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Would you pay for a simple bank?

By Claes Bell · Bankrate.com
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Posted: 9 am ET

Would you pay for a simpler banking experience? A recent survey by branding firm Siegel+Gale finds that some U.S. consumers are willing to do just that:

U.S. consumers would pay the retail banking industry an additional $1.4 billion each year for more simplified interactions and experiences.

That willingness may stem in part from how complicated a banking relationship can be for U.S. consumers when it comes to fees, account selection and customer service, according to the survey. The Siegel+Gale survey seeks to quantify the simplicity or complexity of different industries, and retail banking as an industry didn't do great:

Returns on retail banking in this year's index showed growth, but not enough to bump the industry out of the bottom half of the pack with a No. 15 ranking (out of 25 industries).

At a time when banks are desperately searching for a way to get customers to pay for checking, this survey might provide some clues.

I think it's basically true the some people are willing to pay for a simpler and more pleasing customer experience. For instance, I do most of my grocery shopping at Florida-based grocery store chain Publix (ranked No. 5 out of all U.S. brands in the survey). I could probably find better pricing if I went to Walmart or another big-box store, but the better service and overall experience I get shopping at Publix is worth paying a little extra each week for food.

A pricing model that asks customers to pay a few dollars a month for a checking account, in exchange for an end to ticky-tacky fees, stylish and pleasant branches and an overall commitment to simplicity and excellent, personalized service could find some converts. If you can begin to get people to think of your service as a premium subscription, rather than a commodity, it makes it much more valuable.

On the other hand, I think there are a lot of people for whom free checking is the ultimate priority, and they're unwilling to pay a premium for any kind of stepped-up service, simple fee structures or other perks. If they get those things for free, great, but don't expect them to pay more for them.

What do you think? Are you willing to pay more for a banking experience that's simpler and more pleasant? Or is pricing king?

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1 Comment
Cole
December 09, 2011 at 1:58 pm

What kind of high finance are people engaged in that makes banking so complicated? Of course, with the complete lack of financial education in this country, balancing a check book is too complicated for a lot of people (I mean this sincerely.) Instead of paying for "simpler banking" people should be paying for personal finance courses.