As banking becomes a utility, consumers shop around

As banking becomes a utility, consumers shop around

Consumers increasingly see their relationship with their banks as purely transactional, leaving the door ajar for competitors hawking higher margin, advice-driven financial products, according to a survey of 4000 US adults by Accenture.

The survey found that most consumers (79%) define their banking relationship as commoditised, defined by simple transactions like paying bills and receiving current-account statements.

Dave Edmondson, senior managing director of Accenture’s North America Banking practice, says: “Banks run the risk that consumers increasingly view them as a utility — a service for basic financial transactions - and not as the first choice for seeking financial advice. Banks need to become more relevant to customers’ everyday lives, including recommending suitable products and services, whether these options come from the bank or third parties.”

Consumers said they would be interested in several value-added services provided by banks, including: discounts for purchases (54%); proactive bill-pay services (53%); product recommendations (52%); end-to-end assistance with car buying, such as help with negotiating a loan and providing vehicle recommendations (49%); and buying a home (46%).

When looking at millennials, consumers aged 18-34 years old, the survey found that banks can’t rest on their laurels and must do more to retain them as customers. Two-thirds (67%) of them said that the traditional and digital banking experience they receive at their current bank is only somewhat or not at all seamless, and nearly half (47%) said they would like their bank to provide tools and services to help them create and monitor their budget. Nearly half (48%) also said they would like their banks to offer video chat on their website or mobile/tablet application, compared to only 30% over 55.

The study also found that consumer relationships with local bank branches are changing. An overwhelming majority (81%) of consumers said they would not switch banks if their local branch closed - a significant increase from the 52% of respondents in last year's sample who said they would be unlikely to switch banks if their branch closed.

“This is a big change in the evolution of retail banking,” says Robert Mulhall, managing director and North America lead for Accenture Distribution and Marketing Services, Banking. “For the first time in our research, consumers ranked online banking services as the number one reason for staying with their bank, ahead of branch locations and low fees. It’s no longer a question of proximity to the local branch that is driving consumer choice, it’s a matter of which banks are offering the strongest online capabilities and mobile applications.”

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