Symcor Survey Examines Consumers' and Financial Professionals' Attitudes and Predictions for Online Financial Services

Apr 27, 2001, 01:00 ET from Symcor Services Inc.

    TORONTO, April 27 /PRNewswire/ - The Internet and technology are changing
 the face of financial services in Canada, according to a survey commissioned
 by Optus, Symcor's Customer Communication business. The two-part research
 study was conducted by Ipsos-Reid and supported by Sun Microsystems of Canada
 Inc.
     The study results showed that the Internet is rapidly becoming the
 communication channel of choice among high net-worth investors for information
 services, such as account balances and financial reporting. However, this
 increased consumer use of the Internet to gather financial information does
 not diminish the role of financial advisors in the management of their
 investments.
 
     Current Consumer Adoption of the Internet
 
     Among consumers surveyed, 83% have Internet access and more than 69% of
 those connected have visited a financial website. However, consumer
 expectations of online communications do not preclude the use of traditional
 services or channels. In fact, many consumers prefer to continue to use face-
 to-face or other channels to complement their Internet activity.
     Common online activities conducted by consumers are: gathering
 information about financial services (67%); checking bank accounts and account
 histories (56%); viewing financial statements (56%); and tracking investment
 performance (49%). While 44% have purchased a non-financial product or service
 online, only 19% have bought or sold investments online and just 9% have
 applied online for loans, mortgages or credit cards.
     In the past year, just 32% of consumers with Internet access tracked
 investment performance from an independent financial website like iMoney, 14%
 used a wireless device to conduct financial activities, 13% downloaded
 information from a financial website to personal financial management
 software, and no one conducted an insurance transaction.
     "Clearly, consumer use of the Internet for financial services is no
 longer a budding trend; the Internet is now entrenched as a highly effective
 information-gathering tool," says Jon Hantho, Optus President. "Some newer
 Internet activities have been slower to catch on, but usage will likely grow
 as consumers become more comfortable with the technology and as more companies
 offer these services. For organizations who target higher net worth investors,
 creating a strategy that incorporates the Internet to provide differentiation
 in customer communication is no longer an option, it has become a basic
 business requirement."
 
     Current FI Adoption of the Internet
 
     The financial institutions surveyed have differing adoption levels for
 online activities. However, most have already implemented Internet-based
 communications.
     Many industry respondents think the Internet will improve transaction
 capability, and enhance and personalize customer service. Still, some industry
 respondents fear the Internet could commoditize financial products and
 services and potentially undermine traditional sales channels.
     "Interestingly, this view is unsupported by the consumer research
 findings," notes John Wright, Senior Vice President, Ipsos-Reid. "Two-thirds
 of consumers say that expanded use of the Internet to communicate with
 financial institutions will have no impact on their use of professional
 financial advisors. And while 11% suggest they may use financial advisors
 less, almost as many (8%) say they will use financial advisors more often."
     While the results indicated that financial advisors continue to be the
 preferred source of information and advice, the wealth of information
 available on the Internet means that today's consumers are much more informed
 about their investments, according to Hantho. "Financial advisors likely will
 find that these more savvy consumers have much higher expectations of them."
 
     Future e-Trends
 
     Financial institutions are ahead of many Canadians in terms of
 anticipated services and functionality. Still, most consumers are interested
 in adopting new Internet tools and applications.
     More than two-thirds of consumers surveyed say they would be interested
 in receiving bills, financial statements and other financial information by
 email. More than half say they would be very interested in using a financial
 institution's Internet portal to get information about their financial
 transactions and account histories.
     However, expectations for wireless Internet access in the near to medium
 term are limited. Only one-third of the industry professionals surveyed
 expects a significant level of adoption for mobile financial transactions in
 the next few years. Adoption expectations for wireless banking or investing
 among consumers is also relatively low. Only one in ten of higher net worth
 consumers expects to conduct such wireless transactions in the near term.
     "Overall, it's apparent that the Internet and technology have had and
 will continue to have a positive impact on the financial services industry,"
 says Hantho. "Consumers will ultimately benefit in many ways, including
 24/7 availability, self-service access, faster communication and personalized
 value-added services."
 
     Research Methodology
     Consumer survey: A total of 433 high net worth adult Canadians from all
 regions participated in the survey conducted by mail in March, 2001. The
 results have a margin of error of +/- 4.7%, 19 times out of 20. Industry
 interviews: Fifty elite interviews were conducted with executives representing
 the leading Canadian mutual fund companies, banks, investment dealers,
 advisors and insurance companies.
 
     About Symcor & Optus
 
     Symcor is a Canadian leader in providing business and technology
 outsourcing services. The company provides individualized product and service
 solutions in three key business areas - Customer Communication, Item
 Processing and Card Management - to a broad range of customers in the banking,
 mutual fund, insurance, retail, telecom and utility industries. Optus is
 Symcor's Customer Communication business, delivering an integrated suite of
 services to help companies create, customize, produce and deliver information
 in ways that maximize the lifetime value of their existing customer
 relationships and acquire new customers. Optus is a Sun(TM) iForce(SM)
 Regional System Provider. For additional information about Symcor and Optus
 and the study, visit www.symcor.com or www.optuscorp.com.
 
 

SOURCE Symcor Services Inc.
    TORONTO, April 27 /PRNewswire/ - The Internet and technology are changing
 the face of financial services in Canada, according to a survey commissioned
 by Optus, Symcor's Customer Communication business. The two-part research
 study was conducted by Ipsos-Reid and supported by Sun Microsystems of Canada
 Inc.
     The study results showed that the Internet is rapidly becoming the
 communication channel of choice among high net-worth investors for information
 services, such as account balances and financial reporting. However, this
 increased consumer use of the Internet to gather financial information does
 not diminish the role of financial advisors in the management of their
 investments.
 
     Current Consumer Adoption of the Internet
 
     Among consumers surveyed, 83% have Internet access and more than 69% of
 those connected have visited a financial website. However, consumer
 expectations of online communications do not preclude the use of traditional
 services or channels. In fact, many consumers prefer to continue to use face-
 to-face or other channels to complement their Internet activity.
     Common online activities conducted by consumers are: gathering
 information about financial services (67%); checking bank accounts and account
 histories (56%); viewing financial statements (56%); and tracking investment
 performance (49%). While 44% have purchased a non-financial product or service
 online, only 19% have bought or sold investments online and just 9% have
 applied online for loans, mortgages or credit cards.
     In the past year, just 32% of consumers with Internet access tracked
 investment performance from an independent financial website like iMoney, 14%
 used a wireless device to conduct financial activities, 13% downloaded
 information from a financial website to personal financial management
 software, and no one conducted an insurance transaction.
     "Clearly, consumer use of the Internet for financial services is no
 longer a budding trend; the Internet is now entrenched as a highly effective
 information-gathering tool," says Jon Hantho, Optus President. "Some newer
 Internet activities have been slower to catch on, but usage will likely grow
 as consumers become more comfortable with the technology and as more companies
 offer these services. For organizations who target higher net worth investors,
 creating a strategy that incorporates the Internet to provide differentiation
 in customer communication is no longer an option, it has become a basic
 business requirement."
 
     Current FI Adoption of the Internet
 
     The financial institutions surveyed have differing adoption levels for
 online activities. However, most have already implemented Internet-based
 communications.
     Many industry respondents think the Internet will improve transaction
 capability, and enhance and personalize customer service. Still, some industry
 respondents fear the Internet could commoditize financial products and
 services and potentially undermine traditional sales channels.
     "Interestingly, this view is unsupported by the consumer research
 findings," notes John Wright, Senior Vice President, Ipsos-Reid. "Two-thirds
 of consumers say that expanded use of the Internet to communicate with
 financial institutions will have no impact on their use of professional
 financial advisors. And while 11% suggest they may use financial advisors
 less, almost as many (8%) say they will use financial advisors more often."
     While the results indicated that financial advisors continue to be the
 preferred source of information and advice, the wealth of information
 available on the Internet means that today's consumers are much more informed
 about their investments, according to Hantho. "Financial advisors likely will
 find that these more savvy consumers have much higher expectations of them."
 
     Future e-Trends
 
     Financial institutions are ahead of many Canadians in terms of
 anticipated services and functionality. Still, most consumers are interested
 in adopting new Internet tools and applications.
     More than two-thirds of consumers surveyed say they would be interested
 in receiving bills, financial statements and other financial information by
 email. More than half say they would be very interested in using a financial
 institution's Internet portal to get information about their financial
 transactions and account histories.
     However, expectations for wireless Internet access in the near to medium
 term are limited. Only one-third of the industry professionals surveyed
 expects a significant level of adoption for mobile financial transactions in
 the next few years. Adoption expectations for wireless banking or investing
 among consumers is also relatively low. Only one in ten of higher net worth
 consumers expects to conduct such wireless transactions in the near term.
     "Overall, it's apparent that the Internet and technology have had and
 will continue to have a positive impact on the financial services industry,"
 says Hantho. "Consumers will ultimately benefit in many ways, including
 24/7 availability, self-service access, faster communication and personalized
 value-added services."
 
     Research Methodology
     Consumer survey: A total of 433 high net worth adult Canadians from all
 regions participated in the survey conducted by mail in March, 2001. The
 results have a margin of error of +/- 4.7%, 19 times out of 20. Industry
 interviews: Fifty elite interviews were conducted with executives representing
 the leading Canadian mutual fund companies, banks, investment dealers,
 advisors and insurance companies.
 
     About Symcor & Optus
 
     Symcor is a Canadian leader in providing business and technology
 outsourcing services. The company provides individualized product and service
 solutions in three key business areas - Customer Communication, Item
 Processing and Card Management - to a broad range of customers in the banking,
 mutual fund, insurance, retail, telecom and utility industries. Optus is
 Symcor's Customer Communication business, delivering an integrated suite of
 services to help companies create, customize, produce and deliver information
 in ways that maximize the lifetime value of their existing customer
 relationships and acquire new customers. Optus is a Sun(TM) iForce(SM)
 Regional System Provider. For additional information about Symcor and Optus
 and the study, visit www.symcor.com or www.optuscorp.com.
 
 SOURCE Symcor Services Inc.