-aging VFX was employed to make a 70-year-old Samuel L. Jackson appear twenty-five years younger. While that technology was in Hollywood since 2006, it took several Marvel movies to propel it to new heights.

With the wide adoption of mobile banking and nascent players like Nubank in Brazil, the bold decision may lie in creating a digital-only challenger bank, one that can run alongside the existing institution servicing a niche population or to complement the legacy business in terms of a new tech stack and business model. If this seems too bold, one can find solace in Marvel’s parent company, Disney, and the creation of Disney+ that now has over 137 million subscribers as of mid-year 2022.

Expanding Customer Expectations

Marvel Studios has done an excellent job of resonating with audiences through their main characters; from Black Panther to Captain Marvel, the MCU has captured the social milieu of our time. As society has changed, Marvel kept pace with the right story at the right time.

For mobile banking, this means humanizing the digital experience. We are at an inflection point in the banking industry whereby it is clear that transactions have moved to mobile, but the need for human interaction is still prevalent. Incorporating video banking into mobile or providing a virtual assistant to guide the user in navigating through new features are growing in popularity and demand. Much like we have experienced in the MCU, we must move from transactional to thoughtful in our delivery of financial services and the foundational elements that drive it forward. Marvel has focused on character-driven narratives to create an emotional connection with the movies they create; equally so, financial institutions can create an emotional connection by focusing on financial wellness and being a customer’s advocate. Financial institutions must become digital-first organizations empowering people towards financial independence.


More than ever, the need for effective storytelling to create an emotional connection with your audience is paramount. The competitive landscape is such that a brand can easily be crowded out of the market if it lacks a compelling message. Marvel has succeeded by committing to character-driven plots, diverse storylines and establishing elasticity for what the audience will accept and embrace – i.e., a talking tree named Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy.

For banking, storytelling is the most difficult and abstract to emulate; what story are we trying to tell and why? The fabric of the organization’s purpose must shine through in its actions and especially through mobile banking, now the number one interaction point for your customers. How simple the financial institution makes daily tasks such as enrolling in mobile banking or sending a person-to-person transfer are all representative of the story the financial institution is conveying. Through this, the consumer intuits how much effort and understanding is put forth to connect and empathize with them. The benefit that banking has over Marvel is greater flexibility to shape our story over time. At present, one of the most prominent ways to share the story of how your customers matter to you is the ease and utility of your mobile banking app. Perhaps, it is this lesson that provides the most intrinsic value from emulating Marvel. Avengers Assemble.

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