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20% of retail banks express dedication to ESG Initiatives, BCG report shows

Interest in sustainability has been rising for several years, and concerns over climate change have become decision drivers for customers, investors, and policymakers. Retail banks are responding by building sustainability into their digital transformation programs. Three-quarters of retail banks plan to increase spending on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives, almost 20% of them significantly, according to a new report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG)being published today.

The report, titled Global Retail Banking 2022: Sense and Sustainability,reveals that one-quarter of retail banks report that ESG is a primary focus area for their digital transformation, and another 38% say that ESG is a key criterion in selecting and prioritizing digital transformation initiatives. Nearly half of retail banks are primarily focused on environmental sustainability issues, such as reducing energy consumption in offices,and 60% are prioritizing governance issues, including managing critical risk incidents, building cyber-resilience, and developing predictive risk analytics to ensure improved preparedness and mitigation.

“Sustainability has moved up the priority list for all stakeholders, making it the next frontier of competitive advantage for retail banks and a pillar for future growth,” said Thorsten Brackert, a BCG partner and director and coauthor of the report. “In addition to promoting sustainable behaviors by customers, ESG-related products could generate considerable returns for retail banks. A 20% ESG-related share in new retail banking revenues in the next five years, for example, would result in about a 10% share of total retailbanking revenues—or about $300 billion—in 2025.”

“In Nigeria, banks are exploring opportunities to leverage sustainability to address current and systematic challenges. For example, many banks are substituting diesel-powered generators with solar panels and driving lower carbon emissions at their operational branches. Banks in Nigeria are also using sustainable finance as a growth lever with benefits oriented towards delivering client value.

“Access Bank’s recently issued green bond demonstrates the high demand and potential for green capital in Nigeria and on the continent. Going forward, a more structured approach will be critical to anchor “Sustainability as an Advantage” and deliver long-term value for banks,” according to Phillipa Osakwe-Okoye, Principal, BCG Nigeria.

A “good friend”to consumers

BCG’s 2021 retail banking consumer sentiment survey, which covered 25 countries, found that 20% more people voiced increased trust in their bank during the COVID crisis than at the start of the pandemic in 2020. While most customers say they have two orthree banking relationships, a large majority (70%) stillsecured their last product from their primary bank. Customers want their banks to feel like a “good friend” (31%) thatthey can turn to for honest advice, and a “school” (11%) wherethey can obtain financial guidance.When it comes to keeping personal data secure, customers trust their banks even more than their doctors, and four out of five customers are willing to disclose more data to their banks if they value a new service or feature.

Strong industry trends will fund ESG investment

According to the report, global retail and private client revenues are expected to grow at more than 6% a year through the 2020-2025 period. Regionally, revenues in AsiaPacific should rise the fastest, at an estimated 7.8% a year, followed by the Middle East and Africa (7.7%) and Latin America (6.9%). North America and Europe will grow more slowly but still at rates of more than 5% a year. While North America generated the biggest share of revenues in 2020, it is in the process of being overtaken by AsiaPacific.

Payments and deposits will be the leading drivers of revenue growth globally, with payments expected to growat an annual rate of 6.3% as more people opt for online, credit card, and other non-cash transactions. Consumer and other retail loan revenues should rebound to growth rates of around 4% as customer spending increases while COVID recedes. Investments will grow attractively, at more than 5% a year, while mortgage growth will be muted as interest rates rise.

The sustainable retail bank

Banks have many opportunities to innovate sustainable practices and products along the customer lifecycleand to practice good business in the process. One opportunityis through green mortgages, which provide discounts on interest rates or fees to purchasers and builders of energyefficient properties. Banks can also use the daily banking relationship as well as their personalized engagement capabilities to support customers in environmentally friendly and ethical living. In the US and UK, almostnine in ten consumers would like brands to help them become more environmentally friendly.

“Retail Banks have a critical role to play as societies and their institutions address social and environmental challenges,” said Sam Stewart, global leader of BCG’s retail banking segment and coauthor of the report. “As they consider a redirected future, retail banks should ask themselves a couple of existential questions: What will our customers be looking for beyond straightforward financial products and services in the next few years? And how can we align our business goals with meeting those needs before our competitors do so first?”

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