UK finance brands fall short

01 June 2011

LONDON: Many UK consumers are planning to switch away from their current financial services provider, a study has found.

Accenture, the consultancy, polled 2,524 adults in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and revealed just 46% would look to the bank holding their main account for a forthcoming category purchase.

This figure had contracted from 66% when compared with an equivalent survey conducted in 2007, suggesting the recession has exerted a profound impact on popular attitudes.

Equally, the proportion of panellists who had obtained a new product from their primary provider stood at 22% for the last year, measured against 29% in the prior research round.

Accenture thus stated the industry was under "increasing pressure", as loyalty and the overall impression of service levels deteriorated.

In demonstration of this, while 73% of participants were satisfied with their high street bank, this marked a slide on the 84% score registered during 2007.

Further, although a 58% majority of interviewees would recommend the firm they used to a family member or friend, this was down from 73% four years ago.

"Even several years since the financial crisis hit, the relationship between banks and their customers continues to decline," said Peter Kirk, senior executive in Accenture's financial services practice,

As a correlative trend, the amount of clients complaining to banks jumped by three percentage points to 17%.

Kirk added that a fifth of contributors reported the issues raised were not dealt with adequately. "Each of those instances represents a lost opportunity to repair a strained relationship," he said.

Similarly, 16% of respondents had recently switched at least one product to another company, and 14% anticipated pursuing such a strategy in the coming year.

These totals reached 14% and 13% in Accenture's 2007 analysis, indicating a hardening of sentiment in this area.

Indeed, 18-24 year olds were 50% more likely to follow this course of action, with 19% expecting to do so in the near future, dropping to 12% among older demographics.

The younger audience complained 30% less often than the older, only 13% had registered a grievance at some point over the previous 12 months, rising to 30% for their senior counterparts.

Value for money also assumed greater importance among the "next generation" of customers, while quick and efficient service was prioritised elsewhere.

"With an emerging youth segment that is more likely to simply switch banks when they encounter a problem … institutions must carefully analyse this group and adapt products, services and channels to interact with them on their terms," Kirk said.

"All the while, they must keep their more mature, loyal and communicative customers on their side."

More broadly, 69% of the sample currently use internet banking facilities on at least a weekly basis, beating the 19% visiting branches, 7% leveraging "mobile money" tools and 6% calling on the phone.

Three-quarters of Accenture's cohort now "rarely if ever" turn to the last of these touchpoints, the consultancy continued.

"To help rebuild customer trust and loyalty ... banks must enhance their online and mobile services, better integrate channels that their customers use most - like branches and websites - and focus on handling complaints properly the first time," Kirk said.

Data sourced from Aceenture; additional content by Warc staff