As Australia’s financial services industry grapples with the fallout from a disturbing Royal Commission, banks may be well served to look to the UK sector. According to new research from Accenture, trust in UK banks is at its highest since 2012.

Much of the renewed trust is down to effective use of digital technology by banks, according to Accenture, but the research also revealed banks risk “alienating” their customers by overdoing digital channels.

Accenture’s UK Financial Services Customer survey 2018 surveyed 4,599 UK consumers of banking, wealth management and insurance services, and found consumer trust in banks had risen 39 per cent over the last two years.

40 per cent of UK consumers now trust banks, which, according to Accenture, puts banks on the same trust level as major retailers. UK banks are also enjoying increasing satisfaction levels, according to the survey. Consumer satisfaction with banks reached 70 per cent in 2018, up from 57 per cent in 2012.

The survey has also revealed consumers are visiting retail branches much less. In 2015, more than half of bank customers (52 per cent) visited a branch at least once a month. Today that number has fallen to 32 per cent, according to Accenture.

Of course, this drop coincides with an increase in digital services and channels which lessen the requirements of face-to-face banking. However, Accenture analysts warn consumers still want a human touch in banking.

The survey showed 70 per cent of banking consumers want the ability to raise complaints with a human, and 63 per cent want the option to open an account in person. Nearly half want hands on instruction for the use of banking mobile apps.

“Consumers want natural conversation with a bank that understands their needs and acts in their best interest, while keeping their data safe and secure,” Peter Kirk, who leads Accenture’s Financial Services Distribution and Marketing practice in the U.K.

Australian banks are struggling with consumer trust. Westpac CIO, Dave Curran, argues technology has made consumer trust a “challenge” for Australian banks, but technology could also provide a solution. Digital technology can provider better services to customer and more transparency, which would help Australian banks regain some trust, according to Curran.

“Technology is the opportunity and the challenge of our generation,” he said.

The poor personalisation penalty

The survey results also reveal a demand for increased personalisation from banks. A lack of personalisation is the main driver for switching financial institutions, according to Accenture.

“The more relevant the offering, the better. Customers want financial services providers to anticipate their needs and provide timely, hyper-relevant information and recommendations,” said Kirk.

So while digital poses a customer alienation risk, it also provides a potential solution. Banks who get their personalisation right, deliver it through digital channels, and balance the offerings with human interactions, stand to grab the trust and business of their competitors, according to Accenture.

Based on the survey findings, Accenture recommended four action points;

  • Personalise to reverse disengagement
  • Blend physical and digital for a frictionless experience
  • Use data to create an integrated end-to-end approach
  • Know where you are in the customer conversation
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