Although digital services have many advantages, banks will have to continue offering consumers a choice in how they access their bankby Andy Davis / October 19, 2015 / Leave a comment
The digital revolution that has already transformed industries such as publishing and retail has arrived in banking. Recent research from the British Bankers’ Association found that customers will access their accounts via mobile devices 895m times this year. By 2020 that will rise to 2.3bn times. Separate data show that a year ago one transaction in 35 was via contactless payment; today the proportion is one in ten and rising fast.
To discuss the changing face of retail banking and its implications for banks and their customers, Prospect brought together panels of industry experts at both the Labour and Conservative party conferences in partnership with Barclays. Steven Roberts, the bank’s strategic transformation director, described the range of digital initiatives the bank was pursuing, including enabling acceptance of digital images of cheques to deposit funds and recent moves to enable staff to set up a branch anywhere using just their iPad and Wi-Fi or 3G connection. The ground-breaking technology gives staff secure access to services traditionally only available through the confines of a bricks and mortar branch.
However, he stressed that his experience of bringing digital technology to Barclays’ frontline staff by putting tablets in every branch had proved more challenging than expected. Uptake had been slow and many staff were embarrassed to admit that they didn’t know how to use them. “We realised that we would never be able to convince customers that digital was going to help them if our colleagues were uncomfortable,” he said. Barclays had undertaken a big project to help its staff to gain confidence with digital technologies and in the process had realised how easily some customers could feel “left behind” by the move to more digital banking.
Digital exclusion is one of the major challenges that banks face. Tom Wright, chief executive of the charity Age UK, said two-thirds of over-75s—the fastest growing group in society—are not online, while among lower income households smartphone usage is often high but many are nonetheless unbanked, according to Sian Williams, head of financial inclusion at the East London charity Toynbee Hall. One key reason why many disadvantaged “digital natives” are not using the new services is the difficulty of proving identity in order to access digital services in the…