There is a huge opportunity for banks to win customers’ trust by demonstrating that that they are not only competent but also caring and purposeful, argues Rene Hendrikse

Banks can strike the perfect balance between ease and security through behavioural biometrics. In the process, they can put customers in control of their data and demonstrate trustworthiness with every transaction and interaction.

We are creatures of habit. Change does not come easy to most of us. We prefer a set morning routine, have settled upon a favourite cocktail or we simply like things the way they are. So when the pandemic struck, we all felt the effects of everyday life turning on its head.

For financial firms and banks, change was also afoot. As the home-bound British public leaned more heavily than ever on services for loans and support, the banks had mere days to migrate their entire offerings online. In this hour of desperation, there was no room for these digital services to scrimp on safety and reliability.

Meeting consumer needs

Where once UK citizens were using online banking to simply check balances and send money to friends, amid the pandemic they were forced to rely on these same technologies for a far greater selection of financial services like large payments, mortgage applications and loans – a worry for many, due to the prevalence of online fraud.So, while the number of people banking online hardly grew in the UK, their renewed need for trusted online banking certainly did.

Banks felt the pressure to meet this expectation of trust. Now, as the pandemic shows signs of easing up, continual provision of trust will be a vital differentiator in the eyes of the clued-up British public.

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But how can they continue to provide capable, competent, caring, and purposeful banking that encourages big transactions and applications online, even as face-to-face banking becomes possible again?

Guarantee security

In the UK, bank fraud hit a new record last year with online fraudsters scamming £497m out of consumers. This rise in fraud is one of the reasons why people do not fully trust digital transactions. Financial providers and banks need to show they can protect customers from fraud to earn their trust. This means stepping up their security.

To keep fraudsters at bay, a ‘step up’ system of authentication is needed to ensure that higher-value digital transactions such as payments or credit applications are protected. Essentially, the riskier the transaction, the more robust the level of security needed. Banks that can prove they are taking security seriously are seen as competent and capable, deserving of customers’ trust.

For example, while fingerprint or device recognition is suitable for balance checking or moving money between customer’s accounts, facial recognition that confirms a person’s identity is more likely to reassure customers for major payments or opening new accounts.

This additional level of protection confirms to customers that their bank is serious about protecting their data and their identity. To take things a step further, behavioural biometrics, which confirms identities by assessing consumer behaviour to create a unique digital fingerprint, could add an additional layer of defence.

The challenge for banks and financial services providers is to strike a balance between ease and security. When making a payment, we want to complete the transaction accurately and quickly. Any extra step in the process isn’t always convenient, but could be perceived as reassuring, if banks let customers know how any additional steps protect them.

By striking an optimal balance between user convenience and security, customers will be more likely to trust the transaction.

Put customers in control

Unfortunately, digital transaction fraud isn’t the only cybercrime customers are worried about. Customers also want to feel that their personal information is in safe hands.

According to Accenture, only 37% of global customers trusted their bank to look after their data in 2020, down from 51% in 2018, a steep decline, and asking for seemingly irrelevant data only makes customers more suspicious. In fact, 52% of US consumers are more willing to trust a company that limits its request to only relevant data, according to McKinsey.

But for higher-value transactions, banks need to ask for more data from their customers to prevent fraud. Making sure banks are collecting the necessary data at appropriate touch points is the key to establishing trust.

Central to that goal, banks must explain and be open about how this data is used. This could be through pop-up notifications that appear onscreen but don’t interrupt the payment process, and for people who want to know more, additional links in the pop-up can allow them to find out how their data is being used.

As a result, customers can be in control, and feel reassured about how their data is being handled. By deploying this kind of digital toolkit, customers can count on an engaging user experience while also feeling cared for.

Demonstrate purpose

Customers aren’t simply looking at whether a bank has moved their money safely between accounts. They are looking at the bank as a whole – its interests, its investments, its values.A full 61% of UK customers have ditched a bank because of a difference in values, according to Braze. The relationships of trust that banks must cultivate with customers require transparency and honesty. If that sounds like too much to ask, customers won’t be coming back.

But how can a trustworthy bank demonstrate reliability? For one, it can signpost how long certain processes will take, and stick to this. Setting realistic expectations and meeting them is far better than making unrealistic promises which undermine customer trust. Similarly, claiming that transactions are secure and then demonstrating that funds have been moved safely is more than a mere transaction: it builds strong customer experiences and ultimately cultivates loyalty.

Banks must move ‘trust’ to the top of their priority lists, if they wish to thrive in the post-pandemic, resilience-conscious environment. It doesn’t start with grand advertising campaigns or declarations of guaranteed trustworthiness. It starts with a single transaction meeting its promise to the customer. In this sense, trust is not a single event but a relationship to be built with every expectation met and every promise kept.