Almost three-quarters of Greater Boston consumers and businesses said the pandemic has permanently changed how they interact with financial institutions, according to a recent survey by Citizens Bank.

Citizens found that 90 percent of consumers and 86 percent of businesses across the bank’s U.S. footprint use digital banking channels. In July 2020, 85 percent of consumers and 71 percent of businesses used digital channels, Citizens said in a statement.

The results were part of Citizens’ second annual Banking Experience Survey, which gathered responses from 1,028 consumers and 260 business leaders between Oct. 22 and Nov. 4.

“The nationwide survey of consumers and business leaders found not only that widespread digital adoption is here to stay, with at least 70 percent of consumers and business leaders saying it is permanent, but that customers are increasingly comfortable in sharing their personal data with their banks,” Citizens said in the statement.

In Greater Boston, 40 percent of respondents reported that COVID-19 had changed their interactions with financial institutions, which tied with Washington, D.C., for highest in any of the bank’s regions.

Most Boston area respondents – 73 percent – said the pandemic would permanently change how they prefer to interact with financial institutions. When asked whether they pay more attention to their finances compared to before the pandemic, 57 percent of Boston-area respondents said they do, while 19 percent said they do not.

The survey did find that human interaction remained important, with two-thirds of both consumers and businesses still preferring human expertise for financial advice, either in person or through virtual channels.

“This year’s survey shows that while the convenience of digital banking continues to attract consumers and businesses, there remains a need to provide a personal touch for advice and more complex transactions,” Beth Johnson, chief experience officer at Citizens, said in the statement. “These results highlight the ongoing need for banks to provide a seamless experience across all of their channels, even as digital channels evolve rapidly.”

Even with some preference for human interaction, only 27 percent of consumers said the convenience of physical branch locations was the most important factor in choosing a banking partner. The most important factor was mobile and online banking capabilities, cited by 40 percent of consumers.

Business leaders have become more confident with new banking channels, according to the survey, with 78 percent of respondents saying their experiences during the past year have made them much more comfortable doing their company’s banking online. Business leaders have also adopted alternative communication methods when banking, with 86 percent saying they were confident speaking with the bank using video conferencing tools and 70 percent saying they felt confident using a text chat function with a live banker to perform banking activities.

More than half of consumers expect banks in the future to use technology to anticipate their financial needs, with 53 percent of consumers saying that technological advances would allow banks to leverage data and artificial intelligence to better anticipate their future needs, up from 49 percent in 2020.

The survey also found that more than 80 percent of business leaders said their bank supported them through the COVID-19 crisis, and nearly as many said they viewed their bankers as strategic and financial partners.

Nearly 70 percent of consumers said they trusted their bank when making financial decisions, and 60 percent said they were comfortable sharing their financial goals with their bank.

“Over the last 18 months, we’ve seen how customers depend on their banks to be there for them and provide strategic advice,” Johnson said. “Listening to our customers’ needs in order to provide innovative solutions, services, and experiences with personalized insights is key as we continue to move forward together.”

Survey Shows Transformation of Business, Consumer Banking Customers

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min