In years gone by customers often chose one bank and stayed with it for life. Certainly when I was younger, it was traditional to go with the same bank as your parents, or the one that was nearest to where you lived (especially important for me as I lived in a village that was many miles from any town).

Add to those factors the fact that changing banks was always a bit awkward in terms of rerouting salary payments and cancelling and then starting up direct debits, etc., and you can see why some financial institutions may have become a bit complacent about retaining their customers.

Now, according to new research from Ping Identity, the age of the internet may have started to shift attitudes among consumers though, with only 28.7% of those surveyed saying that they felt “very loyal” to their current banking provider.

What is far more interesting however is the fact that 36.1% said they would switch banks if a competitor offered easier access to online banking services, as long as security measures were as robust as those they were already used to.

This may be due in part to other survey findings which show that eighty-one and a half percent of bank customers use online banking despite the fact that less than 1-in-4 of them actually thought that access to their accounts was “very secure”. This comes against a backdrop of 4-in-5 customers saying that secure online access is in fact “very important” to them.

Jason Goode, Managing Director – EMEA, at Ping Identity said of the findings:

“These findings should send chills up the spines of retail banks. Loyalty is dead, and if banks can’t prove to customers that their online experience is not only convenient, but also secure, then they’ll lose out to a competitor that is. Customers seem to believe there has to be a trade-off between security and convenience when it comes to accessing confidential information online – it’s either one, or the other. However, that shouldn’t be the case – customers should be able to have their cake and eat it.”

The findings of the survey were further reinforced by answers given by those customers who did not use online banking – two thirds of them stated they had security concerns whilst 11.9% said the registration process took too long and 9.2% kind of said the same thing when declaring that they didn’t have time to set up online banking for their account.

So what can banks, and other organisations, learn from such a study?

I think the key takeaway here is that customers are far more savvy than they ever were before. A combination of publicity (think recent data breaches and naked celebrity photos) as well as (hopefully) increased levels of security awareness gained through workplace programs, means that the average user now has security on their mind more than ever before.

Sure, there is a long way to go in terms of educating people about all the risks they can face on the web, or even in the privacy of their own soon-to-be-interconnected home, but it is a start that everyone in the security industry at least should welcome.

Whether businesses welcome a more savvy consumer is of course another matter – banks and companies in other industries would be wise to embrace security and bake it into everything they do, not just because it lessens the risk to their users and their own balance sheet and branding, but because those same users will increasingly demand it and factor it into their purchasing decisions.

Security now appears to be gaining traction as a product feature that consumers care about.

Long may that continue.

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