New survey suggests face-to-face is more important than technology for bank customers

The big news in this BT-sponsored survey, however, is that the majority of customers are in favor of portable account numbers. “The majority of consumers in Spain (76%), Hong Kong (70%), France (64%), Germany (61%), the UK (62%) and the USA (61%) all agree that a portable identity number – allowing them to switch banks without changing account details – would be useful,” concludes the report.

However, when this is expressed as ‘shared infrastructure’, the number in favor drops off dramatically. 38 per cent of respondents think it a bad idea, while a further 28% are undecided. Only in Hong Kong (75%) and Spain (54%) do the majority of consumers consider that a shared banking infrastructure would be a good idea. This suggests that consumers are in favor of greater ease and flexibility in moving their accounts, but are concerned about security. 

Indeed, a report produced by Finacle Infosys makes this very point: “There will be concerns around IT security and confidentiality of client information since the central database of ported numbers will be available to all member banks. Accordingly, appropriate access rights need to be defined.” Tom Regent, president, global banking and financial markets, BT Global Services shares this view: “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.”

The Financial Brand points out that portability has been mooted in Europe – and especially the UK – for some time, but that, “Alas, the US financial sector has been slow to catch on and there has been little dialogue about it, so it’s not surprising American consumers trail behind others in the desire for tools that increase account motility.” However, it points to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which provided portable phone numbers, and comments, “It seems that — extending Congressional reasoning — portable bank account numbers are an inevitability. It’s a question of when, not if.”

Meanwhile the BT survey also highlights that there is an inbuilt technology conservatism where users' financial accounts are concerned. While consumers would like to see greater transparency from the banks, including bank supplied peer review and webchat areas, there is still a strong preference for online banking over mobile banking.

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