Most consumers who have bought investment or insurance products through banks would consider using a bank for another such purchase, a study found.
The second annual John Hancock Bank Channel Consumer User Study polled 647 households with at least $25,000 of investable assets. Two hundred of them had bought an investment product from a bank. Of that 200, one-third said they were planning to buy another investment or insurance product in the next year. And of that subgroup, two-thirds said they would consider buying it from a bank, according to Alec Kotopoulos, general director of market research for the John Hancock Financial Institutions Group in Boston, which conducted the study.
This suggests that people who buy such products through banks are content, Mr. Kotopoulos said. Another indication of that contentment, he said, is that 19% of the 200 buyers had been referred by a friend who had already purchased such products from a bank.
Kenneth Kehrer, the president of the consulting firm Kenneth Kehrer Associates in Princeton, N.J., said, If they are willing to recommend someone else, they must be at least somewhat pleased with the level of service.
But as a source of investment products and insurance, banks have made less of an impression on consumers who have not used them for that purpose. Of those who had not done so, only 4% said they would be likely to do so.
The good news from the survey is that consumers at least know these products are offered through banks, said Peter Mawn, senior vice president of business insurance operations at John Hancock Financial Institutions Group, the John Hancock Life Insurance Co. unit that markets insurance and investment products through banks. Whats missing, however, is a trigger a reason for them to buy from banks, he said.
One way banks could achieve that, Mr. Kotopoulos said, is to continue to encourage tellers to play a bigger part in the sales process.
Mr. Kehrer agreed. Tellers have been wearing Ask Me buttons for years, and its a solid marketing tactic, he said. But because of the high rate of teller turnover, its good to reinforce those ideas.
Mr. Mawn said, For instance, if a customer deposits a big check into an account for an amount far greater than the balance, the teller could try to figure out where its going. Some people have that sort of relationship with a teller, so if the teller asks if youre buying a house, its OK. Or the teller can say By the way, just wanted to let you know our investment manager is in today, or We have a seminar tomorrow.
Some smarter banks have also offered incentives to tellers, Mr. Mawn said.
Investment products may be a particularly hard sell to customers who have been hit with a $15 or $20 fee for bouncing a check or fined for going below a minimum balance could be an unlikely prospect, he said.
It places a thought into the consumers head that the bank is going to charge more for the mutual fund than a broker, Mr. Mawn said. That consumer is going to believe a mutual fund is more expensive at a bank, because banks are always looking to make extra money, he said.
Banks could also improve their insurance and investment product sales by running more product-specific ads. The bank should do the same thing with investments and insurance that they do with ads on mortgages and checking accounts. Be specific, he said. Talk more about pricing and spend less time on image ads.
John Hancock, which distributes its annuity, mutual fund, life insurance, and long-term care products through banks, has built up its distribution through banks, thrifts, and credit unions in the past year, hiring bank distribution pro Timothy J. Waterworth from Fidelity Investments in March and beefing up its bank wholesaler roster.