Consumers wanting to keep closer tabs on their personal finances, and aggressive moves by banks to acquire new business caused continued growth in the number of US online banking customers throughout 2008, according to comScore’s annual review of the online banking industry.
The April 2009 comScore State of Online Banking report, based on passively observed online behavioral data from the comScore Online Bank Benchmarker and a 2009 survey of nearly 5,000 US online banking customers, provides insights into service usage, customer satisfaction, personal financial management and paperless banking.
Several key findings are highlighted below.
Top Online Banks Continue to Acquire Customers
After several years of strong growth in the use of online banking at the top-10 banks, the second half of 2007 showed the first signs of softness as sequential quarterly growth rates fell below 1%, comScore said. However, this growth rate rebounded somewhat in 2008 as banks became more aggressive in their online banking customer acquisition efforts.
Brokerage Firms See Dive in Customer Satisfaction
When asked about their satisfaction with their primary financial institutions, the percentage of respondents indicating they are highly satisfied with their banks (down 1%) and credit card issuers (down 3%) declined only marginally vs. 2008 and were at least as high as the levels seen in 2007. comScore said the decline was more pronounced, however, among brokerage firms, which saw their highly satisfied customers decline sharply, from 70% in 2008 to 58% in 2009.
“Given the performance of the financial markets in the past year, it’s not surprising that brokerage customers with declining balances would not be as satisfied as last year,” said Marc Trudeau, comScore senior director. “It’s interesting that a negative halo effect was not seen with respect to banks and credit card issuers, perhaps because of the reliability of services and the outreach they provided during a time of financial strain for many customers.”
Interest Runs High in New Tools
Online banking customers were also asked about their interest in various online tools to help manage their finances. More than 60% expressed interest in free identity theft services, while free credit score monitoring appealed to 52%, comScore reported. At the same time, approximately 37% of respondents showed a strong interest in online personal financial management tools, with half of those interested indicating they were willing to pay a modest monthly fee for the services.
“That customers are asking for more services to help them manage their personal finances during these economically-challenging times is a positive sign for banks,” said Trudeau. “It’s clear that most customers are paying close attention to their personal finances, and, consequently, for the banks that step up and provide customers with the tools they’re requesting, it’s an opportunity to both cultivate and solidify customer relationships and to potentially drive incremental revenue as well.”