Negative interest rates are already a reality for high-net-worth private customers. How much longer can banks protect small savers?
This also raises the question of whether Swiss banks will offer negative-interest mortgages on a larger scale in the future. Banks largely agree in this regard: 83% of those surveyed consider the granting of mortgages with negative interest rates to be unrealistic.
Traditional business models are reaching their limits, and banks are recognizing that they need to tap into new sources of revenue
The continuation of expansive monetary policies by the central banks and the resulting low or negative interest rates mean that banks need to grant more and more loans in order to keep their net interest income stable. Although Swiss banks have proved themselves relatively resilient in the challenging conditions of recent years, they face fundamental questions relating to their traditional business models. This is particularly true for the cantonal and regional banks with their strong focus on domestic and interest margin business. The majority of banks also seem to have come to this realization.
Domestic and interest margin business83%
of the banks surveyed believe that they will need to tap into new sources of revenue in the future in order to maintain their earnings power.
Focusing on customers is considered key to success
But how can they tap into new sources of revenue? Most of the banks (60%) agree that a stronger focus on customers is key. Banks that are able to place their customers even more clearly at the center of what they do will count among the winners in the long term. Only a small portion (19%) believe that purely product-focused measures will suffice to generate additional or new revenue streams. This assessment suggests that banks will base their activities even more on customers’ needs and demands in the future, rather than on the range of products they offer.
Clamping down on costs in the near term has to happen before a long-term reorientation can take place
Although the banks recognize that they need to fundamentally overhaul their business models, the focus will once again be on cost-effectiveness in the near term. 39% of banks (prior year: 32%) see costs as a priority issue for the next 12 months. This is the highest figure for the last three years. The stronger focus on costs is also a factor in the debate surrounding future compensation in the banking sector. Almost three quarters (71%) of the banks surveyed indicated that the compensation paid in the financial sector will be lower in the future.
Sustainability has so far only played a bigger role in financial investing, not lending
Sustainable investment has become more of an issue for investors and customers in recent years. The banks largely agree that this issue is more than just hype, and that the sustainable investment trend will persist in the long term (81%). At least a slim majority of banks (55%) expect to be able to play a significant role in the fight against climate change. It is therefore not surprising that 70% of banks intend to increase the range of sustainable investments they offer in the future. Although these survey results show that banks have discovered the topic of sustainable investment for themselves, it seems that this insight has not yet been fully incorporated into their advisory and investment processes or their reporting. The topic of sustainability is a mandatory component of the reporting process for fewer than a third of banks (30%), and just 9% reported that they inform their customers about the sustainability (ESG scores) of their portfolios through regular reports.
The issue of sustainability does not currently play an important role in loan financing by banks, however. Only a minority of 19% of the banks surveyed said that they take ESG factors into consideration when lending, and only 25% had any intention of taking these criteria into account in the future.
Bank customers are largely satisfied with their banks, but only two out of three believe that banks always act in their customers’ interests
The vast majority of bank customers (85%) are largely satisfied with their bank’s services. This is a very encouraging result for Swiss banks, and underscores the high quality of the service and advice they provide. However, the picture is less positive for the banks when it comes to the question of whether banks act in their customers’ interests.
Only two out of three bank customers believe that banks always act in their customers’ interests
This means that a third of the customers surveyed expressed doubts regarding this very crucial issue for banks.
Low interest rates and the increasing momentum of competitors are questioning the banks' current business model. Banks are increasingly being confronted with disappearing margins in the lending and commission business. In the short term, the banks’ focus is cost efficiency - in the long term, customer centricity and sustainable products.