Watch out Australia! The rest of the world has caught up with us

Throughout the Global Financial Crisis, the Australian economy and our banking sector remained relatively strong. While global banks and economies struggled under the weight of banking collapse and regulatory reforms, Australia was largely able to get on with business.

Which, when combined with Australians natural curiosity for technology and readiness to drive digital disruption, or as described in Deloitte’s most recent research in May 2018, our skew in favour of the digital ‘adventurers’, Australia inadvertently created a banking ecosystem that arguably led the world in innovative banking products, services and platforms and set the standard.

However, post the equivalent of our Royal Commission into Misconduct in Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services, European, British and US banks have now got their houses in order, and through business necessity turned consumers overall satisfaction with their primary banks from low to generally high.

Essentially the world has caught up with us.

With 1000 respondents from Australia, our banks slid down the satisfaction leader board to middle of the road (63%). We stand third from last at 52% in the advocacy stakes compared with the 17,100 respondents in 17 countries surveyed in the Deloitte Digital Banking Consumer Survey.

And now facing the same imposed regulatory reform, tighter governance standards and costs constraints as their European, US, UK and S.E. Asian counterparts had to deal with and overcome, Australian banks cannot afford to ignore their natural strengths.

Digital adventurers

The good news is that the Australian sample constitutes a higher proportion of digital adventurers than the global sample.

The survey shows that digital adventurers have a stronger emotional connection to their primary bank than the other two segments of embracers and traditionalists (which have a higher preference for the physical channels). This translates positively for Australia, with Australian retail banking customers displaying higher loyalty to their primary banks as opposed to their global counterparts.


Consumers’ digital adoption is encouraging with the proportion of Australian respondents who use online and mobile channels at par with branches and ATMs. The monthly usage of these digital channel far surpasses these traditional channels.

The use of digital is related to consumers’ emotional engagement. Our segmentation analysis reveals that heavy users of digital channels also have a stronger emotional connection with their primary banks compared to the respondents who use less of digital.

However, given Australians tend to use online banking and mobile apps largely for transactional and informational services, the real opportunity lies in accelerating their digital channels use. And importantly Australians show a strong appetite to use more digital banking services in the future with bank customers wanting more ‘real in digital’ and ‘digital in real’ services.

This means that by strategically integrating digital and physical environments banks will be able to engage more deeply with consumers at branches, online portals and mobile apps in the future.

Banks can use this new knowledge of their consumers to accelerate their digital transformation strategies.

Given that traditional channels dominate more advisory-focused, complex services such as loans or wealth management, there is also a clear opportunity for banks to create the right experiences in branch to meet customers’ needs for the more complex products.

It is worth noting, especially in the face of Open Banking, and data sharing, that Australian consumers show stronger emotional ties with their favourite brands in the technology industry than with their primary bank.

So given that banks still lag in exceeding customers’ expectations on these important attributes it is important that some of the following recommendations are considered.

  • Bolster security measures for all consumers: Stronger digital security in all three segments will increase the likelihood that customers will use digital channels in the future. Security concerns are especially acute for traditionalists; in fact, this is why some traditionalists have never used online or mobile banking to access their primary banks. Bolstering security tools such as biometrics can be helpful.
  • Emphasise the convenience of digital with traditionalists: A big reason traditionalists do not use digital channels is that they simply do not see their merit. Raising awareness around the convenience of banking on-the-go (mobile) or banking from anywhere (online) is pivotal.
  • Simplify mobile apps’ user interface to engage online embracers: Online embracers are much more comfortable with online banking than mobile banking apps. To encourage greater engagement, banks should make their mobile apps more intuitive and comprehensive.
  • Transform mobile as an experiential channel for digital adventurers: Digital adventurers are already avid users of banks’ digital channels, but they use them largely for basic transactional and informational services. Banks should use mobile as a differentiator to build sticky experiences with this segment. Positioning chatbots as the go-to help tool or letting consumers directly connect to a bank representative in the mobile app will aid more real-time problem resolution.
  • Lastly, break the channel silos: Branch, ATMs, online, mobile, and call centers all need to be connected, along with third-party digital assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa. Consumers’ fascination for omnichannel experiences is real. Having a 360-degree view of consumer interactions across channels, products, and systems will build stickier emotional engagement.

The next wave of innovation, led by open banking, new interfaces and artificial intelligence will be Australia’s opportunity to once again take the lead on innovation in banking.

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