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Old but not out: Personalising digital banking services for senior citizens

A large percentage of them are increasingly becoming comfortable with the use of mobile phones and apps

The youth of India which accounts for 30% of the population is indeed an attractive market for various services including digital banking with their natural inclination towards digital access. However, the segment of senior citizens which stands at approximately 138 million in 2021 is also becoming important to financial institutions for digital services, specially in the post pandemic era. This number is expected to increase to 192 million by 2031 and therefore this is a segment that requires a specialised approach.

As of now, most financial institutions do not have a differentiated approach in their digital offerings for seniors and they are being dealt with in the same manner as other regular customers. It is no longer correct to assume that seniors are not tech savvy and therefore they will not access digital offerings. Although it is true that seniors still prefer to visit banks to check their account balances, a large percentage of them are increasingly becoming comfortable with using mobile phones and apps.

Senior citizens have unique financial needs and their digital conduct and personality are also distinctive which should be factored into the digital efforts of financial institutions. In this context, it is important to examine the customer journey of seniors with their unique emotional needs and then devise a suitable digital strategy. Their needs for retirement security, medical support and ease of disbursal of funds post their lifetime to their kith and kin are the key emotional subjects around which the content strategy should be designed.

Product related content needs of seniors that require special attention include renewal of deposits or checking on basic products like savings accounts presented with comparisons, facts and reassurance. Presentation for seniors should be using large fonts, uncluttered spaces and simple infographics supported by easy to navigate portals and ready-to-assist voice based bots. User-friendly experience adapted for seniors is as important as for any other customer to feel comfortable with the engagement process with the product provider. Pension Seva portal is a good example of specialised category of digital offering uniquely designed for elders which is easy to access and navigate.

Cyber security is a matter of concern for product providers. Many of them keep sending messages to seniors at regular intervals cautioning seniors to be aware of fraudsters and the safeguards to adopt. At times this creates a fear psychosis with seniors leading to distrust of the digital medium. Financial institutions need to address this concern of elders and create confidence through specially designed apps and services.

Some of the banks have started discouraging customers, including seniors, from personally visiting their branches for simple transactions and instead encourage them to move into digital banking specially during the pandemic. While this has facilitated faster adoption of digital methods with some, for most others who are not yet familiar or are hesitant with digital adoption, it would be good to promote mobile and online banking tools through orientation sessions through the kiosks at the branches. Reinforcement of messages over a sustained period of time through digital and branch channels encouraging them to commence with simple transactions would ensure faster adoption of digital banking among senior citizens.

The writer is chairperson, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company

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