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Accessible banking: What does it mean?

By Ryan Graham, CTO at Texthelp

The banking industry serves millions of people every day. However, banking jargon and complex websites and software have historically created barriers for customers trying to manage their finances online. As banks continue to close branches and increase online services, it’s becoming difficult for customers to bank in person. In combination with this, the World Health Organization (WHO), reports that there are over one billion people who live with a disability. Similarly, the number of older people using the internet is rising with recent ONS statistics reporting that internet users over the age 75 nearly doubled in 2020.

As a result, it’s more important than ever to ensure customers can access and understand financial information online.

By directly addressing some of these barriers to personal financial management, challenger banks have transformed the financial landscape. Platforms from Monzo to  Revolut have been specifically designed with transparency, ease of use, and accessibility front of mind. This has forced traditional banks to compete with the challengers and make language, readability and accessibility key areas for development.

A virtual shift

The financial services industry is historically known for using complicated language that often leaves customers confused.  This, coupled with poorly designed websites and apps has meant that financial services are often difficult to access online, particular for older people and people with disabilities. Recently, we conducted research together with YouGov to explore the online experiences of older web users. We found that one in four aged over 50 faced problems accessing products and services online during lockdown.

This data supports the overarching assumption that during ‘lockdown’, a significant portion of people in the UK relied on the internet for essential services, banking included.  Covid-19 has increased the importance of accessibility and readability, as services continue to move online.

Banking bugbears


There are some common problems among users of online banking. According to research by TimeTrade SilverCloud, 70% of banking customers start with online self-service but 87% say that it’s not working for them. Financial products are complex and the way that banks present this information can be crucial for maintaining customer loyalty and brand value.

Taking measures to improve the online user experience will show a company’s commitment to digital inclusion. With services moving online, diversity and inclusion takes on a new meaning. It’s no longer just about providing wheelchair access in local high street branches, it’s also about digital accessibility.

Accessibility and inclusion includes having content and instructions that are easy to understand and jargon-free. This will benefit everyone regardless of their age, disability or platform they are using. Similarly, adding captions to any video content, and providing a keyboard-only option to fill out information will offer additional support for people that may have trouble hearing or using different interface functions. Digital inclusion may require an intense review – such as checking if the colour contrast on the site is suitable for all users and including support for screen readers. While this audit can be a significant undertaking, it will allow all customers to equally engage online.

Building brand value

Breaking down financial jargon into accessible and easy to understand information should be the first step. This will help banks to increase reach and build a brand image based on inclusivity and transparency. It will help attract new customers and retain existing users.

Improved accessibility goes hand-in-hand with improved engagement. The Click-Away Pound Report found that 75% of customers would pay more for a product from an accessible website than buy again from one that was less inclusive.

By investing in easy to access and understand marketing and communications, banks can better build meaningful relationships with customers. Using alternative formats can also be a good way to improve engagement. Accessible infographics and video clips are a great way of sharing content and explaining complicated concepts. Employing tactics like these can increase reach and build brand reputation.


Looking to the future

As technology continues to develop, banking customers will expect the same intuitive and accessible experience they’ve come to expect from the likes of Uber, Deliveroo and Amazon.

Forrester expects the number of firms making formal commitments on accessibility to increase.  More organisations than ever are focusing on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as part of their customer experience. Before making any direct change to their current website, banks can initially review what they are doing to gauge how much needs changing.

Established institutions need to keep up, or risk falling behind.

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