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Monday, 2 October, 2000, 21:35 GMT 22:35 UK
Consumers shy away from e-banking
Customers in bank branch
Customers still value direct contact with real people in their bank branch
A vast majority of bank customers thinks that an online banking service is not important for their relationship with a bank.

According to a survey by Deloitte Consulting, less than one third of customers rate e-banking as an important service, and of those only 22% actually use it.

Even more unwelcome news for many banks will be the poll finding that more than 30% of customers do not even know whether their bank provides online services at all.

The findings contrast starkly with the market expectations among banking executives. In an earlier Deloitte survey, financial services executives had predicted that customers would be eager to do their banking on the web.

Cutting costs, not customer care

Julian Badcock, retail financial services analyst at Deloitte, said customers were certainly not rating the internet or interactive services "as a key factor in measuring their satisfaction with their banking service provider".

A "responsive service" and the feeling of "being treated as a valued customer" were much more likely to make consumers feel happy with their bank.

And more than 50% think it is important to have quick and easy access to a local branch.

The findings of the report make bitter reading for backers of internet banking pure plays like Virgin and Egg.

Julian Badcock's conclusion: "90% of customers at present [are] showing no interest in obtaining financial services from new entrants."

Established players, meanwhile, have to worry whether their huge investment in online banking is money well spent.

The need for expensive customer care does not sit nicely next to the cost-driven move to online banking.

Educating customers

Long-term hopes for cost savings will only materialise, if consumers can be persuaded to use the services.

At the moment they are reluctant to do so, Deloitte's research suggests.

A recent survey by consulting firm CapGemini Ernst & Young had found that currently just 4% of all bank transactions in Europe are done online, a number expected to rise to 25% by 2003.

In the United States just 3% of transactions are done online, and there growth prospects are more modest, with the share of online transactions seen to reach 12% within three years.

Such growth rates, however, can only happen if banks begin to "educate" their customers about the benefits of online banking, Deloitte's analysts say.

The bank-customer divide

The different outlook of banking executives and their customers is stark.

While banks believe that 24 hour access is the key to successful banking, consumers favour responsive service and personal attention.

Bank executives believe the importance of branches is declining; customers want to see them retained.

And financial institutions worry most about the new kids on the block, new entrants from outside the banking world that could threaten their market. Most consumers show little interest in their offerings.

For the survey, Deloitte asked research firm Bayer Consulting to talk to 2,000 consumers in 10 countries - United States, Germany, UK, Japan, Brazil, Australia, France, Canada, Thailand and South Korea.

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