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    Mar 14, 2014

    Where banks must buck up to keep clients

    BANKS which want to keep their customers should improve their service and open more branches. These were the two key findings from a recent Ernst & Young (EY) survey of 400 local banking clients.

    The study, conducted between July 25 and Oct 7 last year, found that in the past year, 50 per cent of the respondents had closed a bank account because of bad service at their bank.

    So what do customers want? Mr Liew Nam Soon, EY's Asean financial services leader, said consumers today are "placing more emphasis on tailored services" - as opposed to two years ago, when they were more concerned about the levels of fees and charges.

    The online survey also found that 86 per cent of respondents would pay for tailored advice on how to reach their financial goals, while 72 per cent would pay for customised products and services.

    Another factor that might prompt consumers to close a bank account is difficulty in accessing branches - 35 per cent of those surveyed cited this issue.

    Mr Liew noted: "Branches continue to be very important despite increased uptake in digital banking channels... (Physical branches) will endure as long as there are transactions that cannot be done online."

    His advice: that banks realign staffing levels to offer value-added services and advice.

    Banks, the survey found, should also make banking simpler and clearer by, say, providing easy-to-access information on where rebates for credit card promotions can be claimed.

    In addition, customers felt banks were not proactive enough - some suggested that banks could remind clients to pay their bills so they could avoid having to pay late fees.

    To retain customers, banks should act fast to improve service levels.

    The study, of Singapore resident bank customers aged 18 years and above, found that 44 per cent of the respondents had plans to open or close a bank account within a year, and that 50 per cent had already done so in the past year.