People hate their banks. Don’t they?

By Oliver Smith on Friday 3 May 2019

OpinionDigital Banking

It might be time to question some of our assumptions.

People hate their banks. Don’t they?
Image source: Photo by from Pexels.

In the wave of digital banking and fintech startups sweeping across Europe, there are two key assumptions at the core:

  1. Traditional banks aren’t serving people well.
  2. People hate their banks, and are open to change.

The unhappiness of customers with their high street banks is a cliché in finance—everyone has grumbled about customer service, loan approvals or the like.

After the 2008 financial crisis that unhappiness was crystallised around a tangible event, and it became ever more popular to “blame the bankers” for the ills of the world (regardless of whether people knew if their own bank even participated in the investment banking activities that led to said crisis).

Since the turn of the decade, dozens of digital banks have sprung up with colourful cards and slogans to capitalise on that emotion, promising to bring consumers “better banking” or take them “beyond banking”.

These digital banks have community-led “tone of voice” guidelines and chipper customer service willing to help you 24/7.

All crafted on the assumption that people are unhappy with the banking status quo.

The facts

As part of our AltFi/Streetbees Digital Banking Benchmark 2019 this week, one of the questions we asked the 3,042 respondents across Europe who indicated they used a traditional high street bank was:

“How do you feel about your main bank?”

The results might surprise you. They surprised me.

Overall 95% of our respondents are happy with their existing bank.

26% said “I like them a lot!”

37% “quite like them.”

And 32% said they’re “ok.”

A mere 5% of people said they either don’t like their bank (4%), or really don’t like their bank (1%).

I’m not going to argue that our survey was perfect, but it does offer food for thought.

I’m very glad to see UK switching rates to digital banks starting to creep up—with Starling and Monzo netting around 10,000 primary account holders between them last quarter.

But if the fintech community is scratching its head, wondering why consumers aren’t switching to digital banks in their droves, maybe it’s time to question that key assumption.

Maybe people don’t really hate their banks.

Want to dig into the data? The full AltFi/Streetbees Digital Banking Benchmark 2019 results can be accessed here.

AltFi/Streetbees Digital Banking Benchmark 2019

The AltFi/Streetbees Digital Banking Benchmark 2019 is a landmark Europe-wide survey of over 4,500 adults in five European countries, in what is one of the largest fintech studies ever conducted, to understand modern attitudes on digital banking and mobile money.

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