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Confidence in the banking system dives among retail clients

Confidence in the Hungarian banking industry has declined amongst 42% of their retail banking clients over the past 12 months, a recent survey report by big four consultancy Ernst & Young show. According to the survey, whose Hungarian sample included 1,000 retail clients, only 5% of the clients said their confidence in the banking sector improved.

“In developed markets, customer confidence and trust in financial institutions has been severely damaged by the economic crisis, and our findings show that it remains under threat. Emerging market economies have suffered less from the credit crisis and recession and so their banks have seen trust endure,” Pierre Pilorge, Ernst & Young’s financial services customer leader says. “In order to get back on track the survey clearly illustrates that banks in developed nations must rebuild customer confidence, enhance the customer experience and stem customer attrition.”

In the survey, dubbed “A New Era of Customer Expectation,” Ernst & Young questioned over 20,500 global retail banking customers in order to gauge what drives their relationships with their banks. The survey finds that 44% of customers worldwide say their confidence in the banking industry has decreased in the past 12 months.

Levels of confidence are even lower in regions deeply affected by the financial crisis. In the US, 55% of customers now have less confidence in banks than they did a year ago. Within Europe, the UK has seen the largest drop in consumer trust (63%). Alternatively, in some markets, which entered the downturn in better condition, confidence in the banking sector has grown in the past year. For example, three-quarters of customers in India report their trust in banks rose during 2010. In both Brazil and China, a majority of respondents say their confidence has grown or remained the same.

Survey respondents cited several issues that continue to drive down trust levels. Macro-economic factors (53%) have had the most negative impact on customer confidence. Brand strength, which has been impacted by the confidence levels, is also cited as a key factor driving customer satisfaction worldwide. The image and reputation of an institution scored an average of 4.5 out of 6 when respondents were asked what is important for a successful banking relationship. A strong brand is particularly important in markets like India, Latin America and South Africa. In all three markets, more than half of respondents say a strong brand is a key characteristic when they choose their main bank.

Attrition levels are highest in Europe with 39% having changed their main bank in the past. Service quality and price are the leading factors driving customers to switch their main bank, with 48% of those planning to change banks because of service quality and 43% citing price as the main reason. Other motivating factors include product offerings, branch proximity and lack of trust. As customers continue to demand higher quality service while levels of price sensitivity and distrust increase, banks must innovate to address customers concerns and remain competitive.

Finding a way to effectively deliver a personal service to customers will be a key success factor in the years ahead. While internet banking (83%), ATMs (79%) and branches (79%) are the touch-points customers are most satisfied with today, satisfaction with call centers is consistently weaker (44%).

Banks need to reconnect with their customer base by improving the customer experience across their operations, the survey concluded. A number of banks are experimenting with new tools such as mobile banking but there is demand across all channels – including call centers and branches – for greater personalization and attentiveness, it added.

“Customers are demanding a more personalized service if they are to remain loyal. The successful institutions of the future will be those who offer customer-focused innovative services. Those that do will be able to differentiate their organization and drive for growth. The keys to success will be brand management, personalized services and efficient pricing. Retail banks that can deliver all three will prosper in a highly regulated and constantly changing global financial services market,” Pilorge added.