Banks on different shores

UK financial services executives have an old-fashioned view of customers’ requirements and intelligence, when compared with their European counterparts

Only 15 per cent of senior financial services executives in the UK think that their customers wish to obtain all their financial services products from the same source, demonstrating the fact that the concept of “one-stop shops” for financial services is far from dominant in the UK. A survey by the International Institute of Banking & Financial Services and Unisys Global Financial Services suggests that UK financial services companies lag behind the rest of their European counterparts in cross-selling.

The survey was carried out across five European countries – France, Germany, Italy, the UK and Sweden. Financial services executives in the four mainland European countries believe that it is relatively easy to market packages of financial services to a majority of customers. Fifty-four per cent say that their customers do believe in financial services one-stop shops.

On a more positive note, 74 per cent of UK managers think that their customers do want to have an ongoing relationship with their organisations. But this figure looks less impressive when compared with their mainland European counterparts, 89 per cent of whom answered “yes” to this question.

The results suggest that those companies in the UK whose customer relationship management strategies focus on driving up the number of products per customer are swimming against the tide.

Perhaps the UK results are also influenced by a perception that UK consumers are less financially aware than those in mainland Europe. The challenge to UK marketers is clear, as only 47 per cent of UK financial services executives feel that their customers are financially literate, compared with 69 per cent in mainland Europe. The situation is compounded by the finding that only 55 per cent of UK organisations believe that their customers are actually interested in getting their finances comprehensively managed by financial services companies.

Another image problem relates to the wider UK financial services industry. In the UK, 55 per cent of respondents took the view that their customers regard the financial services industry as arrogant – this figure is almost double that provided by mainland European respondents (29 per cent). While the relationship between the UK financial services industry and its customers may be somewhat tarnished, executives in both the UK and mainland Europe believe that their organisations are highly respected by their customers (89 per cent and 96 per cent respectively).

In addition, 82 per cent of UK financial services providers think that their organisations are considered as genuinely trustworthy, despite the odd publicity hiccup. While consumers may believe that the industry is not entirely spotless, the blame for the creation of this perception does not entirely lie at the door of the financial services providers, according to the research.

Sixty-two per cent of UK financial services executives say that their organisation has become more attractive to consumers since new distribution channels, such as the Internet, have been launched. This figure compares with 79 per cent for the rest of Europe. The study’s authors say that in an industry where, traditionally, there has been a limited number of genuinely innovative new products (as opposed to new variants of core products), the relatively low figure for the UK is rather surprising.

However, a different picture emerges when considering actual consumer experiences. Seventy-four per cent of UK financial services executives say that their organisations have actually gained customers following the introduction of new channels and new products, against 62 per cent for mainland Europe.

The survey adds that the vast majority of financial services executives, both in the UK and in mainland Europe, firmly believe that their organisations are customer-focused – 83 per cent and 77 per cent respectively felt this was the case. In today’s highly competitive market, however, it is worth noting that just under half (47 per cent) of financial services companies feel that they cannot describe their organisations as being “sales and marketing-led”.

The research concludes that in the UK, given the propensity for British consumers to shop around and the ever-increasing value consumers place on convenience, financial services providers will have to provide strong products in all fields if they are to become one-stop shops.

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