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Canadian Consumer Banking Behaviour – September 2020

In this second monthly bulletin, we look at the continuing impact of COVID-19 on Canadian consumer financial behaviour with respect to channel usage, particularly branch trends compared with other channels. The research uncovers some interesting insights on branch usage during the various stages of lockdown in each province. We also showcase a new report that benchmarks the daily Net Promoter Score ratings of each major bank’s mobile app based on feedback from engaged customers.

The August data is particularly interesting because it covers the period when most provinces transitioned to Stage 3, easing restrictions on consumers and businesses. Although it would be natural to assume that the resumption of more normal activity would mean a return to branches, just 22% of respondents said they used a branch in the last month. This new low represents a decline from 26% in July and is a 45% drop from the pre-lockdown level in March.

ABM usage, on the other hand, edged up slightly to 42% from 41% in July and 39% in May/June.

The big winner is online usage, which moved up to 76% and has grown by roughly a single percentage point each month from May. Mobile app usage, meanwhile, appears to have stabilized at around 48%. This suggests that mobile and online are continuing to take up the slack from branches despite the recent relaxation of lockdown restrictions. This may simply represent a delayed return to branches,  a “chicken-and-egg” situation because many branches haven’t restored their pre-COVID hours, or it may indicate a more permanent change of customer behaviour.

Novantas will continue to monitor branch usage trends in coming months to determine if the recent results represent a new era for Canadian retail banking.

Channel Usage – Any Purpose


Source: Novantas’ DemandScape, Ipsos CFM Survey
Note: Point estimates represent two-month rolling averages of modeled response data


The geographical trends in branch usage seem broadly correlated with the timing of the emergence from lockdown in the different provinces. BC was one of the first major provinces (along with Alberta) to move from Stage 2 to Stage 3 on June 24, while Quebec and Ontario conurbations made the transition in mid-July. This seems to be reflected in the August branch usage data, with BC rising to 26% from 25% in July and Alberta holding steady at 24%. Branch usage in Ontario and Quebec, meanwhile, declined quite significantly in August over July.

Branch Channel Usage – Any Purpose | By Province

All Other

Source: Novantas’ DemandScape, Ipsos CFM Survey
Note: Point estimates represent two-month rolling averages of modeled response data

The ongoing decline in branch usage is reflected in the much smaller (but transactionally critical) proportion of customers using the channel to purchase a new product. The percentage of customers using a branch to purchase a new product dropped to 1.8% in August from 2.6% in July, representing a 54% decline from the pre-lockdown baseline of 3.9% in March. Online usage dipped to 5.3% from 5.6% in July, but still sees roughly double the usage for new product purchase than the mobile app, which is the next most frequently-used channel for that purpose and held steady at 2.8%.

Channel Usage – New Product


Source: Novantas’ DemandScape, Ipsos CFM Survey
Note: Point estimates represent two-month rolling averages of modeled response data

One possible reason why mobile banking app usage seems to be held back may lie in the customer ratings and comments available in Appstore daily feedback data. The dotted line in this chart represents the average Net Promoter Score rating from engaged customers who leave textual feedback. It shows that the average NPS score has actually dropped to 3.4 at the end of August from 4.0 in March/April. This suggests customers are encountering challenges with the security, usability, reliability or functionality of these apps as they turn to them en masse as an alternative to branches.

There also was a significant difference in the average rating of each bank’s app in August, ranging from Scotia at 4.1 NPS to BMO at 2.4. There are also very significant and sudden changes in individual banks’ ratings. TD, for example, fell to 3.4 NPS in August from 4.4 NPS in May. The customer feedback suggests the decline is due to a technical issue that made it problematic for users to log in to their accounts. The TD experience should serve as a warning to banks to keep on top of their comparative app performance data in order to respond to issues as soon as they arise. Indeed, customer adoption of mobile banking apps may become the new battleground for market share in the post-COVID sales and service paradigm.

NPS Scores | Mobile Banking Apps

Overall Rating
TD Bank

Source: Apple/Google Appstore data via Ipiphany/Touchpoint Group (Engaged Customers = NPS Ratings with verbal feedback.)

We will continue to track these and other trends in each update of this monthly report. Please email Nick Young at if you would like additional detail.


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