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Europeans and money: Various practices, but universal attraction to an integrated European banking system

Europeans maintain a variety of banking practices, although they agree on several points, especially on the need for precautionary savings. As a whole, they also expect a great deal from the integration of European banking, according to a poll by the French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP) carried out in five European countries (Germany, Spain, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom)*.

Money can’t buy happiness…except in France

61% of the French claim that they lack the money needed "to be completely happy", much more than love (33%). Germans and Italians, on the other hand, mainly require love and friends to be happy.

Speaking about money is also perceived differently from country to country: 59% of the French see this as a taboo subject, while only 28% of Spaniards, 36% of Italians, 39% of the British, and 47% of Germans share this opinion.

Europeans all in favour of “safety cushion” savings

Those Europeans polled unanimously agreed that money constitutes above all a source of security for the future, much more than a source of leisure. For half of Europeans, their financial priority in the coming months and years will be to put aside precautionary savings. This takes priority over real estate purchases in France (32%), over retirement savings in the United Kingdom and Spain (26% and 32% respectively), and over home renovations in Italy and Germany (39% and 40%).

Varied banking practices

80% of Europeans have a positive opinion of their banks, but everyday banking practices differ greatly. Spaniards and Italians are the least satisfied with their banks and the least loyal bank customers. Over half of Spaniards and Italians have been at their current bank for less than 10 years, whereas 66% of the French, 61% of the British, and 60% of Germans have been at their current bank for over 10 years.

Competitive bank fees are an important criterion in the choice of a bank, especially in France (74%). The United Kingdom and Germany, however, put greater store in the financial solidity of the bank.

Visiting the bank branch is the preferred means of bank/customer communication for 68% of Spaniards, 64% of Italians, and 59% of the French, whereas the British and the Germans prefer online banking (61% and 56%, respectively).

Most Europeans are willing to open a foreign account

88% of Italians and 77% of Spaniards would be willing to open an account, take out a loan, or buy a financial product in a foreign country, as would over two thirds of the French and Germans. The figure drops to 58% for the British. Various obstacles are cited: language for the British (70%) ; physical distance and lack of direct contact for the French (61% ), as well as the Spanish and the Italians. Germans fear poor legal protection in the event of a problem (67%).

Unanimous opinion: Europe would have greater weight if there were greater integration of European banking

Europeans unanimously agree that Europe would have greater weight in the global economy if there were greater integration of European banking (84% on average and 95% of Italians). Although the British appear to be the least enthusiastic about this idea, 70% nevertheless are in agreement.

However, on average, only 22% of Europeans polled are aware of European initiatives underway to create a single market for banking and financial services.

Expectations surrounding European integrated banking vary from country to country: above all, it would mean lower fees for the French (64%) and the Italians (62%); easier European money transfers for Germans (70%) and the British (56%); and a more solid European banking system in the face of global financial crises for the Spanish (57%).

* Methodology

Poll carried out by Ifop on a sample of 2,500 Europeans consisting of 5 samples of 500 persons aged 18 and up in France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Spain (quota method).

Polls were completed online between June 12 and 17, 2008.

Appendix : typical profiles of each country’s relationship with money and banks


  • The French claim to be the best savers through careful money management (like the Germans) and thriftiness (like the Spanish). This penchant for savings also makes them the most price-conscious (they compare prices extensively before buying). The French also stand out as the least interested in the world of banking and financial products. Consequently, they are more willing to follow the recommendations of an advisor in banking products and services.
  • The Germans keep very close track of their accounts but claim to be fairly big spenders and poor savers. Like the French, they compare prices extensively before buying. Although they are not very interested in the world of banking, they tend to believe, to a greater extent than other nationalities, that certain banks are better than others. In spite of their extensive use of online banking, Germans do not feel disconnected from their banks or their advisor with whom they claim to have frequent contact.
  • The British claim the most familiarity with banking issues, without necessarily claiming to be good money-managers. More than other nationalities, they claim that they manage their budgets poorly and do not really know their bank balances. With their greater knowledge of financial products, a general advisor is satisfactory for them. Because they are more self-sufficient and therefore distant, they keep track of their accounts themselves and have less personal contact with their bank manager or bank advisor than other nationalities. This does not, however, make them any less loyal to their bank (out of the five nationalities, the British are the most loyal bank customers).
  • The Spanish come out most often third out of the five countries polled, though they consider themselves the top-ranking nation for thriftiness. They keep fairly close track of their account, put aside moderate savings, and are somewhat interested in bank issues (less than the British, but more than the Germans or the French). Of the five countries polled, the Spanish have the highest number of respondents agreeing that "all banks are the same". Perhaps as a result of that opinion, they also have the highest numbers of customers preferring personal contact with bank staff to manage their account.
  • The Italians are the least satisfied with their bank and claim to have been at their current bank the shortest amount of time. They are also the most likely to change banks. Italians are demanding customers, and expect expert advisors, more so than other Europeans, even if they have the highest number of respondents claiming to form their own opinion on financial products and services. They claim to be fairly big spenders, not always checking the price before buying.


Colette Cova
email : ccova@fbf.fr
Tel : 01 48 00 50 07

Kenza Benqeddi
email : kbenqeddi@fbf.fr
Tel : 01 48 00 50 08

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