Consumers are satisfied
The National Forum on the Payment System consists of users and providers of payment services who meet regularly to discuss the payment system. The arrival of modern information and communication technologies has accelerated the shift from physical to digital payment services. This trend is expected to continue in the years ahead, meaning that physical payment services offered through bank branches, the use of ATMs, and cash deposits are set to decline further in favour of electronic banking and on-line and mobile banking services.
These developments may enhance the safety and efficiency of payments. A key concern for the National Forum, however, is that banking and payment services remain easily available and accessible for all users. The Forum has compiled its Accessibility Monitor every three years since 2007 in order to keep track of developments and trends in payments. The 2013 survey shows that appreciation of bank and payment services among users has remained generally unchanged since 2010. Appreciation among SMEs has even increased slightly since 2010. As far as the more vulnerable population groups are concerned, the physically challenged are slightly less satisfied about the distance to a bank branch or an ATM.
Nevertheless, the general appreciation of payment services also remains high among more vulnerable groups (people without internet access, the physically challenged, people with limited education, economically inactive and older people). Consumers across the board rated availability and accessibility of payment services 7.5 and 7.7 out of ten, and SMEs awarded 7.3 to availability and 7.4 to user friendliness. On a scale of 1 to 10, there are no banking services that score a 5 or lower. Consumers gave the highest score to the availability of mobile banking apps through smartphones or tablets: 8 out of 10.
Changes in the physical payments infrastructure
The number of bank branches has been declining since the nineties. At 2,386, the number of bank branches in mid-2013 was 18% lower than in 2010 (2,917). Banks are rationalising their branch networks and the merger of Fortis Bank's Dutch branch network with that of ABN AMRO, and Rabobank's takeover of Friesland Bank have accelerated the consolidation and closure of bank branches (see Table 1).
Table 1: Supply of banking and payment services, 2010-2013