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Robot-ready UK consumers still cling to the branch

11 January 2017  |  6139 views  |  0 Business meeting finger pointing on chart

Two-thirds of UK consumers are open to receiving financial advice from artificial intelligence agents, but are not yet prepared to foresake the human interactions provided by branch-based transactions, according to new research from Accenture.

The data, which comes from a global poll of 32,000 individuals - of which more than 3000 came from the UK - indicates that consumers are now prepared to access robo-advice to aid traditionally complex banking decisions, including how to allocate investments (74%), the type of bank account to open (68%) and for retirement planning (60%).

Yet while the appetite for robo-advice is growing, the report shows monthly branch usage in the UK is at the highest level since 2010, suggesting consumers still expect human advice and support. Over half (53%) of UK customers now regularly access their branch compared to 47% in 2010. Significantly, Generation Z (aged 18-21) customers in the UK visit their branch more regularly than any other generation, with one in four visiting at least once per week.

Peter Kirk, head of distribution and marketing services, Accenture UK, believes the data holds a cautionary tale for banks.

“While consumers seem open to new forms of technology and advice and are seemingly more comfortable interacting with robots for certain types of financial services, their reliance on high street branches continues," he says. "Banks need to recognise that for many consumers including the younger generation, the shift towards computer-generated services cannot be at the expense of access to human service at their local bank. The demand for branches seems set to continue.”

Furthermore, despite a willingness to share data with their banks, around one quarter of customers switched banking providers due to lack of personalised services; while one in five moved because of inappropriate products and service recommendations.

Says Kirk: “If banks are expecting their customers to share wider personal information, it is imperative that they provide more value-added services, and move away from the concept of being a purely transactional service provider. With the new CMA Open Banking Standards on the horizon and the increased willingness among consumers to switch to non-traditional providers, this will create a bigger need for banks to provide a frictionless, more end to end customer experiences to compete more effectively.”

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