Consumer banking changes … but there’s a lot that stays the same, too.

cbThere’s no doubt that electronic banking is a win-win for both bank customers and banks themselves. Not only has convenience been improved exponentially, but electronic banking has helped financial institutions expand the scope of their services without incurring as much of the cost associated with bricks-and-mortar branch banking expansion.

And yet … with nearly a half-century of electronic banking behind us, consumer attitudes about personalized banking services persist.

We’re reminded of this in Nielsen’s latest survey of American consumers, conducted this summer. The study shows that while apps, online banking services, and the granddaddy of them all — ATMs — have made banking easier than ever before, there’s still a fundamental desire for physical branches.

The reason? The “customer experience” plays a major role in financial services, and for many consumers, that experience plays out in the trust that comes with personal interaction.

Nielsen’s June 2016 research shows that consumers prefer using a physical bank branch for a variety of reasons — paramount among them being the personal interaction with bank employees.  Here’s how this and the other reasons stack up:

  • Personal service and interaction with bank associates: ~31% cited as a reason for preferring visiting a physical banking facility
  • Convenience: ~24%
  • Ease of use: ~14%
  • Concern about the security of a transaction: ~14%
  • The dollar amount of the transaction: ~5%
  • Prefer not to use a computer or mobile device to interact with the bank: ~4%

Note that an aversion to using computers or mobile devices is hardly a factor in consumers’ preferences to dealing with a physical banking location. It might have been at one time, but that factor is rapidly disappearing as a reason.

cnWhich activities are best “aligned” with the personal experience many consumers expect to receive? Nielsen found that these are the most important ones to accommodate: 

  • Opening checking or time savings accounts
  • Cashing and depositing checks
  • Seeking financial advice
  • Taking out a loan

The Nielsen study provides clues for financial institutions as to how they can align their products and services at each physical location — which might not be the same at each branch, based on the “dynamics” of the customer base being served.

More information about the Nielsen study can be viewed here.

How about you? How often do you take trips to the bank versus handling everything online?  Would you miss having your branch easily accessible if suddenly it was located more than 10 miles away from you?  Please share your perspectives with other readers.