“EY FinTech Adoption Index 2017”

Mobile payments receive lukewarm reception in Switzerland – but take off in developing countries

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  • Almost one-third of Swiss internet users regularly use FinTech applications
  • Chinese are the biggest users, with a usage rate of 70%
  • FinTech is popular mainly due to its constant availability and easy access
  • Target market for payment apps and crowdfunding platforms goes far beyond young people and high earners
  • Traditional banks risk getting left behind

ZURICH, 12 JULY 2017 – The uptake of new digital technology for financial and insurance services is below average among private customers in Switzerland. Just 30% of Swiss internet users regularly use FinTech products such as payment apps, bank-independent online payment services, online lending platforms and comparison websites. This places Switzerland below the global average of 33% based on a survey of around 22,000 consumers from 20 countries carried out by EY (see end of news release for information on methodology). The proportion of active FinTech users in the global online population has doubled over the past 18 months.

The study looked into five types of FinTech applications. “FinTech” is a catch-all term for modern, usually digital technology in the area of financial services (banks and insurance). The Swiss are most open to money transfer and payment platforms when using FinTech products, with 52% of respondents who describe themselves as regular internet users stating that they have already downloaded and used such services. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said that they have already used insurance services such as online premium comparisons or have used their smartphone to forward health information to their health insurer. In both categories, Switzerland is a few percentage points above the average for all countries.

Respondents in Switzerland are, however, less enthusiastic about online budgeting services (CH: 4%, global average: 10%), tools for saving and investing such as crowdfunding and apps for buying shares (CH: 10%, global average: 20%). Online lending services between individuals (peer-to-peer lending) are virtually shunned in Switzerland (CH: 2%, global average: 10%).

Constant availability is key
For Swiss users, the main appeal of FinTech services is that they are always available. For the rest of the world, this is only the third most important factor. Users in other countries place greater emphasis on simplicity and the option to access other, additional services online.

For Bernhard Schneider, Senior Manager and FinTech expert at EY Switzerland, the soaring acceptance of FinTech applications among end customers shows that FinTech service providers are gaining traction and are now established in the market: “The results tell us that users are rapidly becoming more interested in new and innovative financial products. Usage has vastly increased thanks to new technologies and offers geared heavily toward customers. Various FinTech products have successfully broken into the mass market. FinTechs are also a major driver of customer-centered innovation and streamlining, and are putting established players under pressure. Traditional institutions therefore need to seek out partnerships or create their own similar innovative structures to remain competitive.”

There are still several hurdles in the way of the FinTech industry. Twelve percent of Swiss internet users know nothing about FinTech services, while 13% say they have not needed them yet. However, the proportion of interested and informed users is much higher.

Widespread use in developing countries
Respondents in China have by far the fewest reservations about FinTechs, with 69% stating that they already use FinTech products. On the heels of China come India (52%), the UK (42%) and Brazil (40%). At the bottom of the league are advanced economies such as Belgium/Luxembourg (13%), Japan (14%) and Canada (18%).

According to Bernhard Schneider, the above-average acceptance rates in emerging markets are down to the burgeoning middle class and their growing income: “People in these countries can take advantage of the latest technology without having to rely on an existing infrastructure. This makes developing innovative, customer-centered services easier from the outset. Furthermore, these countries tend to have poorer access to financial and other services compared to advanced economies. They also have a young, internet-savvy population that is a logical target market for online services. The continued decline in the cost of smartphones and internet access will feed the growth of the online service industry. It’s therefore no surprise that developing countries are key markets for FinTech service providers, including Swiss-based firms.”

Young people and high earners keen on FinTech products
FinTech users worldwide tend to be young, educated and high earners. They are urbanites and extremely open to new trends. For the financial service industry, FinTech customers are therefore a particularly interesting target market. In Switzerland, users span virtually all demographic groups, with the clear exception of the over-75s and people earning over CHF 150,000.

For Olaf Toepfer, Managing Partner Banking & Capital Markets at EY Switzerland, this study confirms what he has already observed: “Established financial institutions in Switzerland will have to put more effort into retaining their clients in future, by offering easily accessible, low-cost, time-saving FinTech solutions. Competition will intensify as people embrace more and more FinTech products in their day-to-day lives. Companies that already offer FinTech products and constantly review their business models have a competitive edge. At the same time, our experience shows that personal contact between customers and their bank or insurance provider will continue to be an important tool for creating trust. The combination of customized digital access with personal contact points is becoming a major competitive advantage.”

About the study
The original 2015 study in seven countries has been expanded to include 22,000 participants in 20 countries for 2017. Only limited comparisons can be drawn between the two studies due to differences in methodology. In Switzerland, a representative sample of some 1,000 people was selected to take part in the country-specific online survey. The respondents were informed about the individual categories of FinTech products as well as the names of the companies and services. The study defines active users as people who have used at least two different FinTech services in the past six months. The 20 countries (or markets) are Australia, Belgium/Luxembourg, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and the US. You can find the full report at www.ey.com/FinTechIndex.

Further information on trust and digitization in the Swiss financial industry is provided in a current EY study: www.ey.com/ch/fs-heartbeat


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EY’s organization is represented in Switzerland by Ernst & Young Ltd, Basel, with ten offices across Switzerland, and in Liechtenstein by Ernst & Young AG, Vaduz. In this publication, “EY” and “we” refer to Ernst & Young Ltd, Basel, a member firm of Ernst & Young Global Limited.