How COVID-19 Has Changed Payments & Banking Behaviors Forever

Clearly COVID-19 impacted consumer behavior globally as many consumers were forced to work from home, financial institutions closed lobbies and people worried about everything touched by others. The question has been whether initial changes in activities would become fundamental behavioral shifts once the pandemic ended. With people beginning to settle into what their “new normal” might be, financial institutions must do the same.

The shift to digital banking on the part of both consumers and financial institutions was already taking place before COVID-19, but the health crisis definitely served as a jolt to the trial and adoption rate as in-person engagement was discouraged or even prohibited. Digital payments were also rising before the pandemic, with more consumers using mobile wallets each month. As the direct impact of the pandemic enters the third month outside of Asia, there are several trends that provide a strong indication of banking and payment behavior going forward.

As social distancing requirements loosen and distribution channels reopen, financial institutions are realizing that just because consumers will be able to visit branches doesn’t mean they will. And, just because the coronavirus may not be spreading to the same degree as in March, going back to using cash, checks or point-of-sale systems requiring tactile engagement may not be worth the risk.

In a survey of over 1,000 American consumers done by FIS between April 3-5, the findings support the belief that COVID-19 has accelerated the digital transformation of banking, payments and commerce, supporting the potential for a “new normal” in consumer behavior post-COVID-19.

The research found that:

  • More than 45% of respondents say they have permanently changed how they interact with their bank since COVID-19.
  • 31% of respondents will use online or mobile banking more in the future.
  • 45% of consumers have used a mobile wallet payment platform in the past 30 days.
  • There will be a measurable shift away from cash and checks.
  • 40% said they will shop online more in the future than in a store.

“The impact of COVID-19 has rapidly accelerated trends that we have been seeing for years in terms of banking and digital payments,” said Mladen Vladic, General Manager, Loyalty, FIS. “Once consumers begin using convenient new digital services, few tend to go back to their old habits, so we expect this to be the new normal going forward.”

Given the combination of work-from-home requirements and the shutdown of most banking lobbies and many banking branches altogether, many consumers were left with few options other than to change their branch-based behaviors. According to FIS, 45% of respondents said the way they conduct banking has changed permanently due to COVID-19.

Some have moved from in the branch to the drive-thru lane, some have increased their use of their bank’s call center, while others have increased their use of online and mobile banking.

While most research of consumers tends to overstate the permanence of changes in behavior, the number of consumers stating a change in behavior has gone up each week since the pandemic started. For these digital behaviors to become habitual in the long-term, financial institutions will need to continue to commit to digital transformation.

This includes the simplification of digital account opening and digital engagement throughout the customer journey. It requires a redesign of online and mobile applications with an emphasis on user experience including the removal of friction that originates in the back office.

Marketing of the benefits of digital banking alternatives must increase as does the contextualization of digital engagement. During this pandemic, consumers have become acutely aware of how firms can personalize experiences to improve daily life. They expect nothing less from their financial institution.