Age Friendly Banking: Why it Needs to be the ‘Next Normal’

Age friendly banking is defined by Age UK as “banking products, services and facilities that remain accessible and easy-to-use as people age“. Whilst COVID-19 has rapidly accelerated digital transformation programmes at banks across the globe, what steps are they taking to help their elderly customers transition to digital channels for the first time, and how can they make age friendly banking their ‘next normal’?

The coronavirus outbreak has, unsurprisingly, radically changed the way that consumers are interacting with their banks. With many bank branches around the world closing their doors altogether (either permanently or on a temporary basis) or operating during limited hours with reduced staff numbers, customers are being actively encouraged to utilise digital banking channels. Many of these customers will be doing so for the first time.

There are three main elements that can prevent the take up of online services and lead to digital exclusion: a lack of the appropriate hardware, a lack of connectivity or data, and a lack of skills and confidence in being able to navigate the online world. With that in mind, many high street banks have recently introduced or expanded a number of facilities to ensure the over 65s are still able to access banking services:

Lloyds has partnered with We Are Digital to provide a specialist phone line that is helping to guide and train up to 20,000 vulnerable customers, allowing them to stay connected to their finances. The partnership will also be providing up to 2,000 tablets to over 70s who don’t currently have a device to access the internet.

RBS has set up dedicated phone lines for NHS workers and the elderly across its NatWest, RBS and Ulster Bank brands. They have also created ‘Digital Lessons’, to help older customers learn how to carry out day-to-day banking activities online.

Barclays has introduced a number of measures including contacting customers it has identified as being vulnerable to ensure they can access their accounts, providing ‘virtual tea and teach’ sessions to help older people improve their confidence banking online, and allowing a “trusted third-party” to access an account on a one-off, temporary or permanent basis.

The question is – how effective have these efforts to engage with elderly customers been? Well, the feedback has been somewhat mixed thus far.

A recent BCG survey of 5,000 bank customers found that the age group that had most enthusiastically taken to online or mobile banking for the first time was 18-24 year olds, with 24% banking digitally for the first time as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that it reflects previous trends around digital and online banking adoption.

The same study found that only 2% of the over 65s surveyed had signed up to online banking during the same period. Santander concurred with these findings, reporting that only 0.5% of their customers over the age of 55 have taken up banking digitally since the start of the pandemic.

So, despite the efforts made by the banks, and the current limitations on branch availability, why are many older customers still hesitant to use online channels to manage their finances?

Well, according to a recent study by the Finance Foundation, the top reason that the elderly don’t use online banking services was that they ‘want people not machines’ (86%). Other reasons cited was that they were afraid of making mistakes, or worried about fraud.

The study also found that the elderly would prefer bank staff were “better at explaining things in the right way” and at the right pace and place within the journey. Other changes that older people would like to see included were ‘face to face interactions, not machines’ (48%); teach people how to use machines (17%); make it easy to do things by phone (18%); improved letters/communication (20%).

It’s clear that a high-touch approach to online and remote banking will be critical if older customers are going to not only begin to use digital banking services, but be comfortable enough to continue using them as the world gradually returns to a semblance of normality.

By utilising the technology at their disposal, banks are now able to replicate the face to face interactions that the elderly value, remotely. They can enable their customers to see and compare product information, sign and exchange documentation and verify their identity online or over the phone, as though they are in branch. Co-browsing functionality can be used at the point of need to guide users through their digital banking journeys.

With many banks having to upscale their digital capabilities in a short space of time, they must now ensure that their online channels also retain the benefits of a personal, in-branch experience if they are to truly make age-friendly banking the next normal.

To find out more about how Vizolution can help you create high-tech, high touch customer journeys, get in touch to arrange a demo.


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