Where Next for Retail Banking?


If there is one thing the diverse countries of the CEMEA region have in common, it is that the vast majority of customers have already embedded digital technologies into their everyday lives. Banks are eager to follow the trend and take advantage of it.

In order to better understand the trends in behavior of retail bank customers in the Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa (CEMEA) region, Visa has conducted research across ten regional markets looking at: overall usage of digital technologies, customer preferences between digital and traditional banking channels, customer experience drivers for digital channels, and perception of digital banks.

Retail customers are more digital than ever

Visa Consulting and Analytics (VCA) research reveals that most bank customers in CEMEA already use digital technologies in their everyday lives and expect a high-level digital experience from their key partners, including banks. Digital adoption accelerated in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns and the advent of remote working. And this extends to banking as well, with up to 80-95% of customers across CEMEA regions already using digital or mobile channels to interact with their banks.

Appetite for cashless payments takes center stage

Customers are more willing to use cashless payment methods, both online and offline, with some notable regional sub-differences such as favoring debit card use in Eastern Europe, prepaid cards and e-wallets in the Middle East, and mobile money in Africa.

In this regard, Georgia demonstrates dedicated aspiration to cashless payments utilization, as it claims the first place globally in contactless payments penetration as of May 2023, based on VisaNet data. The local banks’ efforts in offering their customers cards with chips, supporting contactless payments, and the widespread adoption of fast, safe, and secure digital payments, also effectuate the country’s success.

Mobile is king: A high-quality mobile channel is a must for any successful retail banking business

Customer research reveals, however, that channel transformation in banking is still ongoing, leaving plenty of room for CEMEA players to develop more effective banking channels and fully match customer expectations. VCA’s research elaborates on these consumer preferences, highlighting that in many CEMEA markets customers are “mobile dominant” when it comes to banking channel preference. This being said, research also shows that there is a case to be made for focusing on the quality of mobile banking apps, as customers tend to engage more with higher quality apps, affording these banks another opportunity to use each interaction to cross-sell or boost customer loyalty.

Mobile banking in Georgia is evolving rapidly, with the majority of financial institutions in the country providing their customers with a variety of mobile banking services. That being said, Visa cardholders in Georgia are able to use all the benefits of mobile banking the local banks can offer to run their financial operations smoothly and securely together with Visa.

Customers expect even more from bank’s mobile channels

Mobile banking technologies have progressed a long way to become the dominant mode of interaction between banks and their customers. However, there is still a significant gap between customer expectations and the actual offering. While each region in CEMEA has specific demands of the mobile banking experience, our research reveals four common patterns where customer expectations are still not met to a large extent.

Herein, Visa gives very close and thoughtful attention to offering its customers premium benefits and exceptional experience through various initiatives, products, and services that are designed to serve the best interests of Visa’s loyal clients.

Competition for customers is fierce and digital banks are in it to win

Competition for customers is getting more intense – a majority of customers already have several banking relationships and mobile banking apps. Purely digital banks are doing well in capturing customers seeking better digital services. Though incumbents still have a major opportunity to join the game and play on par, through digital transformation and innovation of their offering. They also benefit from a high level of established trust with customers and unmatched breadth of services offered.

In addition to the above-mentioned, customers in Georgia can use diverse payment methods, including digital wallets backed up by Apple Pay and Google Pay, via adding their Visa cards to their digital wallets. By supporting all these innovative solutions, Visa creates a frictionless payment experience for its customers.