Digital banking for the older generation

As banks close their high street branches, are the older generation equipped for the world of digital banking?

There are more than 5.1 million people in the UK over the age of 65 who have never been online, let alone used internet banking. Generation Y takes technology completely for granted, but perhaps being a technophobe had no real consequences in the past? It has now become increasingly difficult to function in the modern world without the use of technology. 

The incentive for banks to heavily invest in technology is clear. Maintaining a mobile app is considerably cheaper than renting premises on the high street and employing staff. Also, the younger demographic would probably rather bank using their smartphones than spend their lunch hour queuing up to make a bank transfer. 

The banks’ cost cutting measures are sure to alienate some of their asset rich older customers, as they prefer the personal touch of face to face communication. However, it seems that this is a risk the banks are willing to take. 

Eagle Eyes 

Barclays launched their free Digital Eagles service in 2014, training elderly customers for the digital world. The service does not merely concentrate on mobile banking, but gives customers a basic introduction into technology, covering topics such as email and Skype. Daren Foulds, Barclays’ managing director of mobile banking and Pingit (Barclays’ mobile payment app), said: “What we find is that they come back and ask for the next thing – but what you can’t do is educate someone how to be digital across everything. You need to find what the problem cases are and help them to understand how digital will solve that, then give them the confidence to use other services.”

The provision of training from Barclays will make the transition to the digital world easier for some older customers. In reality, the bank is preparing its customers for a shrinking of the services that they are used to and rely upon. 

Golden Touch

Although technology newbies are presented with challenges, using technology has never been easier. The fear of technology is largely due to inexperience rather than a lack of ability. Using an iPad or similar device is not difficult. Touch interfaces mean fumbling about with a mouse is not an issue anymore, and there are now many budget tablet/laptop options for customers on lower incomes. Some customers will struggle if they suffer from impaired sight for example. But the introduction of technology will be a viable solution for most people once they have overcome the initial stumbling block.

The closing of bank branches and a diminishing face to face service is a reality that all banking customers have to face. Other organisations such as the charity, Age UK are providing IT training for older people. However, I feel that more government intervention is required to assist older people in technology training. Becoming digitally savvy is so crucial in the modern world, as services across all industries become automated. Perhaps it should not be the remit of private companies such as Barclays to prepare the public for the digital world.