Do big banks really care what you think?
Take Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) and Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC), for instance. Both banks are aware of the disdain with which the general public has looked upon them since the financial crisis, and each has made high-profile efforts to change that perception. Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) began the year with a new customer care program, and Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) has begun sponsoring a bike-sharing program in Manhattan called Citibike, complete with brightly colored bicycles emblazoned with the bank’s logo.
This behavior seems to suggest these banks are concerned with public perception, right? Unfortunately, a bank’s willingness to spend money on PR campaigns doesn’t translate into higher customer satisfaction — something a new study shows quite clearly.
A measure of customer frustration
Research firm cg42 has released the results of its 2013 Retail Banking Brand Vulnerability Study, which attempts to measure whether customer annoyance with the top 10 big retail banks will result in consumers taking their business elsewhere.
When cg42 administered its first poll back in 2011, it showed that customer exasperation with banking fees was at the boiling point. The study’s authors estimated that this irritation could cost big banks $185 billion in deposits in the following year, as customers moved their accounts to other banks. Of course, that was the year that Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) tried to institute its infamous $5 per month debit card fee, which spurred the “bank transfer day” phenomenon.
Since those dark days, things have improved, though not a whole lot. This year’s study shows that the biggest banks are still in danger of losing big bucks over the next 12 months if they don’t start making nice: $92 billion in deposits, with a commensurate $5 billion in revenues. These results are not as terrible as those reported in the first poll, but they are not great, either.
Citi, B of A still at risk
Similarly, there is little good news as far as the most vulnerable banks are concerned. Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) dropped to No. 3 from No. 1, certainly nothing to brag about, while Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) moved up from second place to take the top spot. Interestingly, BB&T Corporation (NYSE:BBT) now holds spot No. 2, quite a turnaround from the last survey — though, when it comes to mortgage servicing, this bank trounces all others.
Only Wells Fargo & Co (NYSE:WFC) could be considered to have made some real strides, here, moving from the third most likely to lose deposits to reside much closer to the least vulnerable end of the scale, at No. 7.
Consumers still upset with the biggest banks
The study notes that, between surveys, there was a decrease from 33% to 26% in the population of banking customers considered at risk of switching banks. This is considered more a function of resignation on the part of consumers, however, rather than the result of better customer relations.
Interestingly, Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C)’s bike-share PR campaign hasn’t helped much: $18 billion of the vulnerable deposits are Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C)’s. Nor, it seems, have Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC)’s marketing efforts brought about much change in public attitude, as evidenced by this recent bank reputation survey.