One of the most striking results from our recent Accenture Global Banking Consumer Study is the prevalence of banking Skeptics around the globe.

Skeptics are one of the four persona groups identified in the study, which is built on input from 47,000 consumers from all over the world.  Skeptics are the largest persona group, making up 38 percent of all banking customers globally.

At first glance, bank leaders might be alarmed by this. Skeptics are tech-wary and generally dissatisfied with their banks. Their relationship with money is often adversarial, and this can spill over to their relationships with financial services providers.

In my view, this makes Skeptics a tempting target for new competitors hungry for market share—especially any bigtech firms who decide the time is now to disrupt financial services. I suspect many Skeptics have a less adversarial relationship with their phone than with their bank, so could be tempted by an Apple or an Amazon offering a no-frills “banking accessory” service through a subscription model.

But that doesn’t mean conventional banks should give up on Skeptics. As my colleague Edwin Van der Ouderaa points out, attracting Skeptics might be a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity banks can’t afford to ignore.

So how best to pursue it?

I recently caught up with Edwin, who is one of Accenture’s longest-serving banking experts and one of my co-authors on the Banking Consumer Study. I wanted to explore this question and its connection with the urgent need for purpose in today’s banking marketplace.

A call for a different experience

Edwin stressed the importance of understanding the cause of Skeptics’ skepticism.

“My hypothesis would be that it’s that they are disappointed, not that they don’t want to engage with modern digital banking,” he said.

“I think these people are screaming out for a different experience. Banks need to draw lessons from that. We’re always talking about the voice of the customer. Here’s a voice. What are you going to do about it?”

One strategy Edwin cautioned against: focusing primarily on tactical refinements to the current digital customer experience.

“It’s not just about giving them a nice, smooth user interface. Anybody can do that. That no longer differentiates you,” he said. “Why do they run away? You didn’t offer them anything. You were simplistic and totally bland. If you position yourself as a commodity, even a nice-looking commodity, that’s what you get.”

Becoming a commodity, of course, is the death-knell of a brand and something banks fight strenuously against.

The power of purpose

So, what can banks do to attract and satisfy Skeptics? Edwin’s answer: figure out their true purpose and create customer experiences that reflect this. “It’s less about which touchpoints you use and more about what you stand for,” he said. “When I work with banks, the ones that get their act together have what I call a ‘north star.’ It’s a promise of what you’re going to bring to customers—value, advice they cherish, services that are really valuable for them. “Based on that, banks define the best ways to deliver on their purpose to the customer.”

The specific products and experiences that can attract Skeptics will vary by market, Edwin said. For example, in China most customers are very comfortable accessing financial services through in-app chat, while in many Western markets there is still more demand for face-to-face experiences.

But all winning experiences and products in all markets, Edwin believes, start from the same place: a bank distilling its purpose and then pursuing it relentlessly. This is critical, irrespective of which persona group you are appealing to or which market issues you are seeking to address.

This wraps up the highlights of my conversation with Edwin. My next post will present some insights from my colleagues Alex Trott and Kieran White on blending the human with the digital in a post-COVID world.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the study.  I can be reached on LinkedIn. You can also reach out to Edwin Van der Ouderaa.

You can find our full global banking consumer study here.

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