Consuming Issues: Looking for bad service? Visit a high street bank

Unlike our homes and cars, most people never change bank. Two years ago the Office of Fair Trading found 64 per cent of consumers had always had the same current account. As a result most of us are stuck with mediocre rates and rotten service.

Which?, the consumer group, surveyed 43,425 people about their experience of 31 leading banks and building societies. It rated each financial provider for current accounts, savings, mortgages and credit cards, and produced an overall satisfaction score, above, which shows which banks are doing a good job, which aren't, and where we should be investing our money and trust.

There are several trends. First, the top performers are small, new financial institutions rather than the old high street names – even if some of them are owned by traditional banks.

These are the top three providers First Direct, HSBC's internet offshoot founded in 1989; the One Account launched by RBS and Virgin Direct in 1997; and the Co-op's internet bank Smile, founded in 1999.

Other new-ish businesses near the top of the list, which have won business and plaudits by concentrating on good customer service, are Cahoot, Egg, Tesco and Saga.

Four of the top 10 (five if you count Smile, from the Co-op) are building societies. While still financial entities, these mutual firms have a social purpose and value ordinary customers.

At the bottom are the big old banks, most of them listed on the London stock exchange (with their founding year in brackets): Bank of Scotland (1695), Halifax (1853), Abbey/Santander (1849), Royal Bank of Scotland (1727), NatWest (1833), Lloyds (1765), Barclays (1690).

About 90 per cent of the UK's 54 million active current accounts are with these traditional banks. Only one large old banking group came in the top half, and that was HSBC at 15th. Remarking on the survey's findings, Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of Which?, said: "Time and again, the big high street banks are found to be lacking when it comes to good customer service."

High street banks primarily make their money by using hard-sell tactics to punt poor-value financial products to their largely immobile customers, safe in the knowledge most will not leave. Interestingly, and you may wonder whether this is a coincidence, the worst institutions are the banks which verged on collapse during the financial crisis. True they didn't teeter on the brink because they treated ordinary customers shabbily. Rather, they bet spectacularly on the casino of international finance because they weren't interested in the humdrum business of running current accounts or providing small loans.

Some £65bn of our money has been pumped into two of these groups and the taxpayer owns 83 per cent of RBS, which includes NatWest, and 41 per cent of Lloyds, comprising Lloyds, Bank of Scotland, Cheltenham & Gloucester, Halifax and Intelligent Finance.

Despite this, ministers don't seem to be very concerned about the poor record of these publicly controlled assets. Asked why they continue to treat the public so badly, the Treasury replied it managed our shareholdings "on an arm's length basis" and directed inquiries towards the banks.

But it added: "The Government is committed to greater transparency of complaints handling where this will help consumers... From the end of August, firms will have to publish complaints data every six months, allowing people to see how many complaints particular firms receive and how they handle them."

In my view it will be many years before Bank of Scotland, Halifax, Northern Rock and RBS score well in a customer satisfaction survey. In the meantime, if you are unsatisfied with your bank, there is something you can do.

Under industry rules switching is easy and all direct debits are transferred painlessly. In my personal experience staff at the top-scoring banks are impeccably polite and helpful: you may be surprised at the difference. If you don't like your old bank, move to a new one.

m.hickman@independent.co.uk

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Adviser - OTE £24,500

    £22500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Inbound and outbound calls with...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £40,000

    £18000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Insurance Bro...

    Guru Careers: Research Associate / Asset Management Research Analyst

    £40 - 45k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Research Associate / Research Anal...

    The Green Recruitment Company: Graduate Energy Analyst

    £20000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Summary: The Green Recruitm...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
    10 best DSLRs

    Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

    Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash