The Financial Services sector scores slightly below the market average. Since last year, there has been no significant shift in how customers rated their experiences. However, the sector is making progress; in what way, precisely?
Companies in the Financial Services sector are investing in internet banking, especially the mobile version. The number of products that can be set up entirely online is rising, and communication, including the sending of documents, is becoming increasingly application based. Businesses are boosting the security of their online tools. The coronavirus crisis has accelerated the transition to the online environment; the same is true for the second trend in the sector.
Requesting a payment card has been simplified, and cashless payment tool options are being expanded. Air Bank, the sector leader, enables payment for everything that customers have handy or literally on hand. Therefore, they can do so with Garmin and Fitbit smart watches as well as with Apple Pay and Google Pay apps.
Banks are introducing instant payments. Air Bank and Česká spořitelna were among the first to do so, followed by other financial institutions at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020. About a dozen banks now utilize this service. Access to apps is also being accelerated, through biometric identification (e.g. fingerprints). So far, Česká spořitelna is the only Czech player to operate voice biometrics, in which customers identify themselves by telephone and then make payments.
Česká spořitelna: “My personal banker is interested in my financial and personal well-being in the pandemic. He called me and proposed deferring repayments or loans.” (Woman, 48).
“My experience with ČSOB has been excellent over the years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they called me to tell me that their branch is still open and that I could go and see them.” (Woman, 27)
Raiffeisen stavební spořitelna: “We asked for loan repayments to be postponed as a result of COVID-19. They were a bit confused at the beginning. They made the payment, then refunded it, and then they deducted the payment again. Someone from the company kept calling us, but it got sorted out in the end, to the satisfaction of both sides.” (Woman, 41)
Air Bank is number one in both the Financial Services sector and the overall brand rankings. The bank is investing in convenience and speed (the ability to pay with everything customers have on hand, as mentioned above, and the introduction of instant payments), and has strengthened security for internet banking log-in. Air Bank is also connecting with accounts at other banks. In addition, customers can now enter payment details from accounts with Česká spořitelna via Air Bank.
Česká spořitelna itself is one of the most dramatic climbers. It finished fourth in the sector, behind the leading trio of Air Bank, Equa bank and Fio banka. Improvements have been made notably in the expectations and personalization pillars. Additionally, Česká spořitelna is investing in its George internet banking service and has extended the option to use cardless ATMs via a mobile phone. It is the first bank to provide personalized advice to mass-market customers: in the first quarter of 2020, more than 150,000 customers were allocated personal bankers.
Besides the other climbers (Moneta Money Bank, Raiffeisenbank and Kooperativa), Direct pojišťovna and UniCredit Bank stand out, both moving up significantly in the sector. The latter invested in its Smart Banking mobile app, which customers welcome. “As a customer of this bank, I very often use their mobile app, which I like a lot. It’s user-friendly and quick, and outages are reported well in advance. I’ve got no complaints.” (Woman, 35)
The crisis ensuing from the pandemic will have a long-term impact on the Financial Services sector. According to the May 2020 survey, more than half of households fear that their financial situation will worsen. A quarter of them intend to reduce consumer credit in the long run and, conversely, increase their savings.
Concerning immediate changes in customer behaviour, the pandemic has prompted greater online channel use and all forms of cashless payments: by card, mobile phone and smart watch. It can be expected that people will become accustomed to these payment methods and use them more in the future. Accordingly, the Financial Services sector will have to adapt to these new circumstances but can also benefit from them – the costs of cash processing and human channels will decrease thanks to online tools. In addition, more space will be created for direct, personalized communication with the customer online.
Which banks responded best to the coronavirus crisis? The winners are Air Bank, Moneta Money Bank and Česká spořitelna. The rankings of Moneta Money Bank and Česká spořitelna concerning COVID-19 even exceed those of Equa bank and Fio banka, whose overall customer experience scores higher.
Česká spořitelna moved quickly to propose loan repayment deferral, temporarily waived certain fees and informed the public about investment developments through videos and podcasts. The bank compensated for the closure of its bricks and mortar branches by expanding telephone and online assistance. Other banks, such as Moneta Money Bank, adopted this sympathetic approach, resulting in praise from customers: “The mortgage payments postponement was fantastic. They were very accommodating in that difficult situation.” (Man, 23)