Further drop in confidence in banking sector according to EY study – bank customers find fault with lack of bespoke offerings

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  • Almost one in three bank customers has lost confidence in the sector – Swiss customers more skeptical than global average
  • In contrast, more than one in two Swiss people trust their own local bank
  • Only one in three Swiss bank customers finds that products are tailored to their needs
  • Online and mobile banking on the rise – but Switzerland continues to lag behind
  • Digital offerings have room for improvement in customers’ opinion
  • High migration potential: last year, 31% of bank customers purchased financial products via other providers

ZURICH, 17 October 2016. Confidence in the banking sector continues to drop: almost one in three bank customers (30%) in Switzerland reports that their confidence has gone down in the past twelve months. Only 11% said that their confidence had increased, according to a global survey conducted by advisory firm EY. Swiss bank customers are therefore slightly more skeptical than bank customers worldwide, where confidence dropped in one in four of those surveyed.

The loss of confidence is determined from the difference between “decreased” and “increased”. In Switzerland, the loss amounts to 20, which is in the mid-range for Western Europe. It is even higher in those Western European countries hit hard and now highly unsettled by the financial crisis, Italy and Spain (47 and 30), but also in Germany and Sweden (26 and 24).

High degree of confidence in the local bank
However, Swiss people have a high degree of confidence in their own bank. More than half (57%) trust their local bank completely, putting Switzerland ahead of all other Western European countries in this respect. Globally, only 40% can say this. Furthermore, 83% of Swiss customers, and therefore more than the Western European average (72%), would recommend their local bank to others.

More good news for the Swiss banks: they are still very relevant to their customers. Four out of five Swiss people still consider the traditional branch bank to be their most important, or primary financial service provider; only a few consider this to be an online direct bank (6%) or another provider, so-called non-banks (14%). In addition, the Swiss, more than customers in other countries, firmly believe that their money is safe at the bank and that the bank provides them with unbiased advice. A total of 58%, or 40% of those surveyed in this country, fully agree with these statements. Worldwide, these figures are 48% and 26% respectively.

Swiss pleased with their bank’s availability
The banks are still making too little of this confidence. For instance, the best thing that customers in Switzerland can say about their local branch is that it is available. Just over half of those surveyed agreed with this statement (57%). However, less than a third (31%) find that their branch responds quickly to enquiries. Just under one in four find it flexible and 30% feel that their bank understands their individual requirements. And only one in three thinks that the products and services are tailored to their needs.

These are the results of a survey of 52,000 bank customers worldwide – of which more than 1,500 in Switzerland – conducted by auditing and advisory firm EY.

Olaf Toepfer, Partner and Head of Banking and Wealth Management at EY Switzerland, views the sector’s image with concern: “Almost a decade on from the beginning of the financial crisis, the financial sector has still not managed to win back the confidence of customers. The individual banks, however, particularly in Switzerland, are actually sitting pretty when it comes to issues of customer confidence – confidence in local branches is high. The relevance of the traditional local bank to the finances of the Swiss is also well above average: the vast majority handle their finances via a branch bank and trust their branch in principle as regards advice and the safety of their savings. The widespread system in this country of having branches of the major banks, cantonal and cooperative banks close to the customer certainly contributes to this. Yet the banks fail to repay this customer confidence with appropriate advice. Many customers feel that their individual needs are not being met by their local bank. That is dangerous – as direct banks and non-banks are increasingly competing with the traditional institutions.”

Online and mobile banking on the rise
Above all, new players on the market have the advantage that they can tailor their products to the changing needs of their customers from the very beginning. This applies in particular to digital technologies, which are becoming ever more important in processing banking transactions. One in three bank customers in Switzerland, for example, say that they used online banking more frequently last year than before, while 18% carried out more banking transactions via mobile end devices. Globally, however, customers are even more technology-orientated, with 41% using online banking and 33% using mobile banking more frequently.

Mobile banking, in particular, still has a lot of room for expansion. While three in four customers conducted banking transactions online on their computers last year, only 25% used their smartphones and 22% their tablets. The percentage of online banking worldwide is more or less on a par with this. However, half of customers worldwide already use their smartphones to execute banking transactions and a good 30% do so on their tablets. With regard to the payment options of tomorrow, Swiss customers, much like customers worldwide, expect to make payments using their mobile phones much more frequently in the future.

Digital offering of Swiss financial sector lagging behind other sectors
At the same time, the online and mobile offering of the banking sector is considered to be significantly worse here than elsewhere in the world. Asked about the best digital service range across all sectors, only 35% in Switzerland mentioned the financial sector. The financial sector thus ranks third behind travel operators and the entertainment industry, but ahead of telecommunications and the retail sector. Worldwide, bank customers rate the digital offering of the financial sector slightly better: 44% of those surveyed said it offered the best range of services. Only travel operators and the entertainment industry scored better, with 48% each.

“Alarm bells should be ringing for traditional branch banks,” warns Toepfer. “In terms of digitization, a subject that is so important for the future, their services are perceived as insufficient in this country. Processing banking transactions on smartphones or computers is easy, and saves time and money. The prerequisite is that the technical solutions function smoothly, can be used intuitively and, above all, that they are secure. This is where the banks urgently need to develop attractive solutions. And they need to act fast if they want to avoid direct banks and non-banks exploiting business opportunities.”

A third of Swiss purchase financial products from non-banks
Over the past 12 months, as many as 31% of Swiss bank customers purchased financial products online or via a mobile device from a service provider other than a bank. More attractive fees, a better online experience, easy account set-up and access to various products are cited as reasons for this. In Switzerland, and worldwide, as many as 14% of those surveyed consider a non-bank financial services provider to be their “primary” financial services provider. Six percent of Swiss people consider a direct bank to be their primary financial services provider, which shows that Switzerland is still lagging substantially behind Western Europe, where this is the case for as many as 11% of survey participants.

“Traditional banks still have the benefit of the doubt. They must now quickly build on that in order to remain competitive in the future,” concludes Toepfer. “They have to offer new and innovative products. Partnerships with or acquisitions of FinTechs may help them to do this. Big data is already delivering solutions today to help better understand customer requirements. Customers expect their local bank to understand them and cater to their needs. This is what the banks will be judged on.”


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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.