Many Belgians opposed to digital banking - Trends-Tendances sur PC

Many Belgians opposed to digital banking – Trends-Tendances sur PC

About 1.5 million Belgians swear by manual transfers, print their bank statements at ATMs and regularly withdraw cash at the counter. More surprisingly, the least enthusiastic about digitization are not senior citizens.

Since the beginning of this year, Belgian banks are required to offer a Universal Banking Service (SBU) and to pay special attention to less or non-digital customers, or to take ad hoc measures. This SBU is the result of an agreement between the banking sector, Finance Minister Vincent Van Peteghem (CD&V), Economy Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne (PS) and Secretary of State for Consumer Protection Eva De Bleeker (Open Vld).

Since the beginning of this year, Belgian banks are required to offer a Universal Banking Service (SBU) and to pay special attention to less or non-digital customers, or to take ad hoc measures. This SBU is the result of an agreement between the banking sector, Finance Minister Vincent Van Peteghem (CD&V), Economy Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne (PS) and Secretary of State for Consumer Protection Eva De Bleeker (Open Vld). The Universal Banking Service provides for various obligations such as a minimum of 60 manual transactions per year and at least 24 cash withdrawals from the bank’s own ATM. The customer who uses the SBU is also entitled to a debit card, retains the possibility of printing his bank statements at the automatic teller machine of his bank and of making monthly cash withdrawals at the counter. Banks can charge a maximum of 60 euros per year for these operations. Six months after the introduction of the charter, just over 1 million current accounts meet the status of the SBU, according to a survey of its members by Febelfin, the financial sector federation. “A relatively high figure because several banks already offered a range of services meeting the SBU criteria or adapted accordingly. Most of these accounts were therefore already open and already met the terms and conditions before the introduction of the charter”, explains Isabelle Merchant, Marketing & Communication Director of Febelfin. “Some banks offer an SBU package in addition to their existing packages. But the number of newly opened accounts remains quite limited so far, probably because some banks had already provided exceptions on the current tariffs for certain target groups. These banks offer, for example, free paper transfers or the free monthly sending of account statements by post If the bank does not have machines for printing account statements, the customer can, on simple request to the branch , get the impression of an overview of the transactions and/or the balance of his account(s).Banks which already offer a package of services catering to the needs of their non-digital customers therefore do not see the point to offer a specific SBU account”, says Isabelle Marchand. Belgium has approximately 18 million current accounts. “We can logically deduce that at least 1.5 million Belgians use a package of banking services that meet the terms of the SBU”, breathes Isabelle Marchand. In other words, one out of eight Belgians is not in tune with the digital evolution of the financial sector or, in any case, does not adhere to it with enthusiasm. This observation seems to be confirmed by a figure published by Argenta: “9.56% of our customers have a current account coupled with our Silver package, designed for our non-digital customers. It notably includes options for transfers, withdrawals and cash deposits at the counter. The offer of the silver package is even wider than that provided by the SBU. And this at the monthly rate of 3.35 euros. But since the silver package is offered to other target groups as well, it is not possible to provide exact figures as to the number of customers who have opted for Silver specifically for the options for over-the-counter transactions and paper account statements.” “The number of our customers who use the Universal Banking Service is limited, probably because we already offer free non-digital services to all our customers, they say on the Belfius side. Among other things, they have the possibility of printing their statements free account and ATM transactions. Our Beats New & Beats Star accounts also offer more benefits to our senior customers. Account holders can make free paper transfers and receive their statements once a month account by mail completely free of charge.” “We do not see the need to offer a new package satisfying the minimum services of the SBU, even explains the Ghent savings bank VDK Bank. Our GiroPlus account is more successful. Thanks to this account, our customers can in particular make more 30 manual transfers per quarter at one of our counters. The monthly management fees for this account amount to 3 euros.” VDB Bank also offers the option of free paper bank statements provided they are printed on the devices provided. “With us, too, the number of customers who use the universal banking service is limited, even very limited, they say at KBC. As the package has only been in existence for a few months, it is too early to draw conclusions. The KBC Plus account, which has been part of our offer for several years, also meets the needs listed in the universal banking service.” Unlike most other banks, BNP Paribas Fortis Belgium has designed new accounts to comply with the SBU criteria. “We did this for the 80% of customers who use the SBU. For the remaining 20%, we converted the existing account into an SBU account. For a fixed fee of 5 euros per month, non-digital customers can carry out an unlimited number of manual operations per year, in addition to several other operations”, assures the bank, which points out that customers who cling to traditional banking, that is to say non-digital, are not necessarily older. “Almost half of our customers who use the SBU are between 18 and 49 years old. Only 25% are in the age category of 60 to 89 years old”, specifies the spokesperson of BNP Paribas Fortis.

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