What’s that saying? You’re more like to get divorced than you are to switch your bank account. Below Matt Shaw, Strategist at RAPP UK, explores why high-street banks need to re-connect with young customers or face losing the next generation to digital first challengers.

For ten years now consumers have been used to getting less from their banks. Lower interest rates, fewer high-street banks and little reward for their “loyalty”.

Against this backdrop a quiet revolution has begun. New digital first challenger banks like Monzo, Atom and Starling are offering something genuinely different and are hoover-ing up younger audiences in the process. What’s more, Open Banking is set to explode consumer choice and making comparing and switching banks easier.

While these challengers pose a threat, established retail banks have a limited window of opportunity. At the moment young consumers are using these challenger bank accounts as “play money”, a supplementary account, allowing them to budget better, rather than a direct rival to the Big Four. However, this “play money” perception is likely to change as customers become more engaged challenger banks’ products and their brands become more established and more trusted.

Traditional retail banks need to sit up and take note if they want to capture the next generation of customers.

Driving preference

Whilst loyalty may be dead, retail banks still have an opportunity to deliver value to their customer base and protect against digital first challengers. Rather than aiming for (and missing) loyalty, retail banks should look to consistently drive preference across the customer lifecycle.

At RAPP we use three key elements to drive preference: Value Perception, Customer Experience, and Generosity.

Good customer data is central to all three of these elements. While new digital first challenger banks have no issues with this, it’s safe to safe that many retail banks will need to get their legacy data and systems in order if they want to deliver these elements.

Value Perception

One of the easiest ways retail banks can drive preference is by reflecting and reminding customers of the value they receive and the relationship they have.

Digital first financial services are currently leading the way in this space. Savings app Chip uses AI to analyze customer data and recommend opportunities for them to squirrel away money into their account in real time. Whilst this is a great new customer experience, the app is also amazing at replaying value back to customers. When money is transferred from your account, their friendly chat bot notifies you with an encouraging message and a humorous gif telling you that you’re #winning. When you ask for your savings balance they not only replay your balance, but your savings to date, your interest rate, the value of this interest and when this interest is due.

Customer Experience

The customer experience gap between digital first challenger banks and established retail banks couldn't be much greater at the moment. Whilst new challenger banks have no high-street stores, they’re beating established banks where it counts, through digital and mobile apps.

Monzo, Starling and Atom offer a stark contrast to the mobile apps of established banks. Their platforms offer spending analytics, integration with third parties and enhanced functionality like bill splitting and money pots; in comparison established banks can offer only the most basic functionality (balance enquiries, payments). Moreover these new challenger banks are constantly evolving their offering, while established banks can only give their apps a UX facelift with no new functionality.

New challenger banks are raising expectations of what a bank should offer consumers, particularly among urban millennials – something established banks should be concerned about as they are the most likely audience to switch provider (32% say they are “very likely” to switch in the next year[1]).


Generosity is all about recognizing and rewarding customer engagement through regular value-adds that make customers feel valued.

Retail banks need to get out of the habit of using the transactional rewards based on cash back and increased interest rates. Instead, retail banks should looks to create value through customer data and collaboration with third parties. Both Starling and Monzo have added “marketplace” functionality to their apps allowing third parties to offer customers their services. Starling have two “loyalty” schemes (Flux and Tail) offering customers instant cash back when they make a purchase at restaurants and shops. However, this functionality has the ability to grow exponentially, and into non-financial generosity, with Open Banking making it simple for banks and third parties to interact.

Established retail banks can no longer sit back and let inertia reign supreme. Not only are new banks challenging the status quo and winning younger audiences, their nimble user interfaces and pristine databases mean they are also the most likely to profit from the future innovations of Open Banking. Established retail banks need to wake up to the challenge and rediscover how to drive preference. They can do this by innovating their customer experience to match new heightened expectations, using customer data to replay value and by smattering their base with product and non-product generosity.