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Technologies lack consumer understanding. An HSBC research report, Trust in Technology, reveals that many technologies which could offer significant benefits lack trust. Why? Because consumers do not understand the relevance or implications. Among common technologies misunderstood are biometrics such as fingerprint recognition and voice recognition.

While there is optimism around the progressive nature of technology, the significant majority of people have never heard of many new technologies. Even if they have, they couldn’t explain what they do. The least understood new technologies included:

  • blockchain: a digital ledger (80%)
  • robo-advisers: automated investment advice (69%)
  • finance applications integrated into social media, like WeChat or Facebook (60%)

All these hold enormous potential for uses from bank security to mobile payments and investment advice.

As John Flint, Global Chief Executive of Retail Banking and Wealth Management at HSBC comments: “Digital technology is rapidly evolving and customers are now able to bank more simply, quickly and in the most secure way possible. While people say they place huge value in the security of their personal data, they do not yet understand that adopting new technologies can help them to protect their information. Our research shows many people do not understand new technologies and so are unable to place trust in them. We have a role to play in building our customers’ knowledge and trust so that they see the value to their lives in adopting a new payments app or the latest biometric security. At HSBC we will continue to adapt as customers’ needs change, to provide banking services on their terms.

Technologies lack consumer understanding: the Trust in Technology Report

John Flint, Global Chief Executive of Retail Banking and Wealth Management, HSBC
John Flint, Global Chief Executive of Retail Banking and Wealth Management, HSBC

HSBC commissioned a study of more than 12,000 people in 11 countries and territories. The latter included people in Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Singapore, The United Arab Emirates, UK and the US. The study’s purpose was to examine perceptions and use of technology.

Among the results revealed were:

  • four in every five people believe that technology makes their lives easier
  • less than half (46%) trust fingerprint recognition to replace their password
  • 84% would share personal data with their bank if it meant better service
  • 87%, people believe a bank’s protection of personal data security is as important as the security for their finances
  • 24% have not heard of, or do not know what voice activation technology is, despite it being widely available in consumer smartphones.

Key expectations

Across the countries surveyed, there were three key expectations for a bank’s service when rolling out new technology:

  • ensuring customers know where they can go for support if technology goes wrong (74%)
  • advising customers on how the new technology can meet their needs (65%)
  • sharing advice and information online (57%).

In response to the study, HSBC has committed to developing educational programmes to support the launch and adoption of new banking technology. It proposes to introduce more than 3,000 ‘Digital Champions’. Their role will be to embed new digital ‘ways of working’ across HSBC, in particular with those who are customer-facing.

By the end of 2017, over 31,000 HSBC employees will have received ‘Digital Thursday’ training. This is a worldwide initiative in which the ‘Digital Champions’ will:

  • deliver training to branch employees and contact centres
  • equip employees to have positive conversations with customers about the positive changes that digital is enabling.

What’s it mean?

It seems obvious that a lack of understanding and trust in technology stalls mainstream adoption of innovative new services. It does not matter if these can make millions of people’s daily lives simpler. If they do not understand, they will not exploit what is on offer.

The blockchain is no different. When its introduction arrives, comprehension of the capabilities and implications will be critical to acceptance. This underlines the need to educate consumers about the specific benefits of each new technology. Wrapping all in an undifferentiated basket helps no-one. And banks are in the firing line.


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