89% of Belgian consumers have confidence in their bank.

Consumer confidence in global banking industry bounces back after huge blow during banking crisis

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Brussels, March 10, 2014 – After confidence in the banking industry dropped sharply for several years in the wake of the financial and economic crisis, customers are starting to trust their financial institutions again. This was shown in a major perception survey conducted by EY entitled Winning through customer experience, which includes responses from over 32,000 bank customers in 43 countries. In Belgium no less than 89% of consumers have confidence in their bank. It seems that this trust is mainly based on customer experience and the financial stability of the bank. However, there are still points that the banks need to work on, particularly in terms of simplicity, transparency and the integration of digital channels, without diminishing the customer experience.

Belgians trust their bank. EY's perception survey showed that 89% of Belgian consumers trust their financial institution. Globally, 93% of customers say that they trust their primary financial services provider to a significant degree or even completely. Within this vast majority of customers, it also seems that a third of consumers say that they have more confidence in their bank today than a year ago.

This is a clear increase compared to the results of the previous survey in June 2012, when only 22% said that their trust had grown. Only 19% of customers stated to have lost some confidence in the banking industry over the past 12 months, which is considerably lower than the 40% noted in 2012. 77% of respondents worldwide said that they would even recommend their financial institution to other consumers.

Customer experience and financial stability are decisive for the consumer

Consumer confidence firstly depends on the stability of the institution where consumers invest their assets, which immediately explains why consumer confidence in the banking industry did not reach great heights during and in the aftermath of the banking crisis. The customer experience, meaning the way the consumer is treated by his bank, is the second most important reason stated to have trust. Other important elements are the ability to withdraw money and the security procedures which banks apply.

Belgians traditionally have a rather conservative attitude towards their bank. For example, in addition to the use of websites, they remain very attached to their (local) branch and when making financial decisions, they like to obtain personal advice from an advisor. In Belgium these two aspects are mostly complementary. The best proof of this is that in contrast with online banking, mobile banking has not really taken off here.

“Simplicity and transparency also play an important role in the customer experience”, explains Philippe Desombere, EY Financial Services partner. "In the future, banks must move towards more simplicity and transparency in their products and management. This can be done by focussing more on digital channels, for example. Belgian consumers look for a high level of comfort and a fully integrated banking experience which combines the advantages of branches with information-rich digital channels, without compromising on the service provided."

Belgians stay put when it comes to bank accounts

During the past year, 41% of Belgian customers opened or closed at least one product. However, the biggest movements between banks seem to be behind us now. Only 24% of Belgians are planning to open or close an account in the coming year. Almost 80% of Belgians are not planning to make any changes to the place where they invest their assets over the coming 12 months.

Consumers indicated customer experience, interest rates and fees, and the convenience of having all services in the same place as the most important reasons to move their accounts to another bank. "Historically in Belgium consumers have tended to trust the traditional banks more. And these traditional banks currently offer consumers an almost identical range of basic services such as the availability of branches and cash machines, meaning that few customers tend to make changes. The situation is different among respondents elsewhere in the world. Worldwide, over 30% of respondents believe that alternative banks have a better understanding of how they can help customers to handle their banking affairs and to achieve their financial objectives", explains Kurt Cogghe, EY Financial Services Director for Customer Solutions.

Dealing with complaints properly, wins customers

Globally, around a third of bank customers have contacted the bank to inform them about a problem. Among these customers, 67% are very satisfied with how their complaint was handled. Moreover, the survey showed that good handling of complaints plays a very important role in improving customer satisfaction and can ultimately generate even more business for the bank. On the other hand, it seems that customers whose complaint was not dealt with properly are more likely to close their accounts. 32% of them have already taken this drastic step. Most complaints concern bank charges and the refusal of credit and loans. One of the biggest challenges for banks all over the world is still transparency about fees and charges, and advice on how to avoid additional charges. No less than 15% of all reported problems are related to this.