The banks are euphoric – but the customers are skeptical

The COP climate conference in Glasgow

Global banks see themselves as part of the solution when it comes to climate change, but for many of their private customers sustainability is not yet a major issue.

(Photo: AP)

Frankfurt Deutsche Bank boss Christian Sewing is certain: The topic of sustainability has been the greatest growth opportunity for banks in decades. The largest domestic financial institution wants to achieve around 200 billion euros in sustainable financing and investments by 2023.

Sewing is not alone with such plans: the entire industry has discovered the megatrend of sustainability for itself. But there is a problem with the opportunities the banks are invoking. Customers are apparently still very skeptical about sustainable investments.

At least a current survey by the management consultancy Bearingpoint suggests that for most bank customers the green commitment only stops when it comes to their own bank account. Security, returns and costs are by far the most important criteria for consumers in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France when it comes to finance.


The survey shows that sustainability plays only a subordinate role for German savers as a central criterion when investing money with six percent. For the Swiss and French, this figure is seven percent and in Austria five percent.

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However, the data also show that the younger generation is much more aware of green investments than older bank customers. Ten percent of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 24 see sustainability as the most important decision criterion when investing – even before security, returns and costs. For 44 to 54 year olds, this value is only half as high.

These figures are based on an online survey by YouGov on behalf of Bearingpoint, in which over 5000 people in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France took part.

Another indication that sustainability is more important to younger bank customers shows the greater willingness to accept higher costs for banking products. On average, only 19 percent of all respondents in all four countries are willing to pay more for greener investments; the proportion of 18 to 24-year-olds is significantly higher at 30 percent. In Germany, only around one in six people agrees with higher costs, but one in four in the young age group.


The basic skepticism about sustainability when it comes to money is also evident in the selection criteria for a bank. Even with the same conditions, only 24 percent of the younger generation would be willing to switch to another financial institution if they were offered a wider range of green investment products there. In the case of the elderly, it is only 16 percent.

Bearingpoint partner Yvonne Quint advises banks not to neglect the generational difference revealed by the survey: “Banks are well advised not to focus solely on traditional corporate customers when developing sustainable financial products for the market. Because their future is closely linked to the favor of young private customers. “


More: Between visionaries and latecomers: This is how 15 German banks come off in terms of sustainability.

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