The relevance of building societies amongst younger savers
Attitudes towards banking have rapidly shifted in recent years as younger, tech-savvy customers enter the marketplace. Digital native users expect a smooth and seamless banking experience, no matter if they are in-branch, online or on their mobile. A recent poll by the deVere Group found that 59% of their surveyed clients born between 1980 and 1996 either exclusively use digital banking services or are planning to switch to these services within the next year.
The ability to access around-the-clock support on apps, immediately make changes to PINs and freeze or unfreeze cards as often as required are clear benefits offered by many digital-first financial providers.
One of the strengths building societies and credit unions have is their relatively high savings balances. A report the Building Societies Association (BSA) discovered that total savings balances across the sector reached £297 billion at the end of 2020, equaling a 18% market share of the total £1,718 billion across the UK.
Embracing digital transformation and innovative technologies can make savings products and processes more relevant to Millennials and the growing Generation Z population. Nottingham Building Society launched savings app Beehive Money in 2018 to encourage online savings who want an “exclusively online experience”.
A great deal of the functionality included in the Beehive Money platform, such as live support and personalised savings goals, meet the needs of younger users who want their banking experience to be similar to other services. Customers have become accustomed to the technology that supports services like Netflix and Amazon and expects these benefits in all areas of their life.
David Marlow, CEO, Nottingham Building Society commented, “There are a number of key drivers as to why it is essential to digitise. Not only does it provide the capability to be more accessible and scalable at lower cost, it opens up a whole new range of opportunities to develop and enhance your proposition – In our case enabling Beehive Money to be goals based rather than product driven and link digitally to partners like MAB who can seamlessly combine saving for a new home and obtaining independent mortgage advice to find the best mortgage on the market for every member.”
Many other mutual banks have identified the value in digitising their savings products to rebuff challenger banks and fintech firms that are introducing their own savings services. Savings may represent an older set of customers than other products, but the quicker building societies are able to establish their own digital platforms, the more attractive they will become to younger savers.
Mutual Vision, a digital platform provider for building societies, is one of the main organisations that works with building societies to achieve the benefits of digital transformation. While the IT budgets big banks have at their disposal are significant, building societies can still implement innovative technological solutions that offer younger savers the features they want.
Not all building societies are focusing their attention on digital tools, despite the urgent need to develop this area. A BSA report found that just 25% of building societies view digital money management tools as a priority for investment over the next 2 years. As the savings market continues to see new competitors enter the space, maintaining the current strength of building societies will become increasingly difficult without innovation.
The ethical and values driven approach of building societies are an ideal fit for the ethically-focused attitudes many younger savers hold. Yet, unless a truly digital experience can be provided, it’s likely younger users will move to a more high-tech platform.
Written by Finbarr Toesland, Editorial Contributor, VC Innovations
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