North Americans prefer banking online but turn to branches when problems hit - survey

North Americans prefer banking online but turn to branches when problems hit - survey

North Americans prefer the Internet for carrying out routine banking transactions but when a problem arises they turn to staff in a branch or over the phone, according to a survey from Empathica.

The poll of over 15,000 Americans and Canadians shows that for routine transactions, 41.4% of respondents cite the Internet as their preferred channel, followed by the branch, with 32.6% and ATM on 23.3%. Mobile and telephone came a distant fourth and fifth, at 1.5% and 1.3% respectively.

Yet, when a problem arises, consumer preference drastically shifts; 60% want to visit a branch, while 34% prefer using the phone and just six per cent want to take up their issue online. The branch is also the preferred channel - cited by 78.7% - for major transactions such as home loans.

Despite the hype, mobile banking still faces considerable barriers to take up. Not only do just 1.5% of North Americans use their handsets for everyday transactions, a majority do not trust the channel's security.

Of those polled, 51.2% of Americans and 60.3% of Canadians say they do not trust the security of mobile banking, compared to the 21.7% of US and 26.2% of Canadians that do not trust Internet banking. Out of all methods for transactions, consumers trust the branch the most - 84%.

Gary Edwards, Empathica, says: "Internet banking went through the same hurdles with privacy and security concerns. The more mobile technology is developed, however, the more you'll see consumers using their mobile device for banking. Right now it's just not at a stage where consumers trust device security, but the mobile channel will certainly play an important role in the future."

While mobile banking has a very low percentage of primary users in Canada, those who use it express a high level of affection for their financial institution. For Canadian consumers who cited using mobile banking the most for routine transactions, 83% were likely to recommend the channel. Branch, telephone, Internet and ATM all fell at or below 77%.

Canadians favour Internet banking overall (49.4%), which is 10 percentage points higher than Americans (38.2%), despite the fact that both countries' net penetration stands at around 77%.

"The fact that Internet penetration is the same but Canadians nonetheless use it more than Americans is good news for banks in Canada. The differences cannot be explained away by differences in accessibility to these services. It has something to say about cultural differences and overall Internet banking use," says Edwards.

The survey broadly aligns with a recent study from the American Bankers Association which found 36% of respondents favouring the Web, compared to 25% for branches, 15% ATMs and just three per cent mobile phones.

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