skip to main content
How Banks Can Deliver on the Promise of Financial Wellbeing

How Banks Can Deliver on the Promise of Financial Wellbeing

by Andrew Robertson and Julie Griffiths

Story Highlights

  • Banks can engage customers by understanding what wellbeing means to them
  • Perceptions of financial wellbeing are subjective and intensely emotional
  • Feeling genuinely cared for makes customers more valuable

When financial services organizations discover what financial wellbeing means to their customers, their customers become more valuable and, as a result, more profitable.

Gallup has conducted extensive research on financial services consumers. The results show that financial wellbeing is just as important to customers as bankers think it is, but bankers don't capitalize on customers' unique needs as well as they could.

Perception is reality.

Bankers should care about that. When they say they're looking out for customers' wellbeing, they're making a big promise. To keep it, financial services leaders have to know what financial wellbeing means to their customers.

They should also know that there's more than one definition and it's always subjective.

Gallup's original research on wellbeing discovered that very wealthy people can have poor financial wellbeing and that people with objectively meager assets can feel their financial wellbeing is thriving. In fact, Gallup finds, banks have the most trouble supporting the financial wellbeing of customers making at least $200,000 a year.

Whatever the customer's subjective impression of financial wellbeing may be, bankers can improve it -- depending on the kind of partnership the bank provides. According to recent Gallup research, customers feel a deeper sense of financial wellbeing when they can strongly agree that their primary bank:

  • helps them reach their financial goals
  • understands their financial situation
  • makes it easy for them to manage their finances
  • helps them make better financial decisions
  • looks out for their financial wellbeing
  • offers solutions to meet their financial needs
  • puts their financial wellbeing ahead of the interests of the bank
  • has their best interests at heart

Gallup's research finds that these subjective, emotionally charged elements are remarkably consistent. No matter who we ask -- whether retail, insurance or wealth management customers, for example -- when customers have these experiences, they feel their bank is truly looking after their wellbeing.

And the more that customers have such experiences, the more profitable they are.

Customers who strongly agree with four or more of the financial wellbeing statements regarding their primary bank are meaningfully more engaged than others, and they have an NPS of 94%. Among customers who strongly agree with two or three, NPS drops to 69%. And when customers can't strongly agree with any of the statements, that rating plummets to -26%.

Gallup's analysis shows that banks will see an inflection point when people can strongly agree with four or more of the financial wellbeing statements. Banks need to keep an eye on that inflection point. Gallup believes it's the key to delivering an emotionally engaging and loyalty-building customer experience, especially because customers' perceptions of their primary bank's role in delivering on these elements vary widely. The feedback on these dimensions, on average, ranges from 2.76 to 3.96 on a 1-to-5 scale.

A financial wellbeing strategy can work -- but be careful.

Bankers, take this wellbeing research to heart.

And then think very carefully about how you partner with and deliver service to your customers. Regardless of customers' actual financial standing, wellbeing is felt contextually and personally. Partnering with customers on financial wellbeing requires working within that context for every individual customer.

Unfortunately, the financial services industry has a credibility deficit. Only 32% of Americans say they have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in banks, Gallup research shows. A financial wellbeing initiative that fails to increase wellbeing -- or is just a veiled product vehicle -- will not increase consumer trust.

Just the opposite. A customer's sense of financial wellbeing is intensely emotional, so if financial wellbeing is more slogan than reality, the program is likelier to alienate customers than engage them. Financial wellbeing is felt so viscerally -- defensively, to be exact -- that customers are likely to look behind the veil to see if they're being manipulated rather than supported.

So promising financial wellbeing without understanding the customer experience or knowing what wellbeing means to customers is a significant risk. Haphazard, half-hearted, marketing-based strategies are liable to backfire.

That's not to say financial wellbeing strategies can't succeed -- they absolutely can, and when they do, they pay off for the customer and the bank. But such programs must be built on deep customer experience data and the coaching that employees need. Banks should only wade into financial wellbeing if they're prepared to invest in the tools they need to do it right.

Regardless of customers' actual financial standing, wellbeing is felt contextually and personally.

Engineering a real financial wellbeing program for customers isn't cheap, easy or quick. But a program that improves customers' perceptions of their wellbeing solves a lot of problems for financial services organizations.

  • It's a legitimate differentiator when so many banks send the same message.
  • It builds customer goodwill that may be extremely valuable during economic downturns.
  • It's a hedge against the terrible PR that splashes every bank when one bank does something wrong.
  • It's proof of the bank's commitment to fair dealing if -- or maybe when -- legislators accuse the industry of unfair practices. And, of course, feeling cared for builds customers' trust in their bank.

So bankers, know what customers mean by "financial wellbeing." Know which experiences alter their perception. Know how much value that perception offers you. And above all else, know that financial wellbeing is a customer perception that a bank can create through partnership.

If your bank says it looks after customers' financial wellbeing, make sure your customers say so too.

Become a partner in your customers' financial wellbeing:


Andrew Robertson is a Managing Consultant at Gallup.

Julie Griffiths is a Senior Researcher at Gallup.

Jennifer Robison contributed to this article.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030