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February 10, 2020

Why Challenger Bank Customers Haven’t Left High Street

(London, UK): In a short time, challenger banks have won cardholders over with their unique mobile-only banking model, differentiated from High Street offerings by touting foreign exchange features, budgeting tools, spend analytics and easy cheque splitting. But consumers aren’t breaking up with High Street just yet. According to new research published by Auriemma Group, challenger banks are being used as a complement to, not a replacement for, traditional banking products.

Currently, 13% of credit cardholders have a mobile-only current account with Monzo, Revolut and/or Starling. And 44% of credit cardholders without a mobile-only current account could be persuaded to switch to one. This small, but notable figure shows curiosity in the mobile-only banking model.

“Challenger banks market themselves as innovators in the payments space,” says Jaclyn Holmes, Director of Research at Auriemma Group. “From graphic cues like bright-coloured and vertical cards to their digitally focused approach, these banks are trying to visually and experientially differentiate themselves from their High Street counterparts.”

These benefits and differentiators alone, however, are not enough to instill full confidence in challenger banks. Nearly all (96%) of those who had a current account with a traditional bank prior to opening one with a mobile-only provider say that they have kept their traditional account open.

There are several factors likely at play in this decision. Many who are uninterested in challenger banks express satisfaction in their current offerings (58%), prefer banks with physical locations (42%) or don’t know enough about them (28%).

In effect, challenger banks are charged with informing the consumer about who they are and what makes them better. While some focus on the strength of their digital offerings to make this point, others have taken innovative steps to address the perceived need for in-person service.

Starling Bank, for example, partnered with the postal service to offer cash deposits in a physical location for its account holders. This partnership offers a consistent physical footprint (i.e., the post office) for the bank as traditional bank branches continue to close across the UK.

While offering a physical location for some banking activities is one solution, other mobile-only providers focus squarely on self-service options. These are especially important for younger cardholders, who, according to Auriemma’s research, are less likely to see branches as a critical component of the banking relationship.

“Although the absence of a branch footprint is currently an obstacle for challenger banks, its importance may wane as the industry becomes more digital,” says Holmes. “As the industry shifts, we can expect consumers to become more comfortable with mobile-centric banking solutions.”

Challenger banks cultivated enthusiasm around innovative tools and features, many of which currently exist in the High Street digital experience. It appears even basic tools could be enough to keep these cardholders from looking elsewhere. Many of those who find tools important most often cite bread-and-butter functionalities that are already a part of online banking—spend alerts, reports, and automatic transfers.

“Challenger banks are bringing digital tools to the forefront of the customer experience, but consumers will continue looking to legacy providers for everyday banking needs,” says Holmes. “High Street Banks have given little reason to look elsewhere, and although challengers have their merits, it’s unlikely that cardholders will transition their entire banking relationship to them in the near term.”

Survey Methodology

This Auriemma Group study was conducted online within the UK by an independent field service provider on behalf of Auriemma in November 2019, among 855 adult credit cardholders. The number of interviews completed on a monthly basis is sufficient to allow for statistical significance testing between sub-groups at the 95% confidence level ± 5%, unless otherwise noted. The purpose of the research was not disclosed nor did the respondents know the criteria for qualification.

About Auriemma Group

For more than 30 years, Auriemma’s mission has been to empower clients with authoritative data and actionable insights. Our team comprises recognised experts in four primary areas: operational effectiveness, consumer research, co-brand partnerships and corporate finance. Our business intelligence and advisory services give clients access to the data, expertise and tools they need to navigate an increasingly complex environment and maximise their performance. Auriemma serves the consumer financial services ecosystem from our offices in London and New York City. For more information, visit us at www.auriemma.group or call Jaclyn Holmes at +44 (0) 207 629 0075.