A new YouGov webinar has explored the impact that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had on consumer attitudes towards financial services in the APAC region.
Hosted by Cindy Chan (General Manager, Greater China) and Michael Fu (Associate Director) on April 7, 2021, the session used syndicated BrandIndex and Profiles data – along with deep-dive custom research – to highlight changing sentiments, perceptions, and behaviours in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Singapore, and the UAE.
Here’s some of what we revealed during the session.
COVID-19 and consumer behaviour
The session began by focusing on how COVID-19 has impacted spending behaviours. Overall, 47% of global consumers said they had cut down on non-essential spending in the six months before they were polled – and 71% said they intended to cut back on non-essential spending in future. But among consumers in the APAC region, people are more likely to say they have cut back (53%) – and also more likely to say they intend to do so going forward (77%).
As for savings, APAC consumers were, in general, more likely to save money during the pandemic than consumers in other markets. This was particularly true in Hong Kong, where 37% of the public said they saved more money – the most of any of the 17 global markets in our study. Certain markets, however, saw higher levels of borrowing than the international average: in the UAE, for example, a quarter said they borrowed more money during the pandemic, as did a fifth (21%) of Indian consumers. Only Mexican consumers (28%) said they had borrowed more.
Adoption of digital channels
The next part of the webinar concentrated on how the pandemic affected adoption of digital financial channels.
Across every market in our study – except for China – a clear majority of consumers believe it’s safe to manage their finances online. In APAC, this ranges from seven in ten (71% - India) to over two in five (44% - China) consumers.
But beyond safety, most of the public actively intend to use digital financial services as much as possible. In India, as many as four out of five consumers (80%) agree that they plan to use mobile banking, online loan applications, and similar online functions as often as is feasible; at the lower end of the scale, in China, it still amounts to nearly three in five (58%).
There are more pronounced differences when it comes to purchasing financial products. In China, for example, over half of consumers do so mostly or entirely online (55% vs. 15% mostly/all offline); at the other end of the scale, Indonesians are evenly split (with 31% buying financial products mostly/all online; 31% buying them mostly/all offline).
Sustainability and banking ethics
The session also explored the issue of ethics in global banking. When asked to list their top ethical priorities for financial services companies, global consumers were most likely to put paying staff a fair wage (47%) in their top three – with data privacy coming in second (40%). But it also showed that younger consumers aged 18-24 were more likely to prioritise sustainability (31% vs. 23% on average).
More worryingly for APAC banks and other financial services providers, consumer trust appears to be highly variable. While more than half of Indonesian consumers (55%) appear to trust institutions in their market, in every other category fewer than half of the public say they trust financial bodies. In Australia, just a third say they trust banks and other financial services providers (32%).
Facing the financial future: Consumer priorities for 2021
At a global level, consumers are most likely to say their financial priorities for 2021 are saving money (45%), ensuring they can meet their regular financial commitments (31%), protecting themselves and their families in case of emergency (27%), and making money through investing (27%).
In the APAC markets in our region, Indonesians are more likely to say their priority is saving money for unexpected hardships (54%) and protecting their families (38%), while Australians are more likely to say they want to pay their regular commitments (46%).
In terms of their overall attitudes, consumers in China are more optimistic about the overall economic condition of their country in the next six months (57%), with Indonesians somewhat behind (44%) and Singaporeans behind them (38%). Optimism about financial markets (43%), job prospects (40%), and the property market (37%) is highest in Indonesia.
Hong Kong has the lowest levels of optimism across the board in APAC: 8% think their overall economic condition is going to improve, 13% say the same of their property market, 12% think financial markets are going to get better, 7% believe job prospects are trending upwards, and 15% say consumer spending intent will rise in the next six months.