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Apple and Google pose growing threat to UK High Street banks says brand agency Clear

Which isn’t very reassuring for chancellor George Osborne and UK taxpayers who are still hoping to recover the near £60bn spent on bailing out RBS and Lloyds Banking Group at the height of the credit crunch in 2009.

That’s the conclusion UK brand agency Clear draws from its new Brand Desire Study 2012 anyway. Clear asked 6,000 consumers which brands they ‘desired’ and the banks came way down the list with only 13 per cent of respondents liking them at all. Nat West (owned by RBS) ame in at 211, Lloyds at 274, Barclays at 279 and HSBC at 283.

In contrast, other companies with the ability to handle money through the ether such as Apple and Google are infinitely more desirable, Apple came second in Clear’s survey, Google fifth. Even Paypal came 21st (who came first)?

Clear CEO James Osmond (pictured), says: “We are at the start of a revolution in how people interact with money. Banks that fail to lead the agenda will struggle to survive. Having a mobile app and a digital guru isn’t enough – it’s about reinventing the experience of how people manage their money. The choice is simple: change now, or get left behind.”

James may or may not be right (he has a survey to sell, after all). Some people might argue that it’s not a bank’s job to be desired, just not to lose our money or rip us off too obviously (not that some of the UK’s big banks have very good at that either).

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He goes on: “Google Wallet, the smart virtual wallet for in-store and online shopping, was a warning shot to banks. They need to act now if they want to retain their customers over the next ten years. If they fail to make banking sexy, fun and imaginative then the door is wide open for a new competitor to step in. Traditional banks resemble computer brands 20 years ago before Apple revolutionised the PC market. The big financial services brand of tomorrow is just as likely to be Google or Apple as HSBC or AmEx.”

But will it really happen? All the evidence from the UK to date is that customers are reluctant in the extreme to desert the High Street banks for new internet-only services in large numbers. Even First Direct, which most of its customers seem to like, has not made great inroads, it comes 188 in this survey.

Retailers too have failed to dent the old guard, with both Tesco and Sainsbury’s stopping short of offering a full service (basically unprofitable current accounts). And the amount of capital required to run a full-service bank these days runs into many billions, however much people may like your brand. Even Apple might blanch at this.

Anyway, nice try James.

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