COVID-19 reduces branch traffic, spurs more mobile bank app usage

The coronavirus appears to have reduced traffic in bank branches and pushed many consumers to rely more heavily on mobile banking applications for their banking needs.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, customers have visited bank branches less frequently and utilized mobile banking applications more often to access banking services, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence's annual mobile banking survey. The survey indicates that the trend could have legs, with consumers who are using their apps more frequently saying they will likely continue to do so post-pandemic.

Nearly 58% of survey respondents affirmed that they had visited bank branches less frequently since the COVID-19 outbreak. While most respondents — nearly 48% — exhibited no change in their mobile banking behavior, more than 44% of survey respondents used their mobile banking apps more frequently after the COVID-19 outbreak began.


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Interestingly, less than 2% of respondents said they used their mobile banking app for the first time since the pandemic surfaced. This stands in contrast to the experience of other mobile financial services. For example, nonbank mobile payment apps like PayPal Holdings Inc. and Square Inc.'s Cash App have seen significant growth in new users in the past few months. According to the survey data, the growth in mobile banking activity has come from existing users leaning on mobile functionality more often rather than brand new customers adopting the service.

Younger consumers have long been the most active mobile bank users. The survey shows that more than 50% of Gen Z and Millennials use their mobile bank apps daily, while close to 47% of consumers in the Gen X age group access the apps every day. Meanwhile, 34% of Baby boomers and 32% of Seniors use mobile bank apps at least once a day. The survey generated at least 1140 responses for the Gen X, Millennial and Baby boomer generations, while receiving 157 responses in the Gen Z age group and 133 responses from Seniors.

All generations have used their mobile banking apps more frequently due to COVID-19. However, the growth has been stronger in younger generations. Nearly 56% of Gen Z respondents said they are using mobile banking apps more frequently, while more than 46% of Millennial and Gen X respondents say they use apps more often.

A majority of the Baby boomer and Senior generations reported no change in the frequency of their app usage as a result of COVID-19. However, that majority is not an overwhelming one; 40% of Boomers and over a third of Seniors reported using their mobile bank apps more frequently in recent months.

Frequency in usage seems to have grown most among customers who are using mobile banking apps daily. Across the population, nearly 85% of mobile banking users engage with their apps at least a few times per week. More than 45% of respondents use these apps at least once per day. Nearly 51% of daily users report using their mobile banking apps more frequently after the COVID-19 outbreak began.

These shifts in behavior toward more frequent usage are clearly significant and survey data suggests that these changes in consumer behavior could have some legs to run. Among the 1,777 respondents who admitted to more frequent usage in recent months, a majority anticipate maintaining their current level behavior even after COVID-19 related restrictions are lifted.

That response suggests that a significant portion of the consumer population among the so-called power mobile bank app users believe the pandemic will have a lasting impact on how they conduct banking transactions.

Those customers might be gaining even greater comfort in a post-COVID-19 world to access banking services purely through digital channels. However, about 34% of all respondents said they had visited a bank branch in the last 30 days. Moreover, a sizable portion of the older population continues to use mobile bank apps somewhat sparingly, even if the number of users in that cohort is growing. That suggests that most banks cannot rely fully in digital channels and keep their customer base happy.

This article was published by S&P Global Market Intelligence and not by S&P Global Ratings, which is a separately managed division of S&P Global.
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