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Are Brick and Mortar Banks and Checking Accounts Dying Due to Digital Wallets, Prepaid Debit Cards, Etc.?

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North American banks that don't clue in that their competitors now include companies like PayPal, T-Mobile and even the US Postal Service could be facing big trouble. That's the conclusion of a recent survey and analysis by the consulting companies Accenture titled, "The Digital Disruption in Banking: Demons, Demands, and Dividends."

The Accenture survey, which was based on feedback from around 4,000 retail banking customers in the US and Canada, found that evolving technologies and changing consumer attitudes pose real dilemmas to traditional banks. Accenture found that although almost 40 percent of US customers have been with their current bank for a decade or more, a host of factors shows that now is not the time for banks to assume their customers aren't looking for better options.

For instance, over one quarter of those surveyed by Accenture said they would consider a branchless digital bank if they opted to leave their current bank. Not surprisingly, the number of younger people who see no reason to visit a branch is high, with 39 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 34 saying they would consider all digital banking.

Perhaps even more worrying for traditional banks is the fact that almost three-quarters of US customers said they consider their relationship, such as it is, with their bank to be "transactional." In other words, the bond between customers and banks is paper-thin, which makes two of Accenture's other findings hardly surprising. More than half of the customers asked said they want their bank to proactively suggest products and services that can help them meet their unique financial needs. Half would also be interested in an analysis of their spending that was future focused and available in real time.

The Accenture survey also asked bank customers what companies they would consider as financial service providers. This is not merely an abstract question either, given that T-Mobile has launched a prepaid debit card and digital wallet and Walmart now has a partnership with American Express in which it sells the AmEx Serve prepaid card and the Bluebird checking account alternative. Topping the list of companies respondents would consider banking with - not all of them actually offer financial services - are Square, PayPal, T-Mobile, Costco, Apple and Google.

Being a consulting company, Accenture is also in the business of providing solutions to the problems big companies face. Their answer to the threat faced by big banks has three parts. It includes making the customer experience seamless, regardless of whether someone is making a transaction in a branch or digitally. The second part involves extending a bank's so-called "ecosystem" by offering more services to customers. And finally, Accenture suggests banks offer personalized digital solutions to customers' financial needs.

None of these suggested steps are easy, but responding to changes in how customers bank seems to be a challenge that won't go away anytime soon. If banks don't respond aggressively and quickly, then there is no doubt that a slow death will ensue. Some consumer advocates would argue that that death has already started for certain financial institutions.