RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • Our Banking Consumer Study examines how consumers’ behavior and preferences have shifted due to the pandemic.
  • The rush to digital is depriving banking of its traditional human touch.
  • This poses the risk that it will become commoditized, price-driven and incapable of shoring up declining customer trust.
  • Banks that infuse humanity and personalization into their digital interactions can forge strong customer connections, build trust and drive growth.


Digital in hyper-drive

For several years now, banks have been moving their customers out of their branches and onto digital channels. The reason for this is obvious. Moving process-driven interactions to digital channels and keeping more complex matters in-branch meant they saved on costs while protecting personal relationships with customers. Although many people welcomed the shift to digital, certain customer segments still preferred to visit their branch for even simple transactions.

Until the pandemic hit. With bank branches closed, consumers had no practical option but to use their bank’s digital channels. As a result 50 percent of consumers now interact with their bank through mobile apps or websites at least once a week, compared to 32 percent two years ago.

This sudden increase in digital adoption is both a blessing and a curse for banks. Although it is efficient and has dramatically advanced most banks’ digital agendas, the lack of human connection poses the risk of banks weakening their already tenuous personal and emotional connection with customers. This could make banking more commoditized and price-driven, and hamper banks’ efforts to shore up customer trust – which has been waning for years and is critical to their ambition to grow revenue through personalized advisory services.

Accenture’s Banking Consumer Study, one of the largest of its kind, is based on interviews with 47,000 banking customers in 28 markets.

People change. So do their banking behaviors.

While it's obvious that COVID-19 has changed consumers' banking behaviors, it's still a mystery which new behaviors are permanent, and which will revert when normality returns. There's no dispute, however, that to remain relevant banks need to understand and then embrace how customers are feeling and acting.

To help make sense of who's doing what, Accenture's Banking Consumer Study identified four key consumer personas based on traits like comfort level with technology, willingness to share personal data and preferences for interacting with banks. The four groups are the Pragmatists, Traditionalists, Pioneers, and Skeptics.

Pragmatists

Trusting and channel-agnostic.

Traditionalists

Value human touch and avoid tech.

Pioneers

Tech-savvy risk takers.

Skeptics

Tech-wary, generally unsatisfied with their financial service providers.

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Consumer trust is failing—but banks can win it back

One thing all four of these consumer personas have in common is that their trust in banks is failing. It was declining even before COVID-19, but the pandemic has made things worse.

29%

of respondents trust their banks to look after their long-term financial wellbeing, compared with 43% two years ago.

But it's not all bad news. Despite a broad cross-industry decline, banks are still some of the most trusted institutions. And while the migration to digital can threaten customer loyalty, it also can lead to new opportunities. Growing consumer interest in digital payments is an opportunity to increase touchpoints and stay relevant in consumers' daily lives.

The shift to digital channels is unlikely to be reversed altogether once COVID-19 is defeated; neither banks nor most of their customers would want that. To benefit from the efficiency of digitalization while guarding against the threats it poses, banks should infuse humanity and personalization into their digital channels. For the best chance of success, we recommend these five principles:

1. Understand the shift in expectations

Determine which changes in customer behavior are temporary and which are likely here to stay.

2. Recognize your customer base

Examine the distinct needs and expectations of your customer segments.

3. Determine your strategy

Develop a strategy and operating model to respond to the market changes that are likely to endure.

4. Prioritize technology investment

Acquire technology that improves your flexibility, agility and speed to market.

5. Infuse a human touch

Embed humanity and personalization into digital channels where they will have the most impact.

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The steady ascendance of digital banking needn’t be a threat – handled wisely, it’s an opportunity to forge strong customer relationships, build trust and ultimately drive growth.

Please contact us to learn more about this research and how Accenture can help your organization to remain human, trusted and relevant as the world continues to change at an unprecedented pace.

Banks should fundamentally rethink where, when and how they bring humanity and personality back into the customer experience.

About the Authors

Peter Kirk

Managing Director – Financial Services, Customer Insight & Growth


Alan McIntyre

Senior Managing Director – Banking


Edwin Van der Ouderaa

Senior Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting, Customer Europe Lead​


Anne Bertelsen

Managing Director – Interactive, Banking


Kieran White

Senior Manager – Strategy & Consulting

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In an era of unprecedented change, banking consumers have gone digital in greater numbers and faster than ever. Our Global Banking Consumer Study reveals insights into what consumers are thinking and how banks can stand out and stay relevant.

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