NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Two years into financial reform, and four years into the one of the largest economic slowdowns in U.S. history, what do Americans really think about the banks they choose to hold their money?
Some fresh data are in and show that, by and large, U.S. financial consumers are increasingly viewing their relationships with their banks as "overall satisfied."
Boston-based ath Power Consulting has the numbers, and they show a 4% increase in client banking satisfaction, to 41% from 37%, over the past year.
There is, of course, no shortage of caveats and variables.The study reports that the largest surge in approval comes from consumers who do their banking with credit unions. Big banks did make some progress, with USAA Bank topping the consumer approval list, and mega-banking behemoths such as J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM) showing significant client approval gains from 2011 to last year. (Chase, alone, saw a 14% rise in favorability ratings, according to ach Power.) What's really resonating with bank customers these days? What really moves the needle? While a American Customer Satisfaction Survey last year showed similar gains and decided simply that numbers were up because more customers switched to smaller banks, Frank Aloi, ath Power's chief executive, has a different interpretation: He thinks the uptick in favorability ratings is largely due to a self-driven effort by banks to refocus on customer service in the aftermath of bad press and sour consumer attitudes toward financial services companies after the Great Recession. "Over the past few years, financial institutions have been driven to become more customer-centric in an effort to retain current customers and attract new prospects -- a response to a tougher regulatory environment and added competition from non-traditional sources," he says. "Our research indicates that these initiatives are beginning to pay off. Even so, there are still numerous areas that show need for improvement, including proactive communication with customers and problem resolution." Some big issues resonating with bank customers include:
- Free checking. The banking industry's shift toward fee-for-checking programs has backfired in a big way. Banks are finding that consumers really will leave a bank if they're charged for a savings or checking account. Whatever bank marketing types believe, U.S. banking consumers view free checking as a "primary banking need."
- Convenience. Bank customers choose a financial institution largely for convenience. Now, banks are offering programs and services that emphasize "ease of use" for consumers. That includes online and ...
- Mobile banking services. As smartphones proliferate, consumers are insisting that their banks develop a full range of mobile banking services. According to ach Power, 36% of financial consumers viewed mobile banking as an "essential product" last year, compared with 21% in 2011.
Select the service that is right for you!COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.
- $2.5+ million portfolio
- Large-cap and dividend focus
- Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
- Weekly roundups
Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.
- Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
- Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
- Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
24/7 market commentary from Jim Cramer and 20+ veteran Wall Street gurus. Get access to the latest trading ideas on stocks, options, and ETFs as well as a real-time forum to see the pros exchanging their investment ideas.
- Jim Cramer + 20 Wall Street pros
- Intraday commentary & news
- Real-time trading forum
- Actionable trade ideas
All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.
- Real Money + Doug Kass + 15 more Wall Street Pros
- Intraday commentary & news
- Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.
- 100+ monthly options trading ideas
- Actionable options commentary & news
- Real-time trading community
- Options TV