What do you want from your bank?

2012-03-03 09:43

This week I received a survey on what customers want from their banks.

The Speak UP Report commissioned by Capitec aims to draw attention to what people want from their bank and ultimately help give them what they really need.

I have to confess that when I read some of the comments I was amazed at the naivety of bank customers.

People wanted the bank to send someone to their house, they wanted more tellers, more face-to-face interaction, more personal service – but they all wanted lower bank fees.

Someone else’s time is money and if we want to pay less in bank fees the more automated our banking will become.

As a customer one needs to decide whether you want to pay for personal service or if you want to save costs by using electronic channels.

Many people also complained about the high cost of banking – 56% said if the finance minister could change one thing in 2012 it would be to slash bank fees. Yet one can effectively bank for under R50 a month if you manage your account effectively.

Personally my monthly bank costs are around R25 as I use the old Go Banking account which was a collaboration between Pick n Pay and Nedbank.

Despite being the cheapest fully transactional bank account in the country it failed to attract more than 90 000 customers and was eventually closed to new business.

At the time I lamented this was proof that South Africans love to complain about bank fees but are not prepared to actually do anything about it – like change banks.

I am still waiting for the day Nedbank informs me they are closing the account permanently at which point I would move to one of the bank’s

low-cost accounts that will let me bank for R30 to R40 a month.

I certainly don’t need a gold card or an overdraft facility, all of which come at additional costs.

So why do people complain about fees? I would argue it is because fees are so hard to understand and lack transparency and, let’s be honest, is it really in the bank’s interest to have you use their cheapest account?

In the survey 43% said it was impossible to understand bank fees. I am surprised this figure is so low. As someone who deals with banks and bank fees for a living, trying to compare bank costs is virtually impossible.

According to the survey many consumers would welcome an industry standard menu of fees, as it’s impossible to compare like with like among the banks. About 37% said they’d tried, but gave up as it took up too much time.

Personally I would like to see banks recommending a bank account based on the customer’s typical monthly banking profile so that one can select the most cost-effective account and also highlight where one can cut back on costs.

A comment that surprised me however was that people wanted banks to cut back on paper by issuing electronic statements rather than posting them. I know from experience that Nedbank, FNB and Absa can all provide electronic statements so perhaps some clients have just not asked for it.

Another point close to my heart is the issue of red tape.

Unfortunately this is not something the banks can do anything about as it is government regulation around the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (Fica) and “Know your Client” that creates the realms of paperwork which make it a mission to open or change bank accounts.

Hopefully a central Fica database is something the government will approve to cut time and costs.

Finally, a very astute comment from a consumer was that “a lot of people fear opening bank accounts because they feel they will be made to communicate in English with the tellers.

Having specific queues for the most spoken African languages would make me feel more comfortable”. That is an excellent point and hopefully something the banks will listen to.

We all want a more personalised service from our bank, especially when it comes to managing our money. The bank that can create that perception while keeping fees relatively low will score with clients.

This is a model that both Capitec and FNB are working on by automating administrative processes and innovating solutions that allow more client interaction.

However, the reality is that consumers put up with poor service because it is often easier than making the move.

Ultimately we pay the bank fees and receive the service that we deserve.

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