Bank Transfer Day encouraged consumers to walk into credit union branches and open accounts last Nov. 5. And as credit unions reviewed their deposit growth data from fourth-quarter 2011, many viewed the media-hyped event a success.
But according to a new report from Javelin Strategy and Research, only 3% of consumers fully abandoned their large banks during the quarter. And now, 11% of consumers say they’re likely or very likely to switch to a different financial institution sometime in the next year, giving credit unions an opportunity to become primary banking destinations for more consumers, Javelin said.
The report, “Bank Switching in 2012: Giant Banks Remain Highly Vulnerable as Customers Weigh Fees and Convenience” based on data collected from 5,034 consumers in March 2012, found that many customers of four giant banks–Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citibank and Wells Fargo–are dissatisfied with their financial institutions. Of the four, Citibank and Bank of America are disliked the most. Around 25% of Citibank customers and 21% of Bank of America customers have plans to switch to a different financial institution in the next 12 months.
Here’s another figure that should cause credit union executives’ ears to perk up. The 11% of consumers who say they’re very likely or likely to switch financial institutions in the next year represent $675 billion in deposit dollars.
“Giant banks are very vulnerable right now,” said Mark Schwanhausser, senior analyst of multi-channel financial services for Javelin and the report’s author. “These potential switchers have a lot of deposits, and they have large deposits, so there’s a lot of value attached to them. These are the people credit unions could be winning.”
Javelin pinpointed several traits associated with potential switchers and consumers who already said goodbye to their large banks. First, the 11% of potential switchers are willing to pay an estimated $92 million in fees for four types of services: money orders, cashier’s checks, safe-deposit box rentals and mobile deposits. Second, they view mobile banking as a priority, 10% of consumers who switched financial institutions around Bank Transfer Day named mobile banking as a top reason for doing so. And third, many of them are young, 33% of consumers who made a switch in the nine months before and after Bank Transfer Day were between the ages of 25 and 34.
Schwanhausser said credit unions should base their Bank Transfer Day success on how many consumers joined after leaving their banks completely.
“One lesson we learned from Bank Transfer Day is that consumers moved some of their money into credit unions, but they didn’t divorce their banks,” he said. “Credit unions should be asking, am I their primary place for banking?”
To avoid missing out on new memberships, credit unions should consider improving the quality of their online account opening processes, Schwanhausser said. Consumers demonstrated a 50% abandonment rate when it comes to opening and funding credit union accounts online, Javelin found.
“A first impression matters,” Schwanhausser said. “Credit unions should make sure online account opening is a smooth process from the beginning.”
Schwanhausser suggests credit unions also use technology to reach out to and connect with accountholders by, for example, sending out bill pay alerts. He also said while credit unions can’t match large banks in terms of how many branches and ATMs they have, they can replicate the convenience provided by large banks with products and services such as mobile deposit and debit cards.
“Consumers are looking for overall practicality,” he said. “Credit unions don’t have the branch and ATM networks that large banks have, but they can provide mobile deposit services and allow members to pull out cash at the grocery store using their debit cards, for example. That tells them that they still have access to their money anytime, anywhere.”
Javelin also examined the key reasons why large bank customers either have or have not switched to a different financial institution. One motive for staying put is the fact that a switch takes effort on the consumer’s part, Schwanhausser pointed out. While a credit union can take care of some aspects of a switch, moving a direct deposit account to a new financial institution, for example, requires talking to one’s employer’s human resources department, he said.
He added that some consumers wanted to move to a financial institution because it was small, but that institution size is not a primary reason to switch. Mobile banking is also a key driver, not just for switching, but for staying: 11% of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase customers stuck with their banks because of the mobile banking services the banks offered, Javelin found.
“For credit unions, it all comes back to the big picture,” Schwanhausser said. “The bank customer dissatisfaction is there, and the opportunities remain. But it’s going to take the right technology. It comes down to consumers wanting convenience, control and practical access to their money,”