Our Fancy Bank Apps Don't Keep Us from Visiting Branches

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By Brian O'Connell

Bank customers keep loving mobile banking but stay away in droves from digital wallets, and they still want their bank branches and face-to-face customer service.

The new retail banking study by Louisville, Kentucky-based Market Force International polled 3,700 U.S. banking customers about their favorite and most disappointing experiences. According to MFI, 65 percent of people have downloaded their bank's mobile app, with most mobile customers sticking to basics such as checking balances and statements and transferring funds. Only 7 percent report using digital wallets, though, with PayPal the most commonly used service.

The turn to mobile doesn't mean a turn away from traditional branch-based banking. The study points out that 72 percent of survey respondents have gone to a bank branch for a transaction within the past three months.

Tellers and Call Centers

"Our research found that most Americans still regularly visit their primary banks to interact with tellers and advisers, and also frequently contact their banks' call centers," says Cheryl Flink, chief strategy officer at Market Force.

The study says that another 21 percent of respondents visited a bank branch and met with a bank's financial adviser to set a money management strategy or solve a problem. Those who do meet regularly with a bank adviser report better overall customer experiences.

"Our research underscores how critical the adviser role is in retail banking -- not just because banks need to sell their product portfolio, but also because it's an opportunity for them to gain a competitive advantage in customer loyalty," Flink says. "We found that 17 percents of those who consulted with an adviser had a less than great experience, which tells me that many banks could be doing a better job of focusing on consumers' financial well-being with superior advisory services."

Mobile Banking Saves Money -- for Banks

Mobile banking continues its rise, though. "We found that, of those whose banks offer a mobile app, 65 percent had downloaded that," Flink says. MFI states that customers are beginning to recognize that mobile banking is a money-saving opportunity (up to $50 annual per customer, according to the study) as well as a convenience. Mostly mobile banking customers are using services in the following areas:
  • Check their balances (84 percent)
  • Check their statements (62 percent)
  • Transfer funds (57 percent)
  • Deposit funds (54 percent)
  • Pay bills (40 percent)
  • Find an ATM or branch (3 percent)
When asked what services and issues they prioritize with their favorite banks, U.S. consumers point routinely to several key areas, including ease of doing business, transparency and financial stability. In those areas, two big banks really stand out: JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and U.S. Bank (USB), with PNC Bank (PNC), Wells Fargo (WFC) and Bank of America (BAC) also garnering high marks.
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