How competition is improving customer choice and driving innovation in UK retail banking
A vibrant group of banking businesses is emerging in the UK, often described as ‘challenger banks’. These banks are not any of the recognised main high street banks (RBS, HSBC, Lloyds, Barclays, Santander), but they have received significant attention in recent years, primarily for their means of driving innovation and improving customer service levels in the market.
While this development is potentially exciting, the diversity of these banks is not widely understood. Too often, it is assumed that the ‘challenger banks’ are all cut from the same cloth, and that they face identical market dynamics.
To challenge such misleading assumptions – and to better understand how the opportunities available to these banks can be exploited - PwC has interviewed dozens of CEOs and senior executives from these organisations, while working with YouGov to establish consumers’ views and preferences as the banking industry evolves.
Our report documents in detail our research and interviews with the CEOs about this part of the UK retail banking market. For a taster, here are the four key findings:
These banks actually consist of four broad groups with different models, aspirations and challenges. Many do not define success in terms of their ability to challenge or rival the large high street banking groups. Rather, their goal is to serve their specific target markets profitably.
“We're happy being customers' second bank. We don't want to be their primary bank and we don't offer current accounts for this reason; current accounts are a dated product.”
The banks we spoke to recognised and appreciated regulatory efforts to open the market to new entrants and foster further competition, for instance through the recent investigation by the Competition and Market’s Authority (CMA) into the retail banking market.
However, they highlighted a number of areas that could accelerate progress:
“Capital (standardised vs. IRB model) is the single biggest issue and dwarfs everything else.”
As the regulators take action to further develop competition, the future market will be increasingly varied and modular, resulting in a very different banking experience for customers. Open Banking will give rise to new business models: some providers will choose to specialise in narrow areas, while others will compete by making it possible to integrate niche offerings from a number of different companies in a seamless way.
However, the success of any Open Banking strategy will rest on firms' ability to build trust with their customers. Banks and third party providers will need to reassure consumers that they have the appropriate security measures in place to safeguard their data and respect confidentiality.
“If one pillar falls, the others are at risk.”
Our consumer survey highlighted significant customer perception issues for most of the groups. Each group also has specific challenges. For example, mid-sized full service banks face pressure to transform their operating models and differentiate their propositions, while digital-only players seek to build awareness with customers and attract them with distinctive service offerings.
“Many challenger banks will get bought within the next five years; I find it difficult to see a future where all the current challenger banks will be successful in the long term […]”
The catch-all idea of a challenger bank masks the very significant differences between many of the banks it purports to describe. We see these banks split between four broad groupings with varying target markets and service models: