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Retail Banks: Are The Challenger Banks Enough?

Blog
23rd September 2015

UK retail banking has been through quite a change in the past 6 or 7 years from the previously unimagined bank runs on Northern Rock to nationalisation and back again. With the government now unwinding state investments in Lloyds and RBS and new ‘challenger’ brands emerging is the industry performing how customers expect?

No. Even with the High Street shake up driven by the challengers, this is an industry where customer expectations are diverging from what the banks are offering.

Look at retail for an example of how brands are reacting to customer expectations. House of Fraser is a great example as I was discussing some of their omnichannel strategy on LinkedIn last week. HoF is reorganising their management and customer focused teams to be driven entirely by the needs of their customer, whether that customer is in a store or online. They are removing the distinction and trying to offer a great service to all customers – not just those on preferred channels.

What is the reality in banking? Well, a recent publication by the British Bankers Association (BBA) features some revealing statistics:

Look at the final two. Visits to bank branches are declining dramatically year on year and the use of telephone banking has been in freefall since 2008. Customers want more. They want the same convenience in banking that they can find from other industries – like retail.

Imagine going to a car dealer and being told that it’s easier to get a new car if you stick with the same manufacturer as your present one, and you can’t compare the prices of alternatives once the dealer gives you a quote on a vehicle?

It sounds absurd, but isn’t this how banks still treat customers? It’s often easier to get new products from the one that has your current account and if a product such as a loan or insurance is offered, how easy is it to run a quick comparison with a rival bank?

The challenger brands are shaking up retail banking on the High Street. Opening hours are being improved and services are becoming easier to purchase, but the entire industry is facing a new challenge from market entrants.

Companies that offer individual financial services are often able to give customers a better deal because they have a narrow product focus and no need to manage a branch network. Even big non-financial brands are offering financial services. You can ask car manufacturer Renault, or any of the big supermarkets, for a personal loan.

The Financial Tech (FinTech) market is also growing fast. Individual financial services offered via apps means that customers can download a tool, get a quick quote on a product and choose whether to use it, at any time of day or night.

So how can the challenger banks and the big established banking brands compete in this new world of financial services? By improving the customer experience. Customers still trust and respect their banks. This is where they have always conducted financial services and it remains the most obvious place to go for most customers. Peer-to-peer lending might be exploding in popularity, but it is still dwarfed by the amount of personal loans issued by the big banking brands.

But, as the BBA research indicates, if the gap between customer expectations and the reality of how banks treat customers get wider then there will be an exodus. Customers are already impatient. If the situation gets worse, the traditional brands and even the High Street challengers will look archaic in the way they treat customers.

What every bank executive needs to be thinking right now is how do I place the customer at the heart of what we do? How do we make it easy to ask questions? How do we make it easy to obtain services when the customer needs them? How do we make the customer journey so easy that banks inspire loyalty from happy customers?

The customer experience is now the number one priority for all banking brands, including the challengers, but it’s not just me saying this. Take a look at the BBA research for yourself by visiting their website here.

What do you think of the way that the challenger banks are changing UK banking and whether it is enough to keep up with customer expectations? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @DavidTurnerCXO


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David Turner
Article by: David Turner

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