Acquiring and Retaining Affluent Customers

Affluent (1) customers are a key segment for financial institution, as they have greater deposit balances, more investable assets, and higher borrowing dollars. Affluent customers also have more products, on average with their primary bank than do less-affluent customers (3.5 vs. 2.8, respectively). Banks have fully realized the potential of these customers and are actively putting greater focus on not only acquiring but also retaining this key customer segment. However, these customers keep the lowest share of their funds with their primary banks, compared with Emerging Affluent and Mass Market customers. On average, Affluent customers keep just over half of their deposits (58%), 20% of investments and 61% of borrowing accounts with their primary bank.

Not only is there a large opportunity for financial institutions to capture a greater share of wallet among these Affluent customers, but financial institutions may also gain a competitive advantage by providing a superior experience for these valuable customers which will result in greater acquisition and lower defection rates. To fully capitalize on this opportunity, it is important to understand the drivers of defection and reasons Affluent customers select their bank, as well as the differing expectations of these customers and the levers banks can utilize to fully satisfy them.

(1) Affluent is defined as income of $150K or more and investable assets of $250K or more; Mass Market is defined as investable assets of less than $100K and income less than $150K; Emerging Affluent is defined as income of $150K or more and investable assets less than $250K, or, income less than $150K and investable assets of $100K or more.

Attracting Affluent Customers

Why Do They Switch?

Nearly one in 10 Affluent customers (9%) switched financial institutions in the past 12 months—a higher rate than among less affluent customers (6%). Affluent customers most commonly state uncompetitive interest rates (30%) and poor service experience (26%) as factors that influenced their decision to switch banks. The amount of churn among Affluent customers provides a key opportunity for competitor financial institutions to acquire these valuable customers.

What Do They Look For?

According to data in our 2012 Bank Customer Switching and Acquisition Study, Affluent customers who select a new primary bank do so primarily based on good prior service experience (31%)—also the leading purchase trigger among less-affluent customers. However, compared with Mass Market and Emerging Affluent customers, the reasons Affluent customers switch banks are less about convenience (branch hours/locations) and more often about products and pricing.

Retaining Affluent Customers

When attempting to satisfy Affluent customers’ expectations and minimize attrition, it is essential to focus efforts on the areas that will have the greatest impact. The challenge with satisfying Affluent customers is not only that their expectations are higher than other customers, but also that they are not always easily identifiable as Affluent customers, especially when they visit a branch location. This means in certain areas of the customer experience, banks should be providing a superior level of service to all customers. However, when Affluent customers are identified, it is critical for banks to optimize this opportunity by providing a proactive and personal approach to ensure customers in this segment are satisfied.

Personal Interaction

It’s key for financial institutions to focus on providing a superior personal experience for Affluent customers, whether it be at the branch or over the phone. Affluent customers with high satisfaction are more likely to indicate the branch representative called them by name; reviewed account information and recommended additional products; offered additional assistance; and thanked them for their business. These are also key for interactions with the bank’s call center.

Affluent customers value their time and as such don’t want to wait in line or for call center representatives to locate their information. High satisfaction Affluent customers report average branch wait times of 2.1 minutes vs. 3.5 minutes for low/medium satisfaction customers; however, Affluent customers are tolerant of longer transaction completion times.


Highly satisfied Affluent customers are less likely to be charged fees overall but have a greater understanding of their fee structures. These customers are also less likely to report fee changes and changes to minimum balances. Closely aligned to Fee satisfaction is the on-boarding experience. Customers who have a greater understanding of fee structures and have higher satisfaction report that their needs were “completely” identified during the account initiation process and that the representative followed up after account initiation to answer any additional questions that may have arisen.

Product Offerings and Proactive Contact

On average, Affluent customers have 3.5 products with their primary financial institution, which most often are checking accounts, savings accounts, and credit cards. High satisfaction Affluent customers are more likely to say their primary bank offers additional features and services. Some of these features include debit card with rewards, banking alerts, and free non-bank ATM usage.

High satisfaction Affluent customers also receive more proactive contact from their primary financial institution than do customers with low/medium satisfaction Affluent customers.  In fact, one-third of high satisfaction Affluent customers receive a personal contact—either at the branch or a phone call. Proactive contact is necessary to ensure customers are aware of the full breadth of product offerings, as well as ensure they have the optimal product mix to fit their needs. However, it is important to note that 57% of Affluent customers have not been contacted by their bank during the past 12 months.

The Bottom Line

  • Execute on the basics, such as ensuring there are no issues with branch appearance, customers are greeted at the branch, ATMs are reliable, and that customers experience short wait times and courtesy.
  • Raise the bar on the branch service levels for all customers!
  • Go Beyond the basics to deliver a more personalized experience that includes:  offering additional assistance with an exceptional level of courtesy, representatives that are well-trained on bank policies and procedures and employees that are encouraged to show concern for customers’ needs.
  • Proactively contact Affluent customers, ideally four times per year, or once per quarter. This is an opportunity for representatives at a minimum to thank these customers for their business as well as a key opportunity to answer questions, listen to concerns, and communicate changes to fees, discuss new products/services, or highlight upcoming website changes/enhancements.
  • Personalize communication for items such as a fee structure change, a personal channel (e.g., branch rep, personalized e-mail) in addition to standard forms of communication (e.g., statements, paper mail).
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