Customers Call for Portable Account Numbers for Easier Switching Between Banks

28 February 2013

Portable account numbers, designed to make switching between banking providers easier, would be welcomed by customers across the world, according to an online YouGov study conducted by BT.

The research, which surveyed more than 6,500 people across six countries worldwide, found that the majority of consumers in Spain (76 per cent), Hong Kong (70 per cent), France (64 per cent), Germany (61 per cent) and the UK (62 per cent) all agree that a portable identity number — allowing them to switch banks without changing account details — would be useful.

Despite this, there are mixed feelings about the prospect of banks sharing their IT infrastructure and having access to customers’ personal information, which reflects a concern about the security and protection of personal data. In fact, many respondents felt that banks sharing infrastructure would be a bad idea (38 per cent), whilst a significant number were undecided (28 per cent), even though it would have the potential to improve competition and allow them to switch banks more easily.

Of those countries surveyed, only in Hong Kong (75 per cent) and Spain (54 per cent) did a majority of respondents think that a shared IT infrastructure for banks was a good idea.

Meanwhile, the majority of respondents across all markets did not consider engaging in dialogue or sharing information with their banks over social media channels as a priority, despite the explosion of sites like Twitter and Facebook across the globe. On the contrary, when asked which three tools they would most like their bank to provide, customers indicated that they would like to see more sophisticated online tools such as peer review sections (32 per cent), webchat facilities (23 per cent) and ‘compare-my-bank’ type services (29 per cent) to give them better information and help them make informed decisions.

Tom Regent, president, global banking and financial markets, BT Global Services said: “There is clearly an appetite for technology and services which help increase transparency and competition, such as number portability and richer online comparison tools. But there is also a significant level of apprehension around the creation of a shared banking infrastructure. With any new solution that the industry moves forward with, they will need to be mindful that consumers need reassurance around security and protection of their data. Increasingly, we are working with our bank customers to develop security strategies, helping them to put effective risk and compliance management in place, test for malicious system attacks, and support identity and access management.”

When asked about which three factors would be the most appealing when considering moving banks, the results were fairly consistent across all countries. Good online banking facilities (39 per cent), the presence of a local branch (45 per cent) and the ability to access banking services 24/7 (29 per cent) were ranked highest.

Respondents in Spain placed more emphasis than others on having trust in a bank’s brand (37 per cent) and reputation for security (36 per cent) – ranking that higher than factors such as 24/7 availability of banking services (22 per cent).

Some interesting geographical differences also emerged in the perceptions of banking technology, with German consumers the least likely to choose mobile banking in their top three most trusted banking technologies, followed closely by the UK. Only five per cent of Germans and 10 per cent of Brits said that mobile banking is one of their three most trusted technologies, although the results were low across all countries. Across the board, Internet banking, in-branch self-service and ATMs were viewed as the three most trustworthy technologies.

Tom Regent continued: “Banks are increasingly focused on providing services via smart phones and tablet devices in order to keep pace with digital changes and innovation. While this is an important strategy, banks must be careful not to lose sight of the need for human contact in either the branch or via a local call centre agent. Our research shows that these continue to be customers’ most trusted and preferred channels.”

Customers are even more cautious about the use of alternative payments, such as Twollars, Bitcoins, Facebook Credits and virtual wallets. The percentage of respondents who had tried alternative payments was less than 10 per cent across most of the countries polled. However, respondents from Hong Kong and Spain were the most likely to try alternative payment methods in the next 18 months (43 per cent and 36 per cent respectively). Respondents from the USA and Germany were least likely to say they would try alternative payment systems in the next 18 months (12 per cent and nine per cent).

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