How lenders can win the main-bank war

The fight over 'main-bank' customers is heating up as lenders try to eke out every possible advantage over their rivals. Now the battleground is clearer: statistics show if a bank can acquire and retain customers in their mid-20s and 30s it will undoubtedly win the main-bank war.

From a total sample of over 40,000 consumer interviews globally, the report took into account the opinions of 22,000 banking customers from 11 APAC markets – Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand.   

" Highly digitally engaged consumers are the least sticky of all customers despite their increased product holdings."
Alan Shields, Managing Director of RFi Advisory

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In past studies RFi has always been fascinated by the fact almost nobody across the globe switches their main bank after the age of 34 – in fact, around the world, more than 90 per cent of all main bank switchers do so before they reach the age of 35.

The reasons behind this often lies in life stage changes such as buying/moving home, moving/starting work and getting into or out of a relationship, all of which in turn often require a rethink of banking arrangements.

So from a main bank perspective, this (18 to 34 years) is an absolutely critical time for both acquisition, but perhaps importantly, retention and it is on the latter that we would like to focus.

This switching is reflected in both past switching behaviour and in future switching intent. Likelihood to switch main bank accelerates and peaks in the 25 to 34 segment globally and it is in this age group that proactive retention should therefore be focused.

In fact, 16 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds globally are very likely to switch their main bank in the next 12 months, compared to an average switching intention of 12 per cent.

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In addition, across the Asian markets, very few of the large incumbent banks have been able to increase their share of the 25 to 34 segment in recent years. Three notable exceptions to this have been ANZ and CBA in the Australian market and HSBC in the Hong Kong market.

In the case of these three banks, success has been driven by a combination of specific acquisition campaigns focussed on the younger demographic segments, a focus on customer experience and importantly, a focus on digital engagement.


Indeed, in attempting to retain the 25 to 34 segment, the importance of digital engagement should not be underestimated.

RFi Group found that this age group was the most likely to be 'highly digitally engaged' (determined by using mobile or tablet banking more than once a week) and that if they could be kept engaged, then they offered enormous opportunity for main bank product cross-sell.

In fact, a highly digitally engaged consumer has 4.4 unique products with their main bank, compared to just 2.7 for a non-digitally engaged consumer.

The caveat on this digital engagement is that highly digitally engaged consumers are the least sticky of all customers despite their increased product holdings.

Indeed, any bank looking to drive digital engagement needs to understand that once they embark on the initiative, they must continuously adapt and improve their digital proposition so as not to fall behind the competition.

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Alan Shields is Managing Director of RFi Advisory

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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