COVID-19 is rapidly changing customer’s banking demands

BCG’s new research centered around consumer sentiments in banking illustrates that banks are set to face added pressures from evolving customer demands brought by the pandemic.

According to new research announced today by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the expectations of consumers across the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) in the banking sector is rapidly evolving, even more so with the pervasiveness of the COVID-19 crisis.

BCG’s surveyed over 2,000 respondents in the UAE to understand the changing consumer sentiment and behavior in banking. The research found that 76 percent of respondents indicated the interest to switch banks and 70 percent actively search for new bank offers.

“The changes we have witnessed in our research on customer behavior can be linked to the current pandemic,” said Godfrey Sullivan, Managing Director and Head of Financial Institutions UAE, BCG. “Customers’ are experiencing a new reality, relying on conducting day-to-day activities remotely. When they face challenges in the current digital capabilities offered by banks or reduction in credit lines, both of which are becoming increasingly important to them in the current circumstances, they will naturally start to look for service providers who can better cater to their needs.”

The research also showed that 87 percent of respondents would be willing to open an account with a branchless digital-only bank. This correlates with BCG’s global benchmark, which saw more than 53 percent of UAE banking customers increasing their mobile app usage for banking during the pandemic, and over 50 percent who enrolled in digital banking for the first time as a result of the crisis.

“UAE’s banking customers’ have a strong appetite for digital banks, and we see more growth in the demand of digital products during the pandemic,” said Mohammad Khan, Partner, BCG. “We believe that when an end-to-end digital banking solution, such as those found in Europe, is introduced, customers in the UAE will make the concerted effort to fully transition to a digitally enabled banking experience.”

Further, BCG’s research showed that 63 percent of respondents expressed that they struggle to identify any differentiation across banks and their propositions. At present, top banks in the UAE still have a stable customer base, and 50 percent of higher-income customers have been with the same bank for five years or more, however, it is vital to strategize for the inevitable change of customer demands.

“The ever-changing customer preferences that we are witnessing in banking as a result of the pandemic mean banks must explore new avenues to upgrade their services across channels – which includes investing in digital and also in creating an omnichannel experience to meet customer needs,” said Sullivan. “There is a great opportunity for banks to disrupt the market and taking immediate actions to meet the evolving customer demands will be vital in business retention and the road ahead.”