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The battle for digital customers - a global perspective
Globally, commercial banks have demonstrated that they are not the underdogs when it comes to growing the number of digital users. They compete well in most markets under review against the best neo-banks and digital financial institutions (FIs). However, the dramatic rise in digital user base of neo-banks in recent months may erode this lead.

November 27, 2018 | Chris Kapfer
  • In nine of the 26 markets under review, neo-banks or digital-only FIs outperformed commercial banks in digital user growth per month
  • The top growth players in the respective categories are Wechat Pay (platform), ICBC China (domestic commercial bank) and Citibank (global commercial bank), Webank China (neo-bank) and ING Group (digital-only bank)
  • There has been a rapid increase in the growth in digital users per month among some neo-banks and payments platforms since the beginning of 2018

In a global survey which assessed 100 financial institutions across 26 key markets on how well they performed in regards to the growth of digital users per month .  Asian Banker Research compared top-tier commercial banks with three other categories of financial institutions, ecommerce/payments/marketplace platforms, neo-banks and digital-only banks set up by commercial banks.  

In  China, Vietnam, Korea , Japan, India, Brazil, Spain, Germany and  the UAE, neo-banks or digital-only FIs outperformed commercial banks in digital user growth per month. However, top tier commercial banks in six out of ten markets such as the US, Canada and Australia continue to outperform neo-banks or digital-only FIs in acquiring and retaining digital customers, with their high-touch high-tech distribution strategy.

Overall, Chinese financial institutions and banks, and global platforms achieved the highest five-star rating with growth of more than one million digital users per month.

Commercial banks’ digital users grew slower in 2018

For domestic commercial banks, 2015 to 2017, was a key period in digital user conversion and growth. We however observed that since 2018 many have seen decelerating digital user growth.

On the contrary, global or regional operating commercial banks inched further up in digital user growth since beginning of ...

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