Important for banks to ensure availability of non-digital services and reasonable pricing of servicesAccording to its survey of basic banking services, the Financial Supervisory Authority (FIN-FSA) considers that, overall, the right of customers to basic banking services is being fulfilled appropriately. Banks must ensure, however, that adequate and affordable basic banking services are also available to customers who do not use digital services. The availability of cash must also be secured nationwide.
The overall level of fees charged for basic banking services increased in 2021. Banking is still least expensive for users of digital banking services. The price of paying a bill in non-digital service channels varies greatly from bank to bank. The FIN-FSA considers that the highest prices may jeopardise the reasonably priced availability of services in situations where people have no possibility to access digital service channels.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the availability of branch services. Banks must also offer those customers who for one reason or another are unable to use digital services the basic banking services they need at a reasonable price,” says Anneli Tuominen, Director General of the FIN-FSA.
The results are presented in the FIN-FSA’s annual survey on the availability and pricing of banking services. In addition, as in 2019–2020, the survey identifies improvements in the accessibility and usability of basic banking services’ digital channels. In addition, the FIN-FSA investigated how banks meet their obligations to provide basic banking services to customers who do not use digital channels.
Branch network has continued to shrink
The service hours of branches continued to decline in 2021. The branch network also contracted at about the same rate as in previous years. The number of branches serving personal customers was 740 at the time of the survey, compared with 769 in 2020.
The reduction in the number of branches and the decline in their service hours have in some cases lengthened queuing times in branches unreasonably. It is important for banks to address the issue of reasonable queuing times.
Usability and accessibility of digital service channels have improved
The use of digital services has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and banks consider this change in customer behaviour to be permanent. The customer’s threshold for the adoption of electronic services has lowered at the same time as services in branches have declined, particularly due to COVID-19 restrictions. A solid customer base continues to use branch services, however.
During 2021, banks have continued to develop digital banking services: they have improved the usability of services and promoted the accessibility of content. The FIN-FSA’s survey shows that some of the remote services and support for the use of services launched during the COVID-19 pandemic and originally planned to be temporary have also remained part of the banks’ permanent range of services.
Cash withdrawal services must be secured nationwide
Although the use of cash has been declining for a long time now, it remains the primary method of payment for hundreds of thousands of Finns. As the use of cash declines, there is a risk that the availability of cash withdrawal services will also fall below what is considered reasonable. The FIN-FSA considers it important that banks regularly assess the adequacy of the cash distribution channels they offer to customers and, in particular, that customers’ opportunities to access cash withdrawal services are also secured in sparsely populated areas nationwide.
The FIN-FSA also considers it necessary for legislation on the obligation to provide cash withdrawal services to be reviewed. In March 2022, the FIN-FSA submitted an initiative to the Ministry of Finance requesting that the Ministry assess the adequacy of existing legislation and possible needs for changes to ensure adequate availability of cash withdrawal services nationwide.
In case of cyber threats, it’s worth keeping a few days’ worth of cash at home
The intensified security situation has increased the potential for cyber threats. Denial-of-service attacks on bank services have also been observed in Finland.
“Banks’ mobile and online banking services are occasionally the target of denial-of-service and other cyber attacks. As a contingency for potential disruptions in card payments, it is recommended to set aside some cash for a few days’ needs,” says Tuominen.
On 1 April 2022, the FIN-FSA presented to the Parliamentary Supervisory Council a survey on 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.