NEW ORLEANS — An exercise conducted at the Bank Administration Institute’s Retail Delivery conference here Thursday suggested that bankers are out of touch with their customers.

Thousands of attendees were given interactive devices and asked answer the same questions about financial services and the Internet that had earlier been posed to consumers. When the results were tallied, bankers were found to be sharply at odds with consumers in their perceptions of the type of financial planning advice consumers wanted.

For example, while 29% of the bankers said they thought consumers would consider Internet portals the best purveyors of financial advice and information, only 11% of consumers had given that answer.

The BAI has conducted a poll on this topic and plans to release its findings in February. Adding spice to the exercise, the BAI had gathered onstage 12 people who had participated in some of the 18 focus groups conducted for the survey. They peppered the attendees with advice, saying, for instance, that they should pay more attention to customer service and get rid of excessive fees.

A whopping 48% of bankers — perhaps mistaking their own financial needs for those of their customers — said they thought the service people would be most likely to pay for was ongoing financial advice and planning. Only 20% of consumers, however, said they were on the same wavelength.

Bankers also put more stock in the appeal of financial supermarkets, which offer a variety of branded products through a single provider. They thought that 73% of consumers would go for such an option, but only 55% of the consumers said they favored it.

A surprise contender for providing financial supermarket services was the community bank/credit union. Twenty-two percent of consumers, no doubt giving weight to the trust and local presence of community banks, said they would seek supermarket services from them. Only 9% of the bankers said they believed consumers would take such a route.

Bankers’ awe of the Web was in evidence once again when 80% said they thought consumers would agree with the statement, “My life is different because of the Internet.” Only 33% of consumers actually did agree.

Bankers and consumers also differed on issues of privacy and security. Sixty-five percent of bankers said they thought consumers would agree with the statement, “I would bank online if my bank provided a guarantee against security problems.” In fact, only 28% of consumers agreed.

A similar disparity arose concerning the statement, “If I knew my privacy would be protected, I would use the Internet more willingly.” Seventy-seven percent of bankers thought consumers would agree with that when only 28% actually did.

In a separate survey of 333 bankers in continental Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Unisys Corp., through its new Global Future Forum research group, found that bankers are grossly at odds with industry observers in assessing their businesses.

About 53% of the bankers surveyed by Unisys said they believed most of their customers were profitable.

That assessment flew in the face of a similar survey of observers, a group that included research firms such as TowerGroup and International Data Corp. About 80% of the members in the observer group said they disagreed with that statement.

From Our Archive:

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.