LAST week saw the launch of NatWest’s personal banking iPhone app, in line with the banking sector’s efforts to cut costs and improve user experience by moving their operations online. <br /><br />Recent YouGov research undertaken on behalf of Deloitte points to the risks in an online strategy: customers place high value on face-to-face interactions in their bank’s branches. The issue of trust – perhaps unsurprisingly given the popular perception of bankers – is paramount. <br /><br />Personal interaction seems fundamental to trusting your bank. Fifty-three per cent of respondents said they would only place their savings in a bank with branches they could visit, and 65 per cent would only take out a mortgage after speaking with someone face-to-face. <br /><br />This has already translated into changes in the market: 21 per cent of respondents say they have switched bank in the last two years due to their dissatisfaction with the way they have been treated. <br /><br />This represents an opportunity for banks looking to increase their market share: 66 per cent of respondents have their current account where they believe they receive the best level of service, compared with 30 per cent who place their current accounts where they earn the highest interest.<br /><br />We get interesting validation of those conclusions from the BrandIndex data shown in the chart. The first bar shows the proportion of satisfied customers, the second shows the proportion which would recommend the brand to others. <br /><br />Online only bank, Egg, does worst, while the three with brands most closely associated with people’s everyday lives and with the most touch-points – the supermarket banks of Sainsbury’s, Tesco and M&S – do best. <br /><br />In the middle are the high street banks Barclays, NatWest and HSBC. Note how the “recommend” scores follow the pattern, allowing for an interesting lowering effect within the sub-sector of supermarket banks.<br /><br />Stephan Shakespeare is chief innovation officer of YouGov.