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Quarter of UK consumers open to ‘digital-only' bank

Rise of mobile means branchless banking an option

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A quarter of UK consumers are open to using purely digital banks that are accessible only through laptops and mobile devices, a study shows.

A survey of 3,600 current account holders by Accenture revealed that many would bank with a provider that has no branches or call centres, with 33 percent of respondents between 25-34 keen on the idea.

However, the youngest age group polled (aged between 18 and 24) were the least interested, at 22 percent.

The survey comes as banks focus more on digital services, and the first 'digital-only' bank in the UK, Atom, prepares to launch next year. It is possible that more lenders could adopt this model, with financial regulators currently considering 30 new bank applications.

The Accenture research also highlighted the continued growth in popularity of digital banking channels offered by existing providers.

More than 80 percent of respondents went online at least once a month to interact with their bank, while mobile banking use grew to 27 percent last year - up from 21 percent in 2012, and 10 percent in 2011.

The growth echoes a British Bankers' Association report published last week, which claimed that £1 billion digital transactions are now made each day in the UK.

However, despite the increasing reliance on mobile and online services, the survey showed that branch usage has in fact grown. The number of customers going to a branch at least once a month has risen to 52 percent this year, up from 45 percent in 2012, with those between 18-24 the most likely to use a branch.

"This year's survey underscores the growing complexity in how consumers want to interact with banks in the digital age," said Peter Kirk, a managing director in Accenture's Financial Services group, adding that there is evidence some customers are not satisfied by their banks' current digital offerings.

"This presents difficult questions for banks as they look to balance digital channels with costly branch networks and deliver relevant services," he said.

The report also notes that a fifth of UK customers, 21 percent, would consider using non-traditional banking providers such as online payment providers, as technology companies begin to offer financial services.

Furthermore, incumbent banks are seeing competition from retailers offering current accounts - an area Tesco Bank has recently entered, with Sainsbury's Bank and others are likely to follow in future - with 15 percent open to the prospect.

With the likelihood of heightened competition, and customer lethargy in terms of actually switching account provider, lenders need to differentiate customer service through digital technology, said Accenture.

Kirk concluded: "As banks develop their strategies for re-engaging with their customers, they will need to focus on evolving customer behaviours and digital experience, while improving their services through the use of analytics and customer loyalty."


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