'Apple bank' could be future of finance, survey says
Combine the high consumer level of trust in Apple with the backlash against many banks and you might see a business opportunity ripe for the picking.
Fri, Mar 23 2012 at 4:16 PM
Computers, phones, music, tablets, TVs (maybe) — and financial services? The list of businesses Apple has, or might, dominate, keeps growing — at least based on speculation. According to a new survey, if Apple were to open a bank, a lot of people could become financial switchers.
And the time might be getting ripe. Google is trying hard to turn its Android phones into digital cash. Phones equipped with Google Wallet technology (similar to a "tap to pay" credit card) have been rolling out. And payment terminals that accept Google Wallet are popping up all over, such as Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Walgreens and The Gap. But these simply tie into bank accounts.
What if rival Apple (which doesn't even have digital payments yet) went one better and actually created a bank itself?
It may be far-fetched, but it might also be a hit. That's the conclusion from a fresh survey of 5,000 people in the U.S. and the U.K. by marketing and research consultancy KAE and online pollster Toluna.
Among them, 10 percent said they would consider switching to a hypothetical Apple Bank. (No relation to the actual Apple Bank chain in the New York City area. You can already imagine the trademark lawsuits. Or perhaps it would just be called "iBank.") Not surprisingly, Apple customers would be even keener. In fact, 43 percent are already up for it.
This says as much about how much people like Apple as about how little they like today's banks. Half of the possible switchers think that Apple would make their accounts easier to access and manage. Two-thirds said that trust in Apple would be the main motivation. Only 30 percent of Americans trust banks, according the latest (Jan. 26) Financial Trust Index by the Chicago Booth/Kellogg School. And many Americans would probably be eager to jump ship. Also on Jan. 26, Javelin Strategy and Research estimated that 5.6 million people have switched banks in the preceding three months. (Eleven percent were motivated by Occupy Wall Street's "Bank Transfer Day" campaign.)
The high level of trust in Apple hints that all the bruising reports and protests about labor practices in China haven't had such a bad effect. (Even most protesters admit to being Apple fans.) In fact, Apple ranked as the most-trusted brand in a February report from polling firm Harris Interactive. (Google was just a bit behind.)
Any move into finance might still be tough. According to another Harris study from February, just a quarter of Americans would trust even using digital payments. But Apple often gets people to think differently about how they use their money — for example, paying for music from iTunes, which launched in the glory days of pirated MP3s.
Speaking of iTunes, the service could give Apple a head start in banking. At least 200 million people already use the service. Would it be such a big step to go from an iTunes account to an iBank account?
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