Towers Perrin believes it has seen the future - at least for 1995 - and bankers may not much like it.
The consulting firm's banking specialist released predictions on Friday that customer loyalty will decline and that bank mutual funds will wither.
On the brighter side, Towers Perrin also predicted that Congress and regulators will give banks clear insurance powers, creating new revenue opportunities, and home banking will be increasingly accepted.
"There's more bad news than good," said David Partridge, managing director of the financial institutions practice at Towers Perrin.
Perhaps the most serious forecast is for eroding consumer loyalty as more customers are angered by rising fees and add-ons that make banking more costly.
"A lot of people are making a living by telling banks to raise this fee and that fee. It may be good for profits, but customers don't like it," he said. "Some bankers still act as if customers don't have choices, but they do. At some point in time, customers will take their business elsewhere."
On a related subject, Towers Perrin predicts that home banking may finally advance beyond experimental stages as customers choose companies with more convenient delivery of financial services.
"The corner has been turned in this area," said Mr. Partridge. "We are heading toward 90% of all transactions being made in the grocery store, through bank-at-work, or from the home. Banks risk being preempted by (nonbank) competitors in this triangle."
The consultants also predict that clear-cut insurance powers will become a reality. Bill Arnold, Atlanta-based principal at Towers Perrin, said the move toward the new product line parallels that of the acceptance in the late 1970s of NOW accounts.
"If I had to sum up why we believe this will finally happen, it's because it is the right thing for the consumer as well as for the banks," he said. "We strongly believe this is the year."