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Inclusive Digital Banking

Financial services have long understood the need for inclusion. Delivering products and services at a reasonable cost has been a focus in increasing access for more people. In a digital-first economy, the need to widen this focus becomes stronger.

With the digital world comes more barriers to access, particularly for disabled people. Accessible banking services should also focus on removing online barriers to banking for disabled people.

In the same way physical branches are made accessible, the experience of disabled users must be considered from the start. But since websites are constantly changing, accessible banking services will realise that digital accessibility is a journey. For some, this can mean a cultural shift in the way things are done. We’re here to help.

What is inclusive digital banking?

Inclusive digital banking means making sure everyone can access and use financial service websites, regardless of difference or disability.

“With the banking industry in particular, there’s a moral obligation. If you can’t do your banking, as someone who has a disability, how much of your independence do you have to surrender? If you have to get someone else to do these tasks on your behalf, that is a huge thing.“ - Dominic Maher, J.P. Morgan

Accessible banking services will design their websites and apps following inclusive design principles. That means to design in a way that allows everyone to participate equally, confidently and independently online. For financial services that’s important because everyone deserves the right to financial independence. When it comes to banking for disabled people, the same welcoming experience should exist online as in a physical branch.

Webinar: Driving inclusive digital banking 

Discover more about inclusive design in digital banking. Hear how J.P Morgan and Morgan Stanley improve digital accessibility for their customers. Discover how they’re future proofing accessibility for their organisations.

Who does digital accessibility benefit and why?

Digital accessibility is primarily focused on making digital products accessible to people with disabilities. But it can benefit a much wider audience, including people who lack digital skills. It also brings huge benefits for business.

Online banking for disabled people

In the UK, at least 1 in 5 people have a long term illness, impairment or disability. Many more have a temporary disability. Disabilities can be physical, cognitive, or sensory. An accessibility barrier will exist if the digital design fails to meet the needs of disabled users. For example a person with a mobility disability may have limited movement and use a keyboard to navigate the web. That means websites and apps should be fully functional using a keyboard only. 

Respondents explained that accessibility issues are magnified by the extra security banks require. 18% of people find it fairly difficult or very difficult to use their bank’s security measures, rising to 30% of those with memory difficulties. Speaking on this, a dyslexic user explained that this is often due to being asked for specific characters from a security password.

Respondents with dexterity challenges or difficulty reading numbers explained that online barriers were a result of timed sessions. With particular reference to card readers for online banking, one respondent explained; ‘I have to use a magnifier and get the card screen in just the right light to read it. This takes time (if I can manage it) and the screen blanks out after a few seconds, leaving me to start the process again.’

Explore more in this podcast with Fidelity Investments and The Financial Brand

In a recent podcast with Fidelity Investments and The Financial Brand, Jeff Wissel spoke of such barriers:

“Oftentimes large companies and organisations have policies that were created a long time ago and are still in place today. When we evaluate our policies and procedures, we try to look at the various use cases that our customers have shared with us about barriers that they may have encountered and so forth. We look at those policies and procedures with that lens in mind to think, okay, we're doing this for cybersecurity and risk and fraud and all these things, but is it causing barriers unintentionally? 

What we find is when we find an issue like that and we fix it, it fixes it for not only the accessibility use case, but for everybody. A lot of things that we find are customer satisfiers for many segments, not just the disability segment.”

Accessible banking services give disabled people the same opportunities as everyone else. Often this means critically reviewing current processes, and questioning the way things ‘have always been done’. Making the effort to be inclusive is the right thing to do. But as Jeff says, digital accessibility improvements often benefit everyone too. That brings huge advantages for financial organisations.

Benefits of accessible banking services

By being inclusive to the needs of all users, your financial service can increase brand reputation and revenue. Not only by offering an accessible digital banking experience to more people. It also puts your organisation in a better place to compete with change-makers in the industry.

“The ability to acquire new customers at ‘digital scale’ will impact market share and challenge existing budgets for branches. The fastest growing financial institutions in the world are all highly specialised in acquiring and onboarding customers digitally – such as Ant, NuBank, Revolut, Chime, etc.” - Brett King

Whitepaper: Accessibility in Financial Services

In this paper discover the importance of digital accessibility for financial services. Hear from authors Martin McKay, CEO & Founder of Texthelp, and Debra Ruh, Global Disability Inclusion Strategist. Gain insights to help you make sure your digital services can be accessed and used by people with disabilities. Receive a 6-step plan to help you take action.

The impact of digital inaccessibility

Freedom of choice removed

For disabled users, the impact of digital inaccessibility is huge. It limits their freedom of choice in banking.

According to research 41% of disabled people have suffered due to closures of physical branches. Over a 6 year period, almost 4,300 UK branches have closed. That’s a 44% cut in the network. Alternative options include phone services and online banking. But, according to the Financial Lives 2020 survey, such alternative methods aren’t without barriers:

  • 3 in 10 adults with a physical or mental health condition have faced problems dealing with customer services over the phone
  • Those with poor mental health or cognitive difficulties (such as memory difficulties or neurodiverse conditions like Autism) are the most likely to face difficulties. In fact, 2 in 5 (42%) find dealing with customer services on the phone confusing or difficult
  • Of those with a hearing or visual impairment that faced difficulties, a quarter (25%) struggle to follow instructions. This makes it hard for them to interact with financial services providers

Digital banking gives users the option to self-serve online. In fact in recent years, 14.7 million people have increased their use of online or mobile banking. But unfortunately digital channels are not an option for everyone. That's because not all websites and apps are accessible to people with disabilities. Some people also struggle to use the internet due to lack of digital skills.

Research has found that 4.7 million adults (9%) are digitally excluded. This can be because of barriers related to access, understanding, skills and confidence.

Exclusion is strongly related with age: 28% of those aged 75-84 were digitally excluded, rising to 74% of those 85+. It's also prevalent in people with poor health, affecting 3 in 10 (27%) adults in poor health.

By making sure your website and apps are easy to access and use by everyone, you’re giving your customers and service users more choice in how they interact with you. And more freedom in how they choose to manage their personal finances.

A lack of preparedness

It’s true that organisations expect consumers to do more online today than ever before. But recently, many financial organisations were forced to go ‘digital by default’.

  • 11% have experienced a problem getting through to a provider
  • 9% have had issues using providers’ websites. The reasons being that they couldn't find the information they needed (5%), and they couldn't access their own products or services because they could not use the providers’ online services (4%).

Users of financial services are able to self-serve much more easily online if banking websites and apps are accessible and usable. How efficient and effective your digital services are can have an impact, so it’s important to consider the user experience when designing accessible digital banking services.

Discover how to create accessible user experiences in our online guide.

Whitepaper: Improving online accessibility for the older web user

Together with YouGov, we explored the online experiences of those aged 50+ throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Results found that 1 in 4 aged over 50 have faced problems accessing products and services online during lockdown. Usability problems were experienced across healthcare, retail, financial and public service websites. 

Read the report and discover insights from Monzo, Department for Work & Pensions and more.

A lack of trust

Arguably, as a financial service being trustworthy is one of the most important attributes to have. If your audiences don’t have trust, they’ll look elsewhere.

32% disagreed with the statement that financial firms are honest and transparent. Adults with one or more characteristics of vulnerability are must more likely to disagree than adults with no characteristics of vulnerability (38% vs 27%, respectively).

Trust, confidence and satisfaction are all interlinked and scores can be affected by bad experiences. 

Legal non-compliance

Under the Equality Act 2010, financial organisations must provide equal access to its products and services for people with disabilities. Should a disabled person experience a barrier, reasonable adjustments must be made. By making sure your website is accessible to all people, regardless of disability or difference, you’re reducing the chances of this happening. That means a better experience for your service users, and a more efficiently run organisation.

Digital inaccessibility in financial services exists

We reviewed 30 of the top US National and Community banks for accessibility. The purpose was to discover how easy these banking websites were to access and use for people with disabilities. As well as to highlight the biggest barriers to digital banking. The results revealed that there is work to be done:

  • None of the banks fully met Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG Level AA is the international standard for accessibility. 
  • Across all 30 banks, results found that  web content would be considered ‘Fairly difficult to read’. That is according to the Flesch Reading Ease Score.

How to improve accessibility in digital banking

To improve digital accessibility in banking, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a great place to start.

Begin with WCAG

WCAG helps organisations to improve online accessibility by providing a set of guidelines. They’re regarded as the international standard for web accessibility. By following these guidelines, financial services will open up their online services for disabled users. 

“When it comes to accessibility, some people can tend to overthink it. They want to do the right thing. They’re building accessible websites for a community of people with disabilities and others. So they begin to focus on different disability types, and things get overcomplicated. Begin by focusing on what the standards tell you. The standards protect people with disabilities. If we’re all building to these standards, then we can trust we’re going in the right direction.”

Debra Ruh, Global Disability Inclusion Strategist

WCAG helps you to consider the needs of disabled users with varying disabilities. It helps you to make your digital services can be perceived, understood and used by everyone. Its requirements consider many factors that affect accessibility including:

  • Technical elements such as coding that allows screen readers to access content easily, and in a logical order. And allows keyboard only functionality
  • Visual elements such as good colour contrast and text size
  • Cognitive elements including the need for forms to include explanatory labels or instructions

Continue with an optimal user experience

As mentioned, WCAG compliance will help you on your way to offering a more accessible banking service online. But as you’re aiming for WCAG compliance, thinking about human experience will help you create the optimal user experience.

Meeting accessibility standards doesn’t necessarily mean you’re giving your users the optimal experience.

For example, you might have added alternative text to your images allowing blind users to ‘see’ your content. But this doesn’t mean they’re providing an accurate description. Or conveying the true meaning of the image. Creating equal experiences for all requires some thought. This translates through to the language used in your content.

It goes without saying that banking and finance information can contain a lot of jargon. Not only that, the language used can often be difficult to understand. As many as 1 in 4 UK adults have very low literacy skills. To give every visitor a chance to not only access, but use your digital content, it must be easy to understand. This means keeping information simple and clear. Improving readability can help.

Discover how Monzo improve accessibility and readability in this podcast

In this episode of the Texthelp Talks podcast, we’re joined by Monzo’s Web Engineering Lead to debunk 6 common myths believed about web accessibility. Gain insights to help you challenge common misconceptions. Hear how Monzo actively improve accessibility and readability of online services.

Ask us anything

At Texthelp we want to do our part to open up digital banking for everyone. Book in for a free consultation and ask us anything.

  • We'll answer your questions around legal compliance and accessibility best practices
  • We'll discuss the factors that affect digital accessibility and usability - from technical barriers to readability issues
  • We'll show you tools to help you create enjoyable online experiences for all your customers

Inclusive digital banking improves the experience for all

Websites and apps that are designed with disabled users in mind offer a better outcome for everyone. After all, inclusive design is about recognising diversity in all forms. 

“Building accessible digital experiences is actually good design by default. It gives you a roadmap to create better experiences.” - Morgan Stanley

Online barriers can be situational and temporary too. For example a parent trying to check their bank balance online before making a purchase in a store, may also be holding a baby. Being able to quickly navigate a mobile app benefits them too. Accessible coding, colours and language all play a part in the experience. These elements make financial services easier for everyone to use, in any situation.

Guide: Achieving the POUR principles

For a website to be considered accessible it must be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. Discover what this means in our free guide. And learn how you can go above and beyond to improve the user experience for everyone.

How is the financial sector doing?

We recently reviewed the websites of 30 of the top National and Community banks in America. We scanned their websites for WCAG compliance and readability, using the ReachDeck Auditor

We found that on average:

  • National banks had 12 WCAG AA errors per page
  • Community banks had 13 WCAG AA errors per page
  • Both had an average reading age of 19 across all website content, and contained over 11 jargon words per page

Arguably, the results show there’s room for improvement. For example, as best practice organisations should aim to comply with the WCAG Level AA at minimum. Check out the report. Discover how both accessibility and readability play a role in inclusive digital banking. Uncover 6 key ways your organisation can improve.

Discover how you're doing. Receive a free website review.

We’d love to offer you our support and expertise, to help open up the digital world for all.

Book a free consultation with us and receive a free accessibility and readability review of your website. We'll:

  • Provide a quick accessibility and readability review of your website
  • Discuss the factors that affect digital accessibility and usability. Including technical barriers, and readability issues
  • Answer your questions around legal compliance and accessibility best practices
  • Identify tools that can help you to create enjoyable online experiences for your customers