The Downside of Direct Banks

Direct banks — online-only banks that typically pay much higher interest rates on various accounts — have seen a rise in popularity in recent years. Without being burdened by the high operating costs of maintaining a traditional branch network, these banks generally offer robust digital services, as well as generally much more attractive rates on everything from savings accounts to CDs. But are there also downsides to their digital-centric approach?

According to a J.D. Power survey, there’s a downside to losing that human element. For one, people are quickly becoming very upset when they can’t easily get in touch with a real person when they need help with something. And they have higher expectations for the digital experience at direct banks: they expect it to be flawless. Further, the study found, the novelty of higher rates won’t last forever, and direct banks need to diversify their offerings if they’re going to retain and attract customers going forward.

All in all, some interesting thoughts, especially considering we live in a time when it seems like every bank is falling all over itself to offer a “digital-only” offshoot of traditional services.