What’s America’s Favorite Bank?

Social media can reveal consumer banking preferences

America’s most-favored bank is more like America’s least-hated bank.

Financial services companies form an essential part of people’s everyday lives.From the first morning coffee at Starbucks to a late night Uber home, we directly or indirectly interact with money all the time.  

Even as indispensable as they might be, financial services  brands are far from beloved in the eyes of consumers. And It is not surprising why everyone loves to hate banks —  since the financial crisis in ‘08, consumer confidence in commercial banks and other institutions has only been languishing. But thanks to the proliferation of innovative fintech ideas and new, more convenient mobile apps, the attitude towards traditional financial companies is changing in important ways.

But the thing about legacy institutions like old commercial banks is that they build loyalty and dependence — so much so that in this age of all-pervasive technology, consumer loyalty is the only thing that’s keeping the major banks alive.

Can we understand more about what consumers love and hate about commercial banks? On what basis do  consumers pledge allegiance? Do we have a winner (or less of a loser)?  Do Americans have a favorite bank? Yes, it’s Bank of America.

In this post, we look at some vectors that determine why consumers favor one bank over others by looking at:

  • What consumers want from their banks
  • Commercial banks ranked by consumer sentiment
  • People’s bank of choice

What Consumers Want

Before we get into brand specifics, it’s crucial to trace the evolution of consumer conversation about financial services online. The consumer attitude towards discussing personal finance has been changing. Once abstruse and impenetrable, the financial services industry is finally opening up and eliciting consumer feedback and comments.

As evident in the graph below, the discussion around financial topics has been surging for the past few years, albeit with some inconsistency. In 2016, the conversation peaked to 930k posts, as politically charged conversations about debt and regulations dominated the headlines.  

As everyone from old and young, male and female, rich and poor interact with the financial services industry and its latest innovations, consumers realize that online platforms are the most convenient and effective way to manage their finances.

But to know why consumers hate or love any brand, it’s critical to understand the experience they are seeking from a service. When it comes to finserve brands, the social conversation can give insight into consumer demands. People prioritize convenience over security and good customer service.  

Now that we know what financial consumers value, we can assess how they perceive different financial services companies based on this parameter.

What Consumers Bank on...

As such, the consumer sentiment towards financial services industry is bleak. In many ways, you might assume that the finserv industry is like the cable industry: if a consumer is talking about your brand, they’re probably doing so negatively. While there is a kernel of truth in that, it is a vast oversimplification. As consumer conversation has largely migrated online, it has also opened up. Consumers don’t simply take to social media and forums to complain about customer service or product issues — they talk about finserv brands in broad, unstructured, unsolicited ways.

But before we get into the brand conversation, let’s look at how consumers feel about the finserv industry in general.

When we analyzed consumer conversations about personal finances to understand the emotions associated with finserv topics, we found that consumer sentiment about the overall topic has declined in recent years. Since 2010, consumer sentiment towards financial services companies has steadily deteriorated.

Analyzing how consumers feel about broad financial topics helps us better understand their preferences and pains.It is also important for companies, especially banks in the industry to know how their specific brand is perceived by consumers, especially in comparison to their competitors. But are there some banking services consumers like, universally, no matter which brand is offering it? Yes, virtual wallets, mobile apps and direct pay are some of them. Whereas  consumers are irked by banks’ hidden fees, miscommunication and wait times.

Bank for the Buck

Big commercial banks are still working to undo the bad rap they earned after the financial crisis of ‘08. The online conversation mentioning major banks has steadily risen since 2010 —  Bank of America leads with the 45% share of voice, followed by Chase, Wells Fargo and Citibank.

Of course, share of voice is only one metric by which to rank commercial banks. Now that we have measured the volume of conversation, can we know more about the specifics of the discussion? What are people talking about with regards to Bank of America? People discussed the bank’s credit card the most, followed by money transfer and balance.

The other key aspect of measuring a brand’s worth is by the sentiment associated with these branded conversations. Here are how the top commercial banks compare in terms of consumer sentiment.

Being a consumer favorite might be a far cry for Bank of America it is doing something right — the bank is slated to open 500 branches in the next four years and add 5400 jobs.

Conclusion 

Everyone loves to hate banks but consumer conversations on social prove that it’s not so easy to cut the cord with them. As audiences online drop their guard while discussing money matters, the growth of social media platforms, forums and review sites have given consumers free reign to discuss personal finance topics, review strategies and seek recommendations.

As they all flock online, we analyze millions of conversations to provide key consumer insights about for the finserv industry.

To get the full report on the financial services industry, click here.

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