Nordic Financial Services consumers remain patient. But for how long?

Banks all over the world fear the day when Apple, Google or Amazon start providing banking and insurance services, disrupting the whole industry over night and rendering traditional players obsolete. Regardless of whether that happens or not; is that what retail customers are waiting for? A recent global customer survey carried out by Accenture shows that while customers want more from their financial services providers, their first impulse is not, just yet, to jump ship. Nordic customers remain loyal, but demanding.

There is room for improvement in the financial services industry or, depending on who you ask, a gap between reality and customer demands. Regardless, customers are getting used to a whole new level of on-demand service experience from other industries; the examples have been used many times but disruptors like Uber, Airbnb and Amazon are setting new standards for experiences even outside their own industries. Pressure has reached financial industry players. They now need to provide personalized advice and product proposals around the clock, while being available in-person when important decisions need to be taken.

To be relevant to the customer 24/7, without suffering an avalanche of cost increases, requires financial services providers to execute a great deal of automation to solve simpler tasks where an advisor is not really needed. Accenture’s survey also shows that 65 percent of Nordic customers in both banking and insurance are willing to receive automated advice for simpler tasks, citing speed and convenience as important drivers. The second element of relevance is personalization of services, providing the right advice or product at the right time. The single most important enabler of high personalization is personal data, something financial services providers receive plenty of. Customers trust their banks and insurers, and are willing to share even more data than they do today, but the deal comes with a price. Customers are becoming aware of what their data is worth and will be expecting faster and better services in return.

Banks and insurers have had their specific roles in society for a long time, but they will have to rethink their position in an ecosystem of services as we move into the future. In the Nordics, over half of the customers surveyed would consider side-stepping traditional insurers when buying a car, getting insurance directly from the car dealer instead. Conversely, over a third say that they would consider taking advice from their financial services provider about important purchases of non-financial products such as a house or a car. Lines are indeed being blurred, not only by customer behaviors but by regulation as well. The next big thing coming up is the open APIs, meaning banks will have to share their former sole right—customer financial data. Coming back to the ecosystem it will be interesting to see what new alliances will form in the financial services arena to provide the best customer experiences.

Nordic customers are not (yet) waiting for disruption to their financial services providers. But nevertheless, there's been too little service development over the last decade. With their unique possessions of customer data and trust, financial services businesses still have a window of opportunity to create unmatched experiences through personalization and convenience. The question is whether Nordic banks and insurers will take their chance, or if they will sit around waiting to be disrupted.

The Global Distribution & Marketing Consumer survey was conducted with over 32,000 respondents all over the world, across 18 markets. Read the survey as a whole, and get more bank- and/or insurance-specific insights at