Mercator Blog

U.S. Banks Can Learn from Those Abroad
Date: March 12, 2014
Research Team

A recently released report, Market Insight: Bank Readiness, published in 2013 by SunGard Retail Banking, surveyed adult consumers who live in Southeast Asia and the Middle East and have at least one primary banking relationship. These consumers appear to be more mobile enabled than consumers in the U.S. recently surveyed by Mercator Advisory Group, and more take advantage of mobile banking, but consumers in all three regions still frequent their bank branch for the face-to-face contact.

Mercator Advisory Group's CustomerMonitor Survey Series (CMSS) Banking and Channels survey, conducted in November 2013, surveyed an online panel of 3,003 U.S. adults who had at least one banking relationship. The report of that survey’s findings will be released early in 2014 and will include comparison with the series’ October 2012 survey of 1,000 U.S. adults with similar qualifications.

According to SunGard, 74% of Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern consumers own an Internet-enabled smartphone in 2013, up from 58% in 2012, while 42% own an iPad or tablet in 2013, up from 27% in 2012. In the U.S., 57% of U.S. adults own an Internet-enabled smartphone, up from 42% of U.S. adults in 2012 while 29% own a Web-enabled tablet, up from 16% in 2012.

The number of banking relationships increases with age in any region. In the U.S. we note that young adults are less likely than average even to have a bank account.

In 2012, 65% of Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern consumers used mobile banking on their smartphone. By comparison, in 2012 just 31% of U.S. adults used a smartphone or tablet to communicate with their bank or to perform banking activities, as reported in Mobile and Tablet Banking 2012: A Catalyst for Change, a survey report published by Mercator Advisory Group in April 2013.

SunGard reports that Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern consumers noted that online Internet banking (55%) and mobile banking (45%) are the bank services most in need of improvement. That may be the reason the use of mobile banking in those regions actually declined in 2013 to less than 55% of Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern consumers reporting using mobile banking on their smartphones.

If consumers have difficulty with mobile banking transactions or if account activities do not show up on all channels, consumers may not be so forgiving. Banks cannot leave a window open for alternative channels to deliver customer expectations from mobile banking channels.

The bank branch remains a critical component of the banking channel mix in the U.S. and abroad. Even in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, where consumers are more mobile enabled than in the U.S. and make greater use of mobile banking, 95% of consumers visit their bank branch regularly and 10% visit as often as twice a week. According to Mercator Advisory Group’s CMSS Banking and Channels survey, only 2 in 3 U.S. consumers visit a branch at least once a month and 3% reported visiting a branch more than once a week in 2012. While 58% of Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern consumers visit the branch to get help or advice, which is the most common reason for going to a branch, 59% of U.S. consumers go to a branch to deposit a check at a teller, 21% go to a branch to resolve a problem, and 17% go to meet with a customer service representative from a bank. Nevertheless, the single most preferred banking method among all available to U.S. consumers is to go into a branch to speak with a teller (34%) or a customer service representative (15%).

The bank’s ability to provide face-to-face interaction to conduct banking activities is paramount to customer satisfaction.

For more information on the following topics, see the following two research reports in Mercator Advisory Group’s CustomerMonitor Survey Series published in 2013: Mobile and Tablet Banking: A Catalyst for Change and Branch Banking 2012: All About the Relationship:


  • Attitudes, interest, and use of mobile banking• Consumers’ use of banking channels
  • Banking activities performed by computer, smartphone, or tablet
  • Satisfaction with mobile banking activities and other factors that may impact mobile banking
  • Preferences for branch type and location
  • Frequency of branch visits
  • Interest in new remote technologies for face-to-face interaction

Our latest Banking and Channels survey has recently been fielded, and updates to these reports will be available in early 2014.