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Retail banks need to be more customer-centric to survive

Blog
28th April 2017

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My colleague Helen recently blogged about the changing nature of the financial services industry and how customers interact with their banks. I think that changes in the banking industry are taking place extremely fast, but they go deeper than just how customers are interacting with the customer service team.

Most customers now prefer mobile and internet banking, leading many big retail brands to consider rationalising their branch network. HSBC plans to close over 100 branches in the UK this year because their customers are just not using them.

This report featured in Finextra shows that customers are increasingly intolerant of friction in bank services. If services are slow, difficult to access, or feature long delays, customers will move to competitors. Given that most traditional banking services were all slow and difficult to access, this is quite a challenge for the industry.

The fintech revolution is really turning banks upside down by introducing a startup culture into banking where customer problems can be solved or improved through the use of technology. There are now entrepreneurs ready to test out a new service. With the cost of entry for companies designing apps extremely low, the challenge for the traditional banks is how to compete with services that are designed entirely around needs of the customer.

To my mind, there are four distinct areas emerging in retail banking today and each has its own advantages and challenges:

  • Single Service:companies building specific individual services around customer needs and usually launching them as apps. Applying for a loan or transferring money from one country to another are examples of individual services that banks used to hold a monopoly on, but are now increasing being delivered by single-service specialists.
  • App only:Atom Bank, Hello Bank, Simple Bank, Go Bank. They might not be familiar High Street brands, but that’s because they are not on the high street. New banks are constantly springing up, offering a completely mobile app-based experience.
  • Challenger:brands like Virgin Money and Metro Bank are great examples of new brands that are still building a traditional branch network, but are tearing up the traditional banking rulebook. Late opening, weekend opening, and biscuits for dogs are all on offer at these challengers.
  • Traditional:the giants we all know. Their branch network may be gradually shrinking, but they are still on most high streets and most are now offering their customers digital access too.

The traditional banks have an enormous advantage with their history and customer base in the millions. It’s hard for the new single service players to build up their customer base and requires a mix of great prices and marketing – nobody will use a service if they have never heard of it.

But the big picture is changing and all the traditional banking executives acknowledge the need to be more customer-centric. Gone are the days when applying for a car loan meant a visit to the branch and completing a 17-page form. They can remain relevant, but only if they explore what the new players are doing. Designing services around the need of the customer is essential for survival in this much more complex retail banking environment. This white paper explores how technology and regulation are impacting the UK retail banking industry.

What changes do you think retail banks need to make to be more customer-centric? Leave a comment below, or get in touch on LinkedIn and let me know.


David Turner
Article by: David Turner

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