JOHANNESBURG: 11 MAY 2016 – Insights agency Columinate today released the results of its fifth annual Internet Banking SITEisfaction® survey. Launched in 2012, the survey is a measure of customer satisfaction with digital banking services in South Africa. The report is the only one of its kind to focus exclusively on internet and mobile banking and is viewed by the industry as a key feedback tool for the evaluated banks, as it reveals the behaviours and experiences of their online customers.

The study has put questions to close to 10 000 internet banking users over the 5 years, focusing on the trends that shape the digital banking industry.

The survey revealed that 22% of internet banking users have only used this form of banking for two years or less. This trend is a result of South Africa’s rapidly growing internet population, resulting in large numbers of consumers who are new to the web. The effect of this trend is clear from a question in the study that tracks the proportion of users who feel comfortable using the internet. This figure has been consistently close or under 40% for the last five years. This means that less than half of the digital banking population is very comfortable using the internet. Chief Executive of Columinate, Dr. Henk Pretorius comments that “The point for digital banking is that there are always going to be newer and less experienced users that have to be catered for. Making sure that platforms are at once easy for new users to learn, and sophisticated enough for experienced users, is an important balancing act.”

Despite having access to the internet, many consumers have still not embraced this form of banking. Lack of trust (36%) remains the top reason why banked and connected customers do not make use of internet banking. Pretorius notes that “banks need to make customers comfortable that digital banking is safe and useful. Once customers have been convinced to try digital banking their experience on the platform becomes important. In this regard, banks need to cater for the experiences of both new users and experienced users who may often have different experiences and levels of comfort with digital technologies.”

The 2016 Winner – Best Digital Bank

This year Columinate created a new award category called Best Digital Bank. All five major banks currently offer at least five different ways of banking digitally. This prompted the online researcher to look at banks’ digital (online and mobile banking platforms) satisfaction as a whole.

FNB has emerged as the winner in this category, scoring 81 out of a possible 100, putting it firmly in the lead of the competitors. FNB has consistently delivered the best experience in local digital banking. For four out of the five years, FNB has won the best online banking service and has also won best mobile and overall digital bank for the two years that these aspects have been tracked. Pretorius comments that “FNB’s dominance is clear across all areas of the digital banking experience. FNB delivers a better experience compared to other banks in almost all of the key drivers of satisfaction in online banking. FNB also consistently had the highest feature usage amongst its customer base.”

Capitec has been the only real challenger to the top position placing second with a score of 69.  Standard bank has placed in third position most years, actually climbing to second in 2015 after a redesign that led to increased user satisfaction. A recent challenge for Standard Bank’s online banking offering has seen interruptions, which seems to be the main halting factor of the momentum gained in 2015. Nedbank placed second last with a score of 59, a similar rank to all previous waves, and Absa placed last with 54. Pretorius points out that “Absa has traditionally always placed last in internet banking satisfaction, the picture is slightly different for the bank’s mobile banking offering. When looking at mobile banking as a whole, the bank places third, with users showing high levels of satisfaction with the bank’s app in particular. This is perhaps an indication that efforts are being focused on mobile solutions, but that lack of improvement of the traditional channel is a detractor of satisfaction.”

Best Mobile Bank

This category takes a holistic look at all the mobile banking solutions banks offer, from apps to mobi-sites for both mobile phones and tablets. FNB is the clear winner here, with 81 (out of a possible 100), followed by Capitec with 72 and Absa and Standard Bank tied in third place with a score of 70. Nedbank’s mobile score was a dismal 66.

What was once a war of getting the first app to the market, is now a war of having the best banking app in the market. Consumers showed the highest levels of satisfaction with FNB’s app, which significantly outperformed all competitors.

Apps also fulfil a unique need in e-bankers’ repertoire: apps are the preferred channel of choice for purchasing airtime (67% of users did this on their app), data (52% of users used the app for this) and electricity (36% of users used the banking app for this), while the more intricate transactions are left to the traditional interface.

Other Insights

Switching effects:

A clear trend in the study data is that the effect that switching has had on the local banking market. A full 74% of digital bankers currently have banking products with more than one bank. Instead of switching over completely to another bank, customers retain services with more than one bank. This polygamous loyalty is an interesting feature of the local banking market with implications for digital banking. For example, more than half (54%) of internet banking users have, or currently make use of, more than one internet banking service. Banks would do well to remember that customers can compare different digital banking facilities with relative ease and expectations are often created with one service from which the other is evaluated.

Fraud: the elephant in the digital banking room

A remarkable trend across all five years of the study has been the large amount of internet banking fraud. The third wave of the study (2014) saw the largest percentage of e-bankers who had been targeted (62%), and had fallen victim (19%) to fraud. There has been a slight year-on-year decline since then, but levels remain concerningly high at 50% targets and 14% victims. A difficulty for both users and banks has been the proliferation of various kinds of digital banking fraud in recent years.

“A key insight from the study has been the role that users need to play in the safety of their own accounts. Many of the most common fraud types rely not on technological attacks but rather on methods of getting users to supply confidential account information to fraudsters. Banks should embrace their role as educators in order to decrease the likelihood of users falling victim to a scam.” concludes Pretorius.

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Since 2012 Columinate has surveyed a representative sample of internet banking users from the five main South African consumer banks. The annual sample for the survey for 2016 was n = 1 474 for the Internet Banking section and n = 1 427 for the mobile banking section.  Technical details are available from Columinate.