Study and ranking of 18 retail banks and online brokers operating on the Belgian market, on the basis of 130 indicators measuring the level of use and performance of their digital channels (web, mobile applications and social networks), as part of the relationship with their customers and prospects.
At a time when the neo-bank N26, present in Belgium, has just raised $300 million and is now valued at $2.7 billion (1) with only 700 employees, digital performance seems to be even more important on the list of priorities of Belgian banks. Not only is digital performance expressed in the digital proposal (see the previous study Offers & Journeys) but also in the level of use of digital channels. This is the focus of this second study. It aims to measure the relative performance of banking players on the Belgian market in terms of the use of digital channels to interact with their prospects and customers.
For a retail bank, a comparatively high use of digital channels in its relationship with prospects and customers is a key indicator of its digital performance. In particular, it reflects a greater capacity to attract new generations of consumers, provide high-performance digital solutions and optimize operating costs.
– Methodology and scope of analysis –
The Presence & Satisfaction module is one of the three pillars of the D-Rating rating. This module is based exclusively on data from outside the company to measure its impact on the main digital territories: the Web, mobile applications, social networks. The performance index is calculated on the basis of more than 130 quantified indicators, reflecting both the brand’s relative activity in relation to its customer base in these territories, the level of commitment of its audience and the public assessments of its customers.
– Panel of Retail Banking brands studied –
A total of 17 brands – which form a representative set of the competitive environment of the retail banking sector in Belgium in 2018 – were considered. This panel brings together several categories of actors: traditional banks, first generation online banks, neo-banks, payment institutions and online brokers.
- All brands have been evaluated on all indicators and all resulting scores can be viewed by subscribers on the D-Rating platform.
- BNP Paribas Fortis and Hello Bank, whose activities on the same digital channels are not separable by brand, were valued as a single brand.
- The overall ranking for the « Retail Banking in Belgium » sector only concerns players with a banking licence issued by the competent authorities and providing the main day-to-day banking services (deposit and payment account). This therefore excludes payment institutions and online brokers from this overall ranking.
The country’s 4 main banks are ahead of other traditional banks but behind in comparison to 100% digital banks such as Keytrade and N26
Mobile use is becoming increasingly important, replacing web use
BNPP Fortis and ING Direct are now more advanced than Belfius and KBC/CBC in digitalising customer relations
Leading banks have adopted social networks as acquisition media
Observation n°1 : The 4 main banks of the country are ahead of the other traditional banks but lagging behind the 100% digital banks like Keytrade and N26
The 4 largest Belgian banks (Belfius, KBC/CBC, BNPP Fortis/HB!, ING Belgium), which represent around 68% of the market covered by the 2018 panel, outperform the other traditional banks in terms of the use of digital channels. No wonder, because these 4 banks were already among those with the best digital proposals. (2)
KBC/CBC and Belfius both score high on the field of mobile applications with high satisfaction scores but lag behind on the level of use of their websites. In particular, KBC/CBC generates little lead traffic via paid search (SEA) and online advertising.
BNPP Fortis/HB! shows a solid level of usage with high customer access to the website. However, its share of web traffic from mobile phones is lower than the panel average, in a context where this mode of consultation is increasing sharply (+46% in France between 2017 and 2018).
Pure online banks such as N26 and Keytrade are quite naturally in the lead on this type of study, helped by a structure and offers built-from-scratch and based on web and mobile platforms from their creation.
For N26, however, the overall score must be put into perspective since the number of customers in Belgium is still very low.
For its part, Keytrade stands out for its traffic acquisition strategy. Thus, it benefits from a common use of its web portal (about 3 visits per month per customer with direct access) but also from a large number of prospect visits; its referencing by paid keywords on Google generating nearly twice as many visits as the average bank. This web performance can also be seen through the interest of visitors who visit more pages per visit while spending more time on its site.
On the other hand, Argenta, which already had the lowest digital proposal score in the panel (2), is also affected by a limited use of digital channels and a low satisfaction score.
In decline with a 21.5% drop in its net profit in 2017, Argenta is emphasizing the need to « catch up on its digital backlog and rethink its service model ».(3) The brand promises concrete actions through the launch of its IT platform and new offers such as very low-interest car loans of up to 0.65% for environmentally friendly vehicles. (4)
Observation n°2 : Mobile use is becoming increasingly important, replacing web use
The transfer of web uses to mobile applications is very advanced in Belgium. Compared to the French market, the relative number of users (per customer) of mobile banking applications is twice as high in Belgium. On the other hand, traffic per customer on banking websites is twice as low in Belgium.
This transfer has recently accelerated. The number of users of mobile banking applications, reported by Febelfin, increased by 69% between 2016 and 2017 in Belgium.
This new mobile use could quickly have consequences for banks that have not yet been able to satisfy their customers with this channel. Crelan, Beobank and Argenta are the 3 banks with the lowest scores in mobile application stores (Google store & Apple store).
Observation n°3 : BNPP Fortis and ING Direct are now more advanced than Belfius and KBC/CBC in digitising customer relations
The 4 leading banks in Belgium have different profiles in terms of the volume of use of web channels and mobile applications, in proportion to the number of their customers.
In this area, BNPP Fortis and ING Direct are significantly above the average of the Belgian banks, and Belfius and KBC/CBC significantly below.
By analysing in more detail the usage levels of mobile applications, the 4 leading banks in Belgium show an overall level of usage of their main mobile application above average, while the share of customers using this mobile application is significantly lower for Belfius and KBC/CBC.
These findings show that Belfius and KBC/CBC are making less progress in directing their customers to digital channels. This is all the more unfortunate for Belfius and KBC/CBC as their customers are by far the most satisfied with their mobile applications.
The orientation of customers towards digital channels, which is more or less easy depending on customer profiles, requires a proactive commitment from banking organisations, which must know how to encourage or support the use of digital channels from their traditional channels (during contacts in branches or by telephone)
This is one of the major challenges of digital transformation to support and secure the objectives of reducing the number of physical branches. This subject is particularly important on the Belgian market. Indeed, Belgium has closed proportionally more branches over the last 5 years than France, and the number of bank branches in Belgium per capita (1 branch per 1924 inhabitants) is significantly lower than in France (5).
The performance of BNPP Fortis/HB ! and ING Belgium in this area therefore seems reassuring in view of their recent announcements of a major closure of the number of their physical branches. This could ultimately generate competitive cost advantages over KBC/CBC and Belfius.
The third part of the D-Rating study, which will focus on the « transformation dynamics » of retail banks in Belgium, includes « phygital » integration tests and will make it possible to specify this gap between the 4 main Belgian banks.
Observation n°4 : The main banks have adopted social networks as acquisition media
100% of the banks in the panel now have Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Youtube accounts.
Banks’ Twitter accounts have 120,000 followers in Belgium, Facebook accounts more than 650,000. Facebook generates 20 times more traffic to bank websites than Twitter.
Overall, Belgian banks have understood that social networks are media, certainly atypical, but now essential in communication and acquisition plans. In this battle, ING Belgium and BNP Paribas/HB! dominate the other traditional banks.
About the methodology
The data required for the analysis were collected in July – August 2018.
The rating periods cover the last 12 months of the brand’s activity for the Web and Mobile Applications universes and the last 6 months for the social networks domain in order to eliminate any seasonal bias.
Each data point of an indicator is transformed into a relative score on the Belgian market between 0 and 100, with 0 being the minimum, 100 the maximum.
To obtain scores close to market reality, the indicators with the greatest impact were adjusted according to the number of customers of the respective brands. The number of clients was researched in the banks’ financial statements and annual reports or estimated by our analysts taking into account the specific scope of retail banking and France’s geographical location.
(1) « With a 27 billion valuation N26 overtakes Revolut as Europe’s most valuable mobile bank » – Forbes (01/10/2019)
(2) D-RATING report ‘Digital CX : Offers & Journeys’ Belgium, 2018
(3) Activity and sustainability report ARGENTA, 2017
(4) « Very attractive car loans in January thanks to the Motor Show » – 7sur7 (01/04/2019)
(5) Febelfin, 2017