Financial Supervisory Authority survey: Digitalisation of basic banking services is continuing strongly – banks, however, must continue to take all customer groups into account in provision of servicesA survey by the Financial Supervisory Authority (FIN-FSA) shows that, overall, the right of customers to basic banking services is implemented appropriately. However, concerns about the availability and pricing of basic banking services have emerged with the increasing digitalisation of banking services, and these are addressed in the range of services offered by banks to specific groups.
In connection with the FIN-FSA’s annual survey of basic banking services, a survey directed at banks was conducted on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the provision of basic banking services and on customer behaviour. At the same time, a review was conducted of new adjustments made by banks to digital services, mainly with regard to improvements in the availability and usability of services.
“Banks have managed to serve their customers reasonably well, despite the coronavirus pandemic. It is worth remembering, however, that while the pandemic has accelerated the use of digital services, banks must continue to take into account the needs of those who use non-digital services. Accessibility to basic banking services must also be safeguarded in exceptional circumstances”, says the FIN-FSA’s Director General, Anneli Tuominen.
There has been no significant variation in the cost of banking services compared to the previous year, but banking services are still most affordable for those who use digital banking services. The biggest change in costs concerns cash withdrawals from ATMs, which are no longer offered free of charge by any bank on an unlimited basis.
Adjustments to basic banking services
In its 2019 survey of basic banking services, the FIN-FSA reviewed the adjustments made to digital services. This year, the FIN-FSA collected information from banks on what adjustments have been made to meet the accessibility requirement for banks’ digital services and what alternatives to digital services are offered by banks.
For a long time now, the digitalisation of banking services has been changing the nature of services and service channels but, due to the pandemic, the development of the use of digital services has taken a rapid leap forward. Steering interactions towards digital channels has created difficulties, however, particularly for those customers who are unable to conduct their banking affairs digitally. As a rule, banks have recognised well their customers’ different levels of online expertise and responded to the problem by introducing a wide range of service adjustments.
Based on the information received from them, banks have continued to make adjustments in various ways. Banks offer adjustments to make remote services easier to use, including support for voice control and screen reader programs, and identification tools. The level of these adjustments as well as the available alternatives to digital services vary from bank to bank.
Effects of pandemic period on basic banking services
According to the banks, time- and place-independent digital services have established themselves even more among customers during the pandemic.
As a rule, banks have recognised well the wider need for advice of those customers who are not accustomed to remote transactions. Resources have been allocated to guide customers in the use of remote channels, and customers have been targeted with communications about the exceptional arrangements at branches during the pandemic. Attempts have been made to facilitate the remote transactions of the elderly and other groups of customers in need of support by creating for them dedicated telephone service lines providing, among other things, information on the services available during the exceptional situation and giving support and advice on using digital services.
Branch opening hours have been restricted during the pandemic, some branches have been closed or transactions at the branches have required an appointment. After the first wave of the pandemic, opening hours were largely restored, but with the changes in the infection situation, new restrictions on branch services have already been introduced. The FIN-FSA will also monitor the restoration of the banks’ branch network operations when the exceptional situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic ends in due course. Although the pandemic period has partially restricted the cash services offered by branches, banks have not reduced cash distribution points, and it has still been possible to withdraw cash in the usual way from ATMs as well as at banks’ merchant partner points.
On 4 December 2020, the FIN-FSA presented to the Parliamentary Supervisory Council a survey of the availability and pricing of basic banking services. The survey information is based on material obtained from the consumer payment account comparison website (www.fine.fi/maksutilivertailu, in Finnish), feedback from customers, stakeholders and supervised entities, and a survey of banks made in connection with the annual survey of basic banking services.
For further information, please contact
Samu Kurri, Head of Department
Requests for interviews are coordinated by FIN-FSA Communications, tel. +358 9 183 5030, weekdays 9.00–16.00.