FCCA report: Bank customers divided into digital and traditional service users

The Banking Services 2015 survey conducted by the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority suggests that – due to different backgrounds and life situations – consumers do not have equal opportunities when handling their banking matters. When developing their services, banks should take account of the fact that almost one in ten consumers never use online banking services. The survey also revealed great differences between the prices of telephone banking services.

The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) has investigated the way in which consumers use the most common banking services, and their opinions on changes in such services. Tasked with performing the survey, TNS Gallup conducted telephone interviews with a thousand people aged 18 to 84 in May and June 2015. As the respondents represented the sex, age and living location distribution of the Finnish population, the results can be regarded as accurately reflecting the opinions of the Finnish people.

The survey indicates that consumers are divided into two groups, according to whether they mainly use electronic or traditional services to take care of their everyday banking matters. Most have embraced the digitalisation of banking services, using online or mobile banking to pay bills and monitor their transactions. They were pleased with online banking, particularly for the easy access it provides and considered the costs of online banking to be low in general.

A total of 9 per cent – or some 400,000 members of the entire population – had no online banking credentials. This group included older respondents, pensioners, unemployed people, people with low educational attainment, young people and persons on small incomes. They most frequently paid their bills using bank giro envelopes; or someone else took care of their bills. Almost one in four of the oldest respondents (aged 75 to 84) paid their bills personally in a bank office. This group most frequently monitored their transactions using a printed bank statement or at ATMs. They found paying their bills in a bank office and monitoring their transactions expensive.

Not everyone is able to use digital banking services

The FCCA also investigated banks’ views on the changes in banking services. In particular, they asked them for information on telephone banking services and the pricing of customer service desks. This was done via an electronic survey sent to 242 banks in August 2015. A total of 147 participated in the survey.

More than half of the banks reported that consumers had as much opportunity to conduct their banking in bank branches as they had two years ago. If changes had occurred, they involved shorter service hours or the closure of branches. Banks reported having improved their customer service by developing online services, online meetings and mobile services, and by instructing their customers about online banking. They had also offered personal customer service appointments outside traditional opening hours.

Bank branch closures and the shrinkage of the ATM network had a particular impact on people who do not have the opportunity or capability to conduct their banking online, or who find online banking services difficult to use, due to deteriorating memory or eyesight for example. Correspondingly, one in five respondents were unsatisfied with bank offices and also felt that cash withdrawals had become more difficult over the last five years.

One in three banks had increased the number of telephone services over the same period. However, the information provided by the banks revealed large variations in telephone service prices. Some banks used ordinary telephone subscriptions, while others had national service numbers that are more expensive for customers.

Read the report (in Finnish)