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Consumers unsatisfied with Net financial services

Consumers are not hurrying to conduct their financial affairs online, and financial services institutions are not satisfying customers' demands online or off, according to a survey by Deloitte Research.

Consumers are not hurrying online to conduct their financial affairs, and financial services institutions are missing the mark in satisfying customers' demands both online and off, according to a recent survey conducted by Deloitte Research.

The survey, titled "Myth Versus Reality in Financial Services. What Your Customers Really Want," found clear differences between what executives believe their customers want from a financial services provider and what customers actually want. It considered both online offerings and more traditional fare such as ATMs and branch offices.

To perform the study, Deloitte Research, along with independent research firm Bayer Consulting, interviewed about 2,000 consumers in 10 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Consumers were asked to assess their requirements in choosing a banking, insurance or investment provider.

A major finding of the study, released Oct. 4, was that consumers would rather have responsive customer service and personal attention than convenience and 24-hour access to services. Though executives said they believe online financial services are quickly becoming a basic requirement, the study revealed that consumers do not place high importance on such services.

In general, consumers have been slow to adopt online banking, which typically offers higher interest rates on accounts but fails to match the convenience of traditional banks. Net-only banks have recently fallen on hard times, facing growing competition from traditional banks and suffering from a renewed focus on Internet security.

Meanwhile, a number of banking and investment firms have been boosting their Net efforts to find new streams of revenue by branching out to areas such as financial and estate planning online, banking, mutual funds and credit card services.

Wells Fargo, for one, has been aggressive with its online efforts. The company recently introduced a commercial banking portal that gives consumers one place on the Web for conducting transactions and accessing information about their credit, electronic payments and other financial activities.

Most consumers reported that they do not use online financial services or expect to use them, according to the survey. Deloitte said financial institutions face a challenge in demonstrating to consumers that online delivery will improve service.

Among other major findings, the report said that the level of fees and the quality of financial advice are more important in driving customer satisfaction with investment providers than with banks and insurance companies. The study also found that most consumers are not interested in obtaining financial services from nontraditional providers such as retail and software companies.