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Average Customer Profitability Still Down at Big Retail Banks Following Financial Crisis; Consumers More Price Sensitive and ‘Shopping Around,’ Accenture Survey Finds


Retail Bank Executives Expect ‘Independent’, Post-Crisis Consumer Behaviors to Continue Long Term

LONDON and NEW YORK - A majority of executives at leading retail banks globally say average customer profitability has remained below pre-crisis levels, while their customers’ price-sensitivity and inclination to ‘shop around’ have increased, according to an Accenture survey.

Interviews with 46 senior banking executives in 14 countries – including many of the world’s largest institutions – suggest that nearly half of the top retail banks globally (46 percent) have seen their average customer profitability decline by 5 percent to 15 percent since the financial crisis, while an additional 11 percent have seen even greater customer profitability declines.

According to the executives interviewed, efforts by retail banks to restore customer profitability face new and long term headwinds on several fronts:

* 59 percent reported decreased customer loyalty since the financial crisis;
* 63 percent say their customers are more price sensitive; and
* 63 percent say their customers are “shopping around” more frequently

More than two-thirds (68 percent) of executives said they expect such independent consumer banking behaviors, which have emerged or accelerated from the crisis, to continue long term.

“Our research shows a fundamental power shift between the banks and their customers since the financial crisis began,” said Noel Gordon, global managing director of Accenture’s banking industry practice, and co-author of the research. “Consumers have emerged more confident in making financial decisions for themselves, more skeptical of their bank brands, more price-conscious and more willing to move away from institutions that provide poor service. For the banks, traditional profit-recovery strategies – rate and fee increases, conventional cross-selling and organic growth – will not readily fix the problem because broader customer expectations and service demands have risen in the wake of the financial crisis.”

According to the executives, the primary strategies that banks are employing to boost customer revenues are increased cross-selling to existing customers (87 percent), the pursuit of new customers (54 percent) and increasing prices for their products and services (33 percent).

Despite these measures, the survey suggests that most retail banks will continue to struggle to meet emerging consumer demands. The vast majority of bank executives (83 percent) reported increased demand for “direct” services – online, telephone, and mobile – since the financial crisis, and nearly two-thirds (63 percent) believe that meeting those demands will be a major challenge for their companies in the next three years. Other major challenges they cited include responding to demands for more personalized banking services and addressing customer pricing sensitivities (cited by 49 percent and 44 percent of executives, respectively).

“The banks that will win the race to rebuild profitability will be those that recognize their customer relationships have changed for good,” said Piercarlo Gera, global managing director of Accenture’s financial services industry strategy practice and co-author of the research. “Banks will need to work on their service models by introducing more sophisticated customer segmentation, making sure key segments are serviced with the appropriate mix of banking channels and giving those segments a greater ability to define and select their services. This will help them ‘pull’ customers in rather than simply push products out, and increase sales while better managing their costs of servicing customers. By working at their business models in this way, banks can drive more sustainable operating costs and stronger long-term customer profitability for the post-crisis environment.”

The survey revealed a significant shortfall between new consumer service demands and the current capacity of banks to meet those demands. The majority of executives cited strong customer analytics (82 percent), well integrated service channels (79 percent), personalized offerings (68 percent) and innovative technologies (53 percent) among the most important capabilities to attract and retain post-crisis customers. Yet only half as many executives rated their own bank’s capabilities in those areas as being strong (39 percent, 26 percent, 26 percent and 13 percent, respectively).

Among the survey’s other key findings:

* According to executives, the main sources of new bank customer innovations are competitors from other industries (65 percent), technology innovators (45 percent), and specialist financial services companies, such as credit unions (43 percent)
* The primary areas of investment for retail banks are developing and improving new channels (54 percent), integrating multi-channel distribution (49 percent), and improving customer insight capabilities (33 percent)
* Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) cited “lifetime” customer value as a primary factor they will use to manage customer profitability over the next three years
* Fifty-three percent of executives acknowledged a decline of trust in banking brands as a key customer response to the financial crisis
* Most said customer savings had increased (70 percent) and appetite for credit decreased (53 percent) in response to the crisis

The findings of the survey will be published in a forthcoming Accenture whitepaper about bank customer-profitability and changing consumer behaviors after the financial crisis.

Accenture interviewed 46 senior-level business and marketing executives (CEOs, retail division heads, and senior vice presidents) from 35 retail banking institutions – including 26 of the top 100 global banks – based in Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. Interviews were conducted in person, by telephone and in writing between March and June 2010.

About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with more than 190,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$21.58 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2009. Its home page is


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