Loyalty & Rewards

Why Consumers Don’t View Banks As ‘Trusted Partners’

It’s in any bank’s interest for its customers to view it as a trusted partner, but it appears that goal is far from being met.

According to a joint study from global research firm GfK and bank personalization technology company Personetics, only about one quarter (27 percent) of U.S. consumers view their financial institutions as a “trusted partner.” In general, less than a third (28 percent) of respondents polled believe that their banks put company interests ahead of customers’ needs.

Out of the three segments by which the study divided consumers’ perceptions of their bank — as a “necessary utility” (one that they must use to manage day-to-day finances), a “useful service” (something that is helpful but not on a personal level) and the aforementioned “trusted partner” (a bank that offers personalized guidance and support) — 40 percent of respondents selected “necessary utility.”

“At a time when consumers have so many financial options, banks need to do more to shore up their all-important relationships with customers,” said Keith Bossey, senior vice president at GfK, in a statement. “Our findings suggest that this trend is actually weakening engagement and loyalty, in no small measure because customers are not finding their bank helpful when it comes to improving financial well-being.”

An overarching takeaway from the study is that for banks who want to strengthen their relationships with consumers, they need to get more personal, as it were.

Further data bore out that when customers do view their bank as a “trusted partner,” they become twice as likely to promote the bank’s brand, their likelihood to remove their business from the bank plummets from 34 percent to 7 percent and they report positive emotional states with regards to the bank (“looking forward to the future,” “feeling gratitude,” “sense of control,” et al.) at higher rates across the board.

“The way banks interact and communicate with customers is shifting rapidly, from face-to-face to digital channels, and technology is opening up new opportunities to drive trust and engagement in ways that previously were not possible,” said Personetics CEO David Sosna. “Success in this new digital banking era will be defined by a bank’s ability to deliver meaningful, trusted interactions that help customers manage their financial lives.”

If there is good news for banks to come out of the study, it’s that their damaged customer relationships are apparently not beyond repair. The vast majority of customers polled do not have plans to switch banks any time soon, with only 5 percent expressing potential plans to do so in the next six months.

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