How people choose their primary financial institution

Sep 29, 2021
Jackie Lam
Contributing Writer

While there has been a surge in personal savings during the pandemic, where someone parks their money doesn't necessarily equate to that bank, credit union, or financial services platform being their primary financial institution. 

What it means to be a primary financial institution is evolving. In recent years, consumers have defined their primary institution in different ways – where they receive their direct deposit, where they set up the majority of their recurring bill payments, or where they do the most mobile banking. Among the top list of factors that influence which institution consumers choose as their primary, access to mobile and online banking ranks highest.

This shift could be chalked up to consumers wanting a digital-focused experience that aligns with their changing needs. More and more, a positive digital banking experience is the first step in establishing a valuable relationship with a new customer or member.

Encouraging people to go beyond using their bank or credit union as a place to deposit money, and turn to it for other services and products – like bill pay or car and home loans – is achieved through a combination of useful features and little “moments of truth” that build trust and strengthen the relationship.

Let's take a look at some of those moments that can influence your customers & members to choose you as their primary institution: 

Build trust from the start

Moment of truth: When your marketing message aligns with your product experiences.

Trust is easiest built by doing what you say you'll do, and delivering on the brand promises you make. One of the more obvious examples of this is building a consistent experience all the way from your marketing site, through your account opening flow, to the in-app experience. If a prospective customer has a poor experience when journeying from the marketing site to the actual product – or there's a disconnect in brand voice and messaging – that could drastically erode trust. 

Focus on the entire customer experience, and main areas where an enhanced digital experience will develop that trust. This is everything from honing your brand messaging through online and mobile channels, and making the account opening process as easy as possible.

When onboarding new customers, consider offering funding options that take the pain and hassle out of getting a new account started. Adopt an e-commerce style approach to selecting an account type: a curated set of "basic accounts" that they can open all at once or the freedom to add multiple accounts to their “shopping cart”. 

And last, teach them how to best use the digital tools and resources available by way of bite-sized tutorials, blog posts, and videos.

Meet your customers where they are

Moment of truth: When users realize you're tuned into their needs. 

Anytime a financial institution invests in new technology and services for their customers and members, there’s an inherent risk that the return on that investment won’t match expectations. And while it’s difficult to analyze which new features and functionality will give the greatest return, institutions can better serve their digital users by starting with a simple question: What are their current struggles and challenges?

Take for instance financial services platforms like Digit or Qapital that started by offering a single service and have since expanded to offer banking accounts and investment products. Instead of leaning on legacy products, they've expanded to cater to the needs of modern life. And, because these financial platforms first developed trust with their users, feature by feature, they can stay relevant in the eyes of their existing customers – who are more likely to open a savings account or try a new investment product.

Having the ability to take an agile approach and develop features on your own timeline is a clear signal that your institution can be responsive to the evolving needs of your customers and members, whether that's developing your own features internally or utilizing existing fintech integrations. Narmi's AppXchange is a good example of the latter.

Fine-tuning your online banking and mobile features can lead to those “moments of truth” that communicate your commitment to offering everything your users need to be their primary institution.

Create experiences based on different user segments 

Moment of truth: When turning to their institution for different life needs is an enjoyable experience. 

This might sound like a tall order, but you can start by understanding the needs, common questions, and challenges customers at different points of their lives face. Common instances include saving for a home or car, planning for a vacation, or starting a family.

A good place to start understanding the segmented needs of your users is to lean on existing user data & feedback channels. Here, community-focused banks and credit unions have a leg up on the big banks thanks to deeper relationships with the communities they serve. Adding a data analysis layer on top of these relationships can result in business intelligence that can greatly impact growth. 

All too often though, financial institutions struggle to extract actionable insights from their data for myriad reasons – the most common being siloed data sets, reports, and dashboards that require a large technical team to create, as well as analytics tools that only cater to specific teams within an institution. 

Removing these common data roadblocks though can unlock an institution's ability to offer the most value to their customers and members. Value that keeps them turning to your institution as their primary financial institution. 

Provide greater resources for small business owners

Moment of truth: When users realize they don’t need to switch institutions to cover all their business banking needs. 

Being able to grow with your customers and members is more than just selling them on large financial products like home and auto loans. During the pandemic, more and more people have started small businesses as their financial lifelines. According to the U.S. Census, 4.3 million new business applications were filed in 2020, 1 million more than in 2019.

One potential tactic for winning customers over, and having them choose you as their primary institution, is to focus on better serving the needs of those newly formed small and medium-sized businesses. Offering a seamless and integrated business banking experience is a powerful way to showcase the reliability and extended value of your institution.

Integrating the tools businesses already rely on – such as Autobooks and Quickbooks – and curating resources aimed at helping new business owners can also go a long way toward offering lifetime value. Simple conveniences like adding a Gmail-style account switching experience so customers can move quickly between their business and consumer accounts without the need to re-authenticate can make mobile and digital banking smoother and simpler, and thus more attractive and accessible. 

Small changes go a long way

When the goal is to encourage more users to choose you as their primary financial institution, your priority should be providing a user experience that inspires user trust. 

Think about the long-term relationship one has with a bank, and work toward improving the overall customer experience by improving current features, creating new ones, and expanding products and features. Remember: the little things – minor tweaks, rollouts of upgrades to features, and even a consistent brand message – can be the "moment of truth" for your customers and members.

Narmi Inc.
3 East 28th St. Floor 12
New York, NY 10016

How people choose their primary financial institution