Trust Amazon, Google with their savings? Consumers are split

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If Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple were banks, would consumers trust them their money?

Two separate studies released this month attempted to answer that question, and what they found was that most consumers would still prefer to stash their savings in traditional banks.

Careful savers — those who set aside money each month and check their balances often — largely prefer to keep their money in banks that have branches. Only 4% said they’d be willing to open accounts with a tech company, according to a survey released Friday by the Consumer Bankers Association and Novantas, a financial services industry consulting firm.

Another study, released by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. earlier this month, found that while many consumers might be willing to use other financial services offered by tech giants, such as credit cards, most would not open savings accounts with them.

But there’s a caveat. The CBA and Novantas study found that nearly eight in 10 consumers who identify as bank-detached — defined as savers who are highly comfortable with online-only banks — said they would consider keeping a savings account with Amazon, Google or Facebook.

That’s noteworthy because, if the torrid deposit growth at online-only banks is any indication, consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable using banks that do not have physical locations. At two of the largest online-only banks, Ally Bank and Synchrony, deposits have been growing at a clip of better than 20% a year since 2014, according to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The industry average over that same time frame is 4.4%.

Of course, the issue is largely academic because the tech firms do not have bank charters and couldn’t accept deposits without them.

Still, the CBA and Novantas said in their report that banks should be paying close attention to customers’ saving — and spending — habits and cultivate those who seem most likely to move accounts to online-only or nontraditional financial firms.

"Banks that identify these traits can target the consumers accordingly, developing products and features for different needs,” the report said.

David Pommerehn, associate general counsel at the CBA, added that young adults — those who don’t really know of a world without the internet — have few reservations about opening accounts with online-only banks and would be far more likely than older consumers to bank with tech giants.

Overall, only about 20% of those surveyed by the CBA and Novantas said they would consider opening a savings account with Amazon, Google or Facebook.

But the higher the balance size, the more likely savers are likely to consider opening an account with a tech company. About 28% of those who said they already had at least $50,000 set aside in savings would consider banking with one of these companies, as opposed to 18% of those who had between $2,000 and $10,000, according to the CBA and Novantas study.

In the McKinsey study, less than 25% of respondents said they would consider opening a savings account with Google and only 15% said they would trust their money with Facebook.

Of the big tech firms, Amazon is the one consumers appear to trust most. One in three said they would open an account with Amazon if it were to offer a savings product.

Consumers would appear to more comfortable tapping tech firms for other financial services, such as loans. The McKinsey found that nearly six in 10 consumers would consider using financial services from Google or Apple and nearly two-thirds would use Amazon’s services if offered.

The authors of the McKinsey report said that large tech firms are poised to “move into banking in a big way, with strong brands and familiar products.” Even if they can’t offer savings products, the authors added, “they are … likely to establish positions from which they can disintermediate customer relationships and cherry-pick banking’s best products and highest margins."

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