Designing for trust in Digital Banking

Part 2: Building trust in digital banking services. We explain how to do this

As shown in the first part of this series of blogs, trust is not only an important component in the classic banking relationship but also crucial for the success of digital channels.

Customer trust in digital services does not only stem from the digital channel, but also from the combination of offline and online worlds; in other words, a fully integrated customer experience.

According to Wong et al., good service in the bank branch can even trigger a halo effect among customers: Customers assume that the confidence-building interaction they receive offline is an indication that the same service is online. However, details of a fully integrated and seamless customer experience are not discussed in detail in this article, but instead the focus is on the design of digital services. However, I would like to take this opportunity to refer to our study "Customer Experience in Private Pensions".

In general, there are many factors that are crucial to winning the trust of customers in digital banking services. In the following, we will discuss five critical building blocks that form the foundation for actively shaping trust in digital banking services.

Integrity of the bank and brand experience

The integrity of a bank and its reputation has a major impact on the trust that clients place in it.

On the one hand, the stability of a bank is important: it consists of financial stability, security measures and size, among other things.

On the other hand, the client experience is also of central importance, i.e. the quality of advice, how the client is treated, how the bank communicates with the client, and how the bank responds to and helps solve its client's problems.

An enjoyable experience that a client makes with the bank through other channels has a positive effect on the initial trust in the bank's digital services. It is, of course, essential that the customer also recognises a digital service as that of their financial service provider. Consistent and integrated branding across all offline and online channels is the key to achieving this goal.

Gwendy Walbert expresses this in her dissertation as follows:

"Branding makes it possible to address the weaknesses of a relationship based on trust and to provide the uncertain world with a little more security for the consumer. In doing so, the brand serves him as an anchor of orientation and a signal for continuously high quality. The brand is an invitation from the supplier to the consumer to confide in him."

The digital services of a bank correspond to this "uncertain world", whereby the brand serves as an invitation to trust the services nevertheless.

Reliability of the system

Digital services must meet the basic requirements for IT systems to convince a user that the environment in which he or she is moving is reliable. While in an interpersonal relationship people try to question the motives and intentions of their counterpart, in a human-machine relationship they evaluate the reliability of the technical device.

According to Egger (2003), the factors that determine whether a system is reliable are strongly dependent on the IT skills of the user. An important factor in any case is the availability and performance of a system. A system that is not available or accessible gives the impression that something is wrong with it, as do above-average loading times.

Security and Privacy

Concerns about security are according to Moscato et al. (2012), security concerns are one of the main factors influencing the adoption of online banking services. However, it is not enough to simply implement a system securely, but to run it like Moscato

"It is therefore essential for online banks to not only take proper security measures but to ensure that their customers and potential customers perceive their services as secure."

The perceived security is of central importance for the trust of the customers. It is not enough to simply implement a system securely, the user must also perceive this system as secure. To this end, precautions for the security of the system should be communicated in a language appropriate to the customer. It must always be ensured that any information about security processes that is available to the user is also accessible to a potential hacker. According to Shneiderman (2000) it is already helpful if third parties (e.g. via certification) make a statement about how secure a system is.

In addition to subjectively perceived security, the perceived privacy of one's own data in a banking system is also decisive for the trust of the user. Schnorf et al. (2014) 6 as well as Hatscher et al. (2012) state the following findings in their studies: The users of digital services can be divided almost 50/50 into two groups. Those who have no privacy concerns and those for whom the privacy of their data is absolutely central. For the second group, control over their own data is the appropriate means of strengthening trust. These customers should be made aware of the purposes for which their data is used and the data that the bank collects and holds.

Usefulness and ease of use

Another central building block of confidence-building is useful services that meet customer needs and are user-friendly in operation.

Usability has proven to be a relevant factor in creating a relationship of trust between people and digital services. According to Goudarzi et al (2013), improved usability also increases trust in a system.

In addition to the actual usability, the direct benefit of a service for the customer is also decisive. The more useful a service is, the more willingly the customer entrusts his data to a service provider. Suitable services and convincing usability can only be achieved in a design and development process by consistently involving the customers and future users.

Transparency in all areas

Another building block for building trust is transparency. The more a customer knows about a service provider, the easier it is for him to weigh up the consequences of his potential behaviour.

As already described under the "Security and Privacy" module, clients appreciate clear transparency on the part of the bank regarding the use of their data. For some users, this knowledge is even essential to build trust and is supported by control over their own data.

In the study "Customer Experience in Private Pensions", Namics was able to prove that customers in advisory situations demand absolute transparency of information, processes and costs. If it is not disclosed how which information is used by the customer and what effect this has on a proposed solution, this can lead to customer dissatisfaction. Customers have the same expectations when it comes to disclosing the costs of products, solutions and services.

The digital transformation of banks is an opportunity to build customer trust. This opportunity should be actively seized by taking the above-mentioned building blocks into account when (further) developing any new or existing digital service. The next article in this series will discuss the possibilities of incorporating these building blocks and how they are integrated into a development process.


  1. David Wong, Kenneth Yap, Claire Loh, Randall Bak, 2009, Building Trust in E-Banking: Where is the Line between Online and Offline Banking?
  2. Gwendy Walbert, 2006, Der Erfolgsfaktor Marke im Private Banking aus Sicht des Markeninhabers
  3. Florian N. Egger, 2003, From interactions to transactions, Designing the Trust-Experience from Business-to-Consumer Electronic Commerce
  4. Donald R. Moscato, Shoshana Altschuller, 2012, International Perceptions of Online Banking Security Concerns
  5. Ben Shneiderman, 2000, Designing Trust into Online Experiences
  6. Sebastian Schnorf, Martin Oertlieb, Nikhil Sharma, 2014, Trust, Transparency & Control in Inferred User Interest Models
  7. Michael Hatscher, Sebastion Schnorf, Martin Oertlib, Kalle Kormann-Philipson, Privacy UX – Was ist datenschutzbezogene User Experience
  8. Shidrokh Goudarzi, Mohammad Nazir Ahmad, Seyed Ahmad Soleymani, Nastaran Mohammadhosseini, 2013, Impact of Trust on Internet Banking Adoption: A Literature Review
  9. Namics AG, 2017, Studie „Customer Experience in der privaten Vorsorge“