The task seems simple enough, but how often do discussions about underbanked consumers begin by answering the question of who the underbanked really are? Banks have long pursued business from customers who currently do more with check cashing stores and payday lenders than with depository institutions. But lumping these potential customers into a single group may be detrimental to the effort, a new report from the Aite Group suggests.

In an attempt to determine how banks could better capture new business, Aite Group analysts divided the so-called underbanked into categories: "Surprising Check Cashers," "Convenience Chasers," "Active Splitters" and "Bystanders." The first two groups, they concluded, are comprised of people more likely to be won over to check cashing services provided by banks.

"Surprising Check Cashers" are people with "relatively high incomes" (that means a household income of $45,000 or more) whose past experiences with punitive fees have led them to prefer check cashing stores. Though they´re well-informed about financial planning and technological developments, earlier credit problems have left an impression on them. They have both checking accounts and prepaid debit cards.

"Convenience Chasers," meanwhile, make more use of prepaid debit cards, but find services at banks to be slow and the maintenance of minimum balances irksome. They prefer the speed check cashing stores provide, and they like to pay bills immediately after cashing a check.

The other two groups are less likely to be won over by banks. They may have multiple jobs, and some do not engage in traditional banking practices at all. That means they´re further from banks´ reach.

"Aite Group estimates that banks could increase their share of checks cashed by users of check cashing stores from 28% to 47% if they were to more effectively target Surprising Check Cashers and Convenience Chasers," the report concludes.

The report concludes with suggestions for how to target the two groups. Banks should offer prepaid debit cards and services to repair credit. They should also make bank transactions easier for customers, by extending branch hours and making it possible for customers to complete multiple transactions at once.

These changes could capture new customers or simply increase the amount of business from some existing depositors. Just taking a closer look at who these types of potential customers are would no doubt shed light on even more changes banks could make locally to make their services more attractive.