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“Give me all of it—or I’ll leave”

Customers want robo-advice, human help, and added value. Alternative: bye-bye

“Give me all of it—or I’ll leave”

 Bank customers want easy access, online services, economical financial advice, in-person consultation, loyalty rewards, and the ability to switch banks painlessly—in short, they want it all.

That, in summary, is what Accenture found in a recent survey of 4,000 retail bank customers in the U.S. and Canada.

“Our survey shows that consumers are focused on value—seeking everything from deals and discounts to a convenient banking experience that leverages the latest digital technologies,” says David Edmondson, senior managing director of Accenture’s North America Banking practice, to Banking Exchange. “But digital banking is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Online banking remains the dominant channel, but consumers are not abandoning the branch.”

To obtain the value they want, consumers do not always choose the same channel, says Edmondson.

“Instead, they make banking channel choices based on their specific needs at the time,” he explains. “They’re also willing to share personal data in order to receive better service from their bank—despite the fact that nearly one-fourth have had their financial data hacked online in the past two years.”

We’ll take advice from software

One significant finding of the survey is that 46% of bank customers are open to using robo-advice for banking services. (Except where noted, reported numbers refer to the entire survey sample. Where noted, numbers refer only to the U.S. portion of the sample.)

“It’s well-known that robo-advice is gaining significant traction in the wealth management industry. However, our research shows this trend is picking up in retail banking as well,” Edmondson says. “Consumers will continue to dictate how, when, and where they want to interact, and banks have an opportunity to use intelligent automation and robotics to simplify and improve the customer experience.”

The critical piece will be hitting the right mix.

“Successful banks will strike the right balance between human and machine interaction to elevate their role in customers’ lives beyond simple transactions and become a go-to resource,” says Edmondson.

Speed and convenience (50%) and lower costs (29%) were cited by respondents as the primary benefits of robo-advice, with millennials and mass-affluent consumers expressing the most interest in the service.

“Providing robo-advice can help banks deliver a simple, consistent, and relevant experience, thereby strengthening existing customer relationships,” Edmonson adds. “Nearly all banks are looking to launch robo-advice capabilities in some capacity—and if they’re not, they should really sit up and take note.”

Relationships aren’t so sticky anymore

The need to maintain customer relationships is another significant finding of the survey. Eleven percent of U.S. consumers switched banks in the past year. Of these, 33% joined a nontraditional provider, such as an online-only bank, payments provider, retailer, or insurer, vs. 23% who switched to a large regional or national bank.

“Consumers no longer view switching banks as a hassle, which puts pressure on firms to not only attract new customers, but find ways to keep existing customers loyal,” Edmondson says.

Edmondson says that Accenture’s research found that 79% of consumers consider their relationship with their bank to be purely transactional.

“This is a missed opportunity for banks that now have access to technology that can help them provide more tailored offerings, particularly as more consumers are open to receiving value-added services from their bank,” Edmondson says. “In fact, 45% of consumers said the top reason they would stay loyal to their bank is if it offered discounts on purchases of interest.”

Customer loyalty, in fact, is increasingly fragile. The survey found that 25% of U.S. consumers would consider switching to a bank with no branch locations, up three percentage points from last year’s research.

Amazon Age versus bricks and mortar

“The barriers to switching retail banks are diminishing and consumers are more willing to bank with nontraditional players,” Edmondson says. “Greatly influenced by digital innovation that powers other aspects of their lives, such as Amazon, consumers are attracted to the simple and seamless transactions offered by virtual banks.”

Seemingly paradoxically, however, the Accenture survey found a strong preference among consumers for traditional brick-and-mortar branches. Today, one fourth of survey respondents use the branch at least weekly and it remains the second-most-preferred channel, after online.

“Even as consumers indicate interest in robo-advice and online banking, they continue to demand human interaction at the branch to handle more complex banking needs,” Edmondson says. “Banks need to find ways to blend the digital and branch experiences to provide more value-added services to their clients, and move past their role as a transactional service provider.”

“Give me privacy … or a great deal!”

However, even as concerns about security continue to escalate, customers—in the pursuit of value—are willing to provide their banks with their most sensitive financial data. According to the survey, 63% said they would give their banks direct access to personal information, such as mortgage, credit card, and student loan data, so their bank can use it to present them with suitable products and services.

“Respondents want banks to use their data to provide access to lower prices, faster service (such as rapid loan approval), more relevant advice, and personalized offers based on location,” the report concludes.

Download Banking On Value: Rewards, Robo-Advice, and Relevance [pdf]

John Ginovsky

John Ginovsky is a contributing editor of Banking Exchange and editor of the publication’s Tech Exchange e-newsletter. For more than two decades he’s written about the commercial banking industry, specializing in its technological side and how it relates to the actual business of banking. In addition to his weekly blogs—"Making Sense of It All"—he contributes fresh, original stories to each Tech Exchange issue based on personal interviews or exclusive contributed pieces. He previously was senior editor for Community Banker magazine (which merged into ABA Banking Journal) and for ABA Banking Journal and was managing editor and staff reporter for ABA’s Bankers News. Email him at [email protected]

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