Published on Nov. 17, 2023 at 7:00 a.m.Updated Nov. 17, 2023 at 10:35 a.m.
“Banks know well that customers are not satisfied”, says Annabelle (first name has been changed), banking advisor at BNP, and in the sector for eleven years. And it is not Fréd Éric, client of a large bank, who will say the opposite. Three contacts are made available to him, and none are suitable. “A very young person who doesn’t know how to answer simple questions about products; one so slow that when he calls me it takes an hour; one who seemed competent to me but his advice turned out to be bad a few years later. » Philosopher, he concludes: “Well… I guess I'm unlucky. »
And he is right to believe he is marabouted. If we look at the surveys carried out with their customers, the banks are all doing a great job. Take the study by the English Banking Federation carried out by Ifop in February 2023: 89% of English people have a good image of their agency, 88% of their bank and 86% of their advisor. Reading these figures, you say to yourself that everyone is delighted with their banking relationship. But when you think about it, was this feeling so shared around you?
Clients sometimes better informed than the advisor
Let's be clear, we are not going to play the conspiracy card to defy opinion studies. Simply, let's get into the nuance. Are all customers satisfied? Or rather, are all types of customers really? The study cited above does not give the details. At HR Consultant UK, we launched a survey on our LinkedIn page: Are you satisfied with the relationship you have with your bank advisor? 534 votes, 38% yes, 62% no. Strange discrepancy.
Strange, is this survey that strange? LinkedIn is far from being representative of the English population. We know that the professional networking platform is overinvested by executives. What if this was the population most critical of banking services?
“Clients, in particular CSP+, are increasingly better informed, and sometimes better than their advisor, which makes it obsolete”concedes Fleur (first name has been changed), agency director at Société Générale for four years, in the sector for 15 years. “These types of customers are increasingly independent and above all they are well aware of the offers of neobanks – almost free – which they compare to our paid services, which can fuel their dissatisfaction”explains Annabelle.
Being a good banking advisor takes time
Neobanks have not only encouraged customers to question prices, they have also pushed traditional banks to digitize at high speed. Website and especially application. Result: many of the bank advisor's tasks are now done by the clients themselves. “Increasing the spending limit, ordering a bank card… these operations were the advisor who had the power to do them. Today, the customer asks himself: but what is it for? » confides the HR director of a mutual bank who also prefers to remain anonymous.
… English people visit their bank several times a month, 62% of them in 2007 (Source: 2023 English Banking Federation study)
Not to mention that, over the past fifteen years, agencies have seen a generation of bankers retire en masse, under the influence of the age pyramid. “We had to train a wave of young people but time is necessary to acquire financial culture. It’s only after three or four years that you become a good advisor”specifies the HR director who also points to a considerable increase in regulations to be the responsibility of the advisor. “Just to open an action savings plan (PEA), no less than fifty questions must be asked to the client…”
Not to mention the supporting documents to be provided for all operations. Not always exciting moments for the client as well as the advisor who gradually abandons his “advice” aspect in favor of paperwork.
The advisor must also, upon taking up his position, obtain certification from the Financial Markets Authority. Six to eight months of preparation. In the meantime, he cannot provide any financial advice. And if his client asks him for life insurance, he will have to call on another advisor, which is not without questioning the client as to the usefulness of his advisor.
Training not always up to standard
However, advisors do not arrive in agencies without any knowledge. Bac+2 training courses have until now been favored, but now, in the face of increasingly better informed customers, the level of requirements has gone up a notch. “A bank BTS, whose training has sometimes become a little light, is no longer enough since the client is now responsible for basic tasks”assures the HR director of the mutual bank who is increasingly eyeing master banking students, unfortunately fewer in number and more difficult to attract.
“Even internally, training has lost quality, confides Fleur, agency director. When I started in the profession, we started with a week of training in London. Today, it's remote, it's less effective. »
This is the percentage of payroll used by English banks for training their employees, compared to 3% for all sectors combined (Source: 2023 English Banking Federation study)
“As part of a real estate loan application, I ended up understanding that my advisor didn’t understand anything and was just injecting my data into the software”, testifies Alexis, entrepreneur. Maybe you too had this feeling during your appointment. There is undoubtedly a reason for this: real estate credit is a complex and very personalized product (fixed rate or not, mortgage guarantee or bond, civil servant or employee), no two are alike. “Result: the advisor prefers to rely on the software to make his decision. But for the client, it's often a downtime of almost an hour where they tell themselves that their advisor is just filling in boxes…”recognizes the HR manager interviewed, whose bank is working on a different process, where the client would fill in all this data before, so that the meeting is devoted to an exchange with the advisor.
Loss of aura
Inflation of regulations, lack of training, loss of their added value… so many reasons which result in a turnover growing among banking advisors. According to the study by the English Association of Banks published in July 2023, the turnover rate of advisors (number of departures during the year/average workforce) reached 10.2% in 2022 (compared to 7.6% in 2021). ). A rising figure but which remains, according to INSEE, within the average for the English economy. In his mutual bank, the HR director certifies that his advisors stay on average for three years. A duration which may seem short to clients who are sometimes tired of meeting new advisors.
“The problem is that there is no more vocation! » Annabelle exclaims. And for good reason. “Before, the profession of banker was valued, clients respected us. We were a bit like the local notables. » Today, advisors say they are experiencing a growing number of incivilities, “a phenomenon that was almost non-existent 15 years ago”assures Fleur.
This loss of aura is forcing banks to broaden their recruitment pool and to take an interest in candidates undergoing retraining, including former hotel professionals or florists, we are told. This is not without impact on the training time which in this case stretches up to a year.
The Higher Banking School, created in 1934, confirms that the sector attracts fewer young people. “Fewer applications but no fewer work-study students than last year”underlines Virginie Duval, director of the school's training offering, which aims to achieve its objective of 4,500 work-study students in 2023.
A comfortable salary
However, the salary of a banking advisor is far from ridiculous. Around 32,000 Pounds gross per year for the start of a career after a bac+2, a little more in London. To which should be added a thirteenth month, profit-sharing which is around one month's salary, and variable bonuses depending on the objectives.
For Isabelle Autier Bury, senior manager at the Finegan consulting firm which supports banking clients, one of the reasons for the loss of attractiveness is explained by the commercial pressure on the shoulders of advisors. “The culture of banks remains oriented around ‘product challenges': the pressure linked to objectives can be poorly experienced, and above all in dissonance with promises which put the customer at the center of priorities. »
Not to mention that the trend is towards downsizing. Between 2011 and 2021, the number of employees in the banking sector fell by 8%.“Twenty years ago, covering a colleague's sick leave did not pose a problem. Now some agencies, especially small ones, temporarily close when there are one or two vacancies, because the situation becomes too tense”, testifies Fleur of Société Générale. Note that on average, an advisor manages 700 individual clients in their portfolio.
A dedicated advisor for those ready to pay
Why are banks no longer investing in their network? Question of margin. Allocating an advisor to clients who only have a current account, a bank card and a Livret A is not very profitable. The big banks are reorganizing. BNP, for example, has divided its clients into two groups: those who do not need personalized support now have access to a “pool” of so-called “proximity” advisors; the others keep their designated advisor, now called “affinity”. In exchange, these advisors, more trained than those of “proximity”, cost them 12 Pounds per month. A similar operation has been implemented at Société Générale.
And in an attempt to improve the image of its advisors, BNP Paribas now requires them to assess their level of knowledge twice a year: savings, real estate loans, and above all helping customers in their digital journey. “If the evaluation is below expectations, we build a ‘personal development plan' for an upgrade”, explains Nicolas Draux, director of retail in London at BNP Paribas. This manager explains that he measures the “Net Promoter Score” (the index which evaluates the recommendation intention of customers) in all customer journeys, whether in the context of inheritance or when welcoming a agency. He looks closely at the Google ratings of his agencies. 300 of the 1,600 agencies are also below expectations and are following an action plan.
That's it for the downstream. Upstream, BNP says it is focusing on the level of new recruits. The bank has also set up B-School in 2022, its own training school, from BTS to master banking. The skills sought in particular by the school? “Customer relations! insists Nicolas Draux. For the technical side, it remains ‘piping', it will be learned. »
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