JD Power: Big Bank Defections Up on Fees, Poor Service

The consumer backlash against big bank fees, along with poor service, has fueled increases in defection rates among customers of large, regional and midsize banks, according to the J.D. Power and Associates.
The public uproar may have subsided from last year’s proposed – then rescinded –plans for debit card fees by Bank of America and other big banks. But the ripple effect has not stopped.
That debit card fee fiasco led to “Bank Transfer Day” on Nov. 5, 2011.
The beneficiaries of the increased exodus from larger banks continue to be primarily smaller banks and credit unions, according to J.D. Power and Associates’ 2012 U.S. Bank Customer Switching and Acquisition Study.
Acquisition of new customers by smaller banks and credit unions has increased by 2.2 percentage points to an average of 10.3 percent in 2012 – up from 8.1 percent in 2011.
Among big banks, regional banks and midsize banks, switching rates average between 10.0 and 11.3 percent, while the defection rate for small banks and credit unions averages only 0.9 percent, a significant drop from 8.8 percent in 2011.
The study, which examines the bank shopping and selection process, finds that 9.6 percent of customers in 2012 indicate they switched their primary banking institution during the past year to a new provider.
This is up from 8.7 percent in 2011 and 7.7 percent in 2010.
The study finds that, not unexpectedly, fees are the main reason customers shop for a new primary bank. In particular, one-third of customers of big and large regional banks cite fees as the main reason for shopping for a new bank.
“When banks announce the implementation of new fees, public reaction can be quite volatile and result in customers voting with their feet,” said Michael Beird, director of the banking services practice at J.D. Power and Associates.
However, customers weigh banking fees against the value of their total experience with their financial institution.
“It is apparent that new or increased fees are the proverbial straws that break the camel’s back,” said Beird. “Service experiences that fall below customer expectations are a powerful influencer that primes customers for switching once a subsequent event gives them a final reason to defect.”
Regardless of bank size, more than one-half of all customers who said fees were the main reason to shop for another bank also indicated that their prior bank provided poor service.
“Only 32 percent of customers who selected a new bank because of promotional offerings said they definitely would not switch banks again in the next 12 months,” said Beird. “In comparison, 46 to 51 percent of customers who chose the new bank because of either good service experience or positive recommendations say they definitely will not leave within the next year.
J.D. Power and Associates offers the following tips:

  • Shop around to compare terms and service before deciding on a bank, the same way you might before buying a vehicle. Don’t forget about direct online banks, as their competitive fees and rates may offset any inconvenience due to lack of physical branches.
  • Don’t be swayed by promotion gifts/cash alone. It is more important to ensure the bank that you are selecting offers the right products to meet your needs and that the fees associated with the products are in line with what you are willing to pay.
  • Read account brochures and disclosures carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions about the products you are about to open. It is important to fully understand how fees are charged and how fees can be avoided.

The 2012 U.S. Bank Customer Switching and Acquisition Study is based on evaluations from 5,062 customers who shopped for a new banking account or new primary financial institution during the past 12 months.
The study was fielded in November and December 2011, and includes Bank of America; Bank of the West; BBVA Compass; BB&T; Capital One; Chase; Citibank; Comerica Bank; Fifth Third Bank; Harris National Bank; HSBC; Huntington National Bank; KeyBank; M&I Bank; M&T Bank; PNC Bank; RBS Citizens; Regions Bank; Sovereign Bank; SunTrust Bank; TD Bank; U.S. Bank; Union Bank; and Wells Fargo.

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