Building society customers want the best of both worlds, looking for great service from both their local branch and the society’s online banking portal, according to new research from Legal & General.

When it comes to past behaviours, building society customers have often defaulted to the branch channel. Half (50%) of building society customers surveyed by Legal & General opened their savings account in branch against only 37% using the building society’s website.

  • 45% took out their mortgage in branch, against 19% online,
  • 47% bought life insurance face to face in branch, and just 13% through the building society’s own website.
  • 43% bought home insurance in branch, against 30% online

Most customers regularly pop-in to a branch, too. In the Legal & General survey, after (24%) said they visit monthly, 13% fortnightly, another 20% once a week or more: 57% overall visiting at least once a month. Not surprising, then, that more than half – 56% – say the branch network is important (37%) or absolutely vital (19%) to the local community. Four out of ten (41%) also say they would definitely (18%) or possibly (23%) move to a building society with a local branch if their provider switched to an online-only strategy. Just 29%, by contrast, were confident they would stay put.

Yet building societies online services are equally vital. Already, 18 to 24 year olds are more likely to have opened savings accounts or taken out mortgages through the building society’s website than in branch. And, if customers still use branches regularly, they’re even more likely to log-in to their account: 62% say they log in at least once a week, and 84% use their building society’s website at least once a month.

When it comes to insurance, the branch is the most common sales channel for not just current holders of life (47%) and home (43%) insurance, but also critical illness (38%) and income protection (33%). By contrast, the highest proportion buying through the building society’s online platforms – for home insurance – is just 30%. For life insurance and income protection the figures are just 13% and 9%, respectively.

Yet when asked how they would like to buy insurance, 42% say they would prefer to buy online through the building society’s portal, against just 30% wanting to purchase in branch. 

Andy Elkington, Director, Bank and Building Society Distribution at Legal & General, said:

“The findings from this research illustrate the significant challenge building societies face in devising strategies for a digital future. But they also illustrate the opportunities that remain to be grasped. We hope these results help building societies and their members as they consider new customer propositions. Whether it be online, in their local branch, or through a trusted adviser, it is clear that customers want flexibility and choice when it comes to taking out insurance and other financial services products. Customers are using multiple channels to buy insurance and it is crucial that building societies are able to offer these.

 “However, people choose to buy their insurance, it’s a positive sign that so many are seeking to protect their loved ones, which is why Legal & General is proud to be a trusted insurance partner for building societies across the UK.”

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