COVID-19 altered consumer demands for e-services, with the pandemic causing a spike in eCommerce as over half of European consumers are now willing to purchase products digitally. Kearney, the global consultancy partnership analyse how banks must adapt to the digital era in order to retain customers, as the need for branches and in-person dealings become a thing of the past.
Now in its 12th year, Kearney’s European Retail Banking Radar is an annual analysis of the pan-European banking market, tracking 92 retail banks in 22 European markets, comprised of 50 banks in Western Europe and 42 banks in Eastern Europe. This year’s instalment looks at how retail banks have fared against the disruptions caused by covid-19 and looks forward to how the sector’s recovery may be shaped.
Across all the markets surveyed, customers who were willing to purchase banking products digitally had increased by 17% from 33% in 2020, and those who would still visit their branch or seek advice from a contact centre dropped to 41% from 53% in 2020.
Regionally, the UK came second in terms of the highest adoption of the digital channel rising from 48% in 2020 to 58% in 2021. Sweden performed best seeing 61% of customers saying they were willing to buy banking products online in 2021.
While the pandemic transformed behaviours across all markets, it particularly catalysed change in the ones that had been lagging. In February 2020, only 25% of Spaniards, Germans and Austrians would buy a new banking product online. By March 2021, this figure doubled: while only 24% of Germans would buy a banking product online in early 2020, 47% were willing to do so a year later.
In 2020, Kearney predicted that 40,000 branches will close in the next three years (25% of all branches in Europe). Just a year later, more than 20,000 European retail bank branches have closed their doors, and Kearney predicts that another 20,000 could close in the next couple of years.
Across all surveyed countries, disintermediation is a growing threat to retail banks as consumer behaviour and expectations have changed. For instance, between 12% to 18% of consumers research their next financial product through price comparison websites rather than a bank website or financial advisor. In the UK in particular, 16% are using price comparison portals for consumer loans and this trend is likely to grow over the next few years.
Simon Kent, Partner and Global Head of Financial Services at Kearney, comments: “Retail banks will need to acknowledge that banking has changed – we have moved from total digitisation and Open Banking being whispers about the near future to it swiftly becoming our present. Customers are no longer loyal to High Street bank branches, and retail banks will suffer if they don’t evolve in line with this change in preferences.
“Consumers’ demand for an online experience is not limited to simple products like current accounts – there is demand for complex products such as mortgage applications to be completed online. To economise, improve profitability and remain competitive, banks must adopt even more digital and data-led practices. Transformation is no easy feat, but the business environment of today is unrelenting.”