Banks lead the way on consumer digital

The disruptor may agitate about banks being dinosaurs but new consumer research reveals banking and finance actually leads the way when it comes to consumer digital activity.

Our new report, EY's Digital Australia: State of the Nation 2015-16, found financial technology is used by more Australians than anything else when they're online.

"The financial sector understands the specific needs and desired experiences of customers and how to apply intuitive digital solutions."
Tom Kennedy, Digital Partner at EY

Additionally, when consumers were asked to rank their 'digital experience' across all key sectors, financial services was one of the few sectors seen to have improved its experience since the last report in 2014.

Our report surveyed 1,500 consumers and over 140 of Australia's 'digital opinion leaders', exploring views about Australia's digital status. It compared Australia with global competitors, the best and worst sectors online, smartphone and tablet use and behaviour and social media.

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Setting the pace, banking and finance showed high volume engagement, with 91 per cent of Australians interacting online with a financial institution at least once a year and a third (36 per cent) doing so once a week or more.


This finding highlights how integral the internet has become to banking and finance services. Banking apps, particularly by the major banks, are quickly developing in terms of their functionality and ease of use.

While the laptop or PC are still the most frequently used devices for accessing banking and finance functions on the internet (49 per cent and 47 per cent respectively), the smartphone is not far behind (41 per cent).

It is also one of the few sectors to have increased since the last Digital Australia survey in 2014 and we believe there are a couple of reasons the sector is getting it right.

One, the financial sector understands the specific needs and desired experiences of customers and how to apply intuitive digital solutions. Two, they invest in the latest and embrace potentially disruptive forces. And three, they are operating in one of the most intensely competitive 'one-up' digital environments.

Consumer criteria for a high-quality digital experience continue to revolve around entry level factors. Security is at the top of the list, following by basic functionality requirements, such as ease of navigation and the ability to find a product or contact information.

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This consumer sentiment is doubly underlined by the digital opinion leaders who threw the spotlight on some of the fundamentals – easy processes, ease of navigation, responsive customer service and the purchasing process.

The EY report demonstrates the imperative for organisations get the fundamentals right first.

Broadly speaking, Australia is making progress, climbing two places in the World Economic Forum's Networked Readiness Index. The nation is now 16th in a list of 143 countries, with high rankings on the quality of its digital infrastructure and many aspects of its regulatory and business environment, including protection of intellectual property and infrastructure. Australia also ranked well in terms of online service offerings and e-participation tools.

Australians also rate the nation's digital aptitude more highly than they did in 2014. Around half (49 per cent) think Australia's digital economy is the 'same as' or 'more advanced' than other leading developed countries, compared with 44 per cent in 2014.

Younger generations are more optimistic about the country's standing than older Australians. That said digital opinion leaders do not consider Australia to be a standout digital economy. More than half rated the nation as being 'less advanced' than other leading developed countries.

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As the global economy accelerates on its path of digital transformation, Australian organisations need to keep up through:

  • Delivering an excellent digital experience: An overwhelming majority (95 per cent) of digital opinion leaders agreed that a poor digital experience risks losing customers. Often the first touchpoint in the customer journey, the digital experience has the power to switch customers off the brand and product.
  • Recognise what an outstanding digital experience actually is: Notably, 94 per cent of digital opinion leaders were concerned that senior managers in Australian businesses lack the understanding of what a great digital experience is. Our research shows that the foundations of an excellent digital experience are simple: offer security, ease of navigation, and ease of accessing information. Customers demand simplicity, immediately.
  • Continuing to innovate: Similarly, almost all digital opinion leaders (94 per cent) agreed that organisations that fail to leverage digital operations to drive innovation detract from their own competitive position.

Australia has some pockets of digital excellence and many demand drivers and technology and regulatory enablers in place. But, as this report shows, it's also coming up against some hurdles, in the form of consumer concerns around digital privacy, lack of digital experience innovation in many sectors and others failing to optimise offerings in line with the rapid shift to smartphone use.

Digital is all pervasive and deeply embedded in consumers' lives. The pace of change will continue to be frenetic. Against this backdrop, the efficiency and evolution of Australia's digital economy still has a way to go.

Tom Kennedy is a Digital Partner at EY

The views expressed in this article are the views of the author, not Ernst & Young. This article provides general information, does not constitute advice and should not be relied on as such. Professional advice should be sought prior to any action being taken in reliance on any of the information. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

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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